Facing Cancer

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An Integrative Approach to Cancer:

There is no research-proven alternative treatment for cancer.  In integrative medicine, we usually recommend conventional treatment of the cancer and use the tools of nutrition, mind-body, dietary supplements, and alternative systems to help support a person’s over all well-being and reduce treatment side effects.

Integrative medicine incorporates the wisdom of traditional Chinese medicine which asserts a dual purpose to medicine: “to dispel evil and support the good.”   Western medicine tends to focus the majority of its attention on dispelling evil.  There are many therapies that “support the good.”  They range from nutritional approaches, to relaxation practices, healthy exercise, adequate sleep, acupuncture, qi gong, spiritual practices and some herbs and supplements.  When we feel better we are more likely to successfully complete recommended treatments whether they consist of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormonal or immune medications.

One of the hardest sentences a person can hear is, “You have cancer.”  Almost immediately we stop hearing anything else. Fear sets in: of death, or pain, or of losses (such as not being present for milestones).   Medical professionals may be urgently moving toward treatment and not attending to these complex feelings and distracting inner voices.  Having a spouse, child, friend, or advocate come to medical appointments or taping the appointment can create a second set of ears or a second opportunity to listen to recommendations.

Here is where a centering practice is of enormous value.  Having some way to settle the anxiety that arises allows us to make decisions that are true to our own values.

One of the best ways that I know of is the Metta meditation – also called the loving kindness meditation, which comes out of Buddhist practice.  One of many versions is written out below.

May I feel safe.  May I feel peaceful, May my heart remain open. May I take care of myself easily.

            (Now bring to mind someone you love and repeat with them in mind:)

May you feel safe.  May you feel peaceful, May your heart remain open. May you take care of yourself easily.

            (Now bring to mind a particular group of people (your family, a group of  your friends) and repeat with them in mind:)

May we feel safe. May we feel peaceful, May our hearts remain open. May we take care of ourselves easily

Do take time to get the information you need.  Be careful of anyone who seems to promise 100% cures or responses that are better than any one else’s.  Having said that, a second opinion from one of the leading cancer centers is often of great value as they are on the cutting edge of the very newest treatments and experimental protocols.  There are some cancer diagnoses (stage 1 breast cancer, testicular cancer) where all would agree that there is a single best treatment.  Other cancers require thoughtful consideration of how aggressively you wish to be treated.  Here is where a quiet sorting of your personal values and beliefs may require time and discernment.

For health professionals who wish to learn more about integrative approaches to breast or prostate cancer and get CME/CEU credit, consider taking the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine online course.