Living with cancer
We’re all going to die sometime, of something. That’s just realistic. And yet, a diagnosis of cancer is almost universally associated with fear. Fear is contagious and stressful, and it can trick you into relinquishing ultimate control of your health care. The next thing you know, you’re caught in a machine built on the premise that “all that alternative stuff” is fine to “play” with when you’re basically healthy, but when you’ve got cancer, brother, it’s time to “get serious.” What gets chewed up first in that machine is your quality of life, and that’s what scares people most about cancer. Not the prospect of death. It’s the pain, debility, and indignity of cancer and its treatment.
I’ve written before about some of the causes of cancer, including inflammation, stress, toxins, and bad food. These things weaken your most powerful guard against cancer: your immune system. And, with all due respect to the intentions of oncologists and the very limited successes they do manage to achieve, what they sell is, in itself, a risk factor for treatment failure. That’s because conventional cancer treatment increases your burden of inflammation, stress, and toxins. It decimates your nutritional status. It takes a flame-thrower to your immune system. And it can devastate your quality of life — as much as, if not more than, the disease itself.
So let’s set aside the issue of cancer treatment for now, and talk about ways to preserve your quality of life, no matter what course of treatment you choose. This will immediately make you happier and more comfortable, and have an ironic side effect: It’ll make you healthier and stronger — emotionally, spiritually, and physically. You’ll become better able to tolerate whatever treatment you’re taking. Better able to heal and, yes, to survive. And that, my friends, is just plain good medicine.
What exactly is quality of life?
It’s different for everybody, but there are common elements. If you’re like me, you want to be able to:
• Get around;
• Feel stimulated and able to do things that are enjoyable and satisfying;
• Be free of pain, worry, and stress;
• Feel safe and loved;
• Feel like you can cope, and, if you can’t cope, to have someone you can call for help;
• Believe that your life is worthwhile — that you can still learn and grow and make a meaningful contribution, with your ethics and morality intact; and
• Feel content, and at peace.
Here are some of the best ways the cancer patients in my personal and professional circles have improved their quality of life:
Meditate. Meditation strengthens your immune system, reduces pain, improves sleep, enhances wellbeing, improves attention, and significantly decreases stress. It also helps you remember to appreciate what’s most important in your life, which is often the stuff on that back burner you’ll get to “whenever.”
Remember, ’tis just as good to receive. One of the hardest things about any serious illness is the impact it can have on the one thing many of us treasure most: our independence. As a result, when friends and loved ones try to help, a common response is, “You shouldn’t have.” As one who has taken care of many friends and family members over the years, I can tell you that it feeds my soul when help is accepted with grace. One of the greatest gifts you can give your loved ones is to let them love you. If their help is really not needed at this point, you can find a genuinely gracious way to say thank you. Explain that you want to do as much for yourself as possible, in order to stay strong. Instead of turning them down flat, give them a suggestion of what they can do that really will be helpful.
Maintain a regular exercise program, and if possible do it outside where you can breathe fresh air, smell the flowers, hear the songbirds, and drink in the colors of nature. Exercise is both a cancer preventive and a proven therapy for improved health in cancer patients. No matter what their condition, people report improved quality of life when they exercise.
Get a professional massage once or twice a week, as you can. Regular massage eases worries and anxiety, while enhancing alertness and mental sharpness. It improves immune parameters. It also clears the lymph system, lowers blood pressure, reduces chronic pain, and improves quality of sleep. Ask friends and health care providers for recommendations about certified massage therapists in your area, and start your own search to find the one(s) who make you feel the best.
Splurge on your diet. Does eating all the junk food you want, simply because you want it, seem like a way to improve your quality of life? I’ll make you a deal. For two weeks, eat only premium organic foods, freshly and organically prepared, with no sugar or refined carbs, then answer that question. Sugar contributes directly to not only long-term problems like diabetes and cancer, but also to short-term effects like irritability, depression, anxiety, indigestion, and foggy mind. Trust me on this: Sugar will not make you feel better, but a high-quality diet will — in both the short and the long run.
Here’s the cliff notes version of what to put in your mouth:
• Get plenty of quality protein from organic meat, fish, and eggs; Brassica vegetables such as broccoli (rich in cancer-fighting glucosinolates); non-GMO grains like organic quinoa; and legumes. Replace fast food with slow food. Make your own soups and stews with fresh, organic vegetables and meats. Freeze any leftovers for a quick meal.
• Drink plenty of water and green tea. Make sure your water is truly clean and filtered. Look for organic green tea.
• Get plenty of vitamin D. If you can’t get out in the sunshine, then take Organic, Whole Food Vitamin D tablets from Zwell.
• Take 1,000 mg daily of a top-quality Zwell Krill Oil.
Get some sleep. Restorative sleep can be the first thing to go when you’re faced with a cancer diagnosis. That’s too bad, because losing sleep robs you of the compound melatonin, a powerful cancer-fighter. There’s a technique that helps most people get to sleep, no matter what’s causing their insomnia. Lie in a comfortable position in a darkened room. Breathe deep, slow belly breaths in through your nose. Focus on your breathing, feeling it move in and out of your body, and count your breaths. When you get to 10, start back at one. Let thoughts arise as they will, but keep focusing on your breathing and counting. That’s all. Soon enough you’ll relax and fall asleep.
Get detoxed. The accumulation of toxic heavy metals and other pollutants in your body is a reality, even if you live in the middle of a National Forest. Your toxin load affects all your bodily functions, including your brain, your balance, your strength, and your immune system. Here again, you have choices.
Spend 15 to 30 minutes once or twice a day in a far-infrared (FIR) sauna. FIR rays are biologically active, and their effects on the body appear to be universally positive. Here are just some of the biological benefits of FIR therapy.
• It boosts mitochondrial action in cells, improving cellular function and metabolism body wide, making you feel better and function healthier.
• It’s proven to suppress inflammation and pain.
• It speeds healing of all kinds of tissue, even typically slow-to-heal tendon and neural tissue.
• It prevents tissue damage, including the mouth sores that are among the most debilitating side effects of chemotherapy.
• It actually kills certain cancer cells, while simultaneously improving the function of healthy cells.
• It increases the ability to engage in daily activities, and improves general well-being.
• You can sign up for FIR sauna sessions at a local health club or spa, or buy a home unit. (A good unit will likely run $2,000 or more, but if you’re going to use it for an extended period then buying one may make financial sense.) Infrared rays directly heat the body, without raising the temperature of the air and without causing the light-headedness, heart stress, and damage to the eyes caused by traditional saunas.
As you can see, you can’t talk about ways to “just feel better” without talking about real therapy, because the things that make you feel better happen to make you genuinely healthier! I hope you’ll indulge in every one of these quality-of-life therapies, because you deserve it.
This article is brought to you by Zwell.ca – Live Better Longer.
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The content and opinions expressed in this article are the professional and/or personal view or opinion of the author only. Opinions expressed should not be construed as medical advice, and the article’s content is not a substitute for direct, personal, professional medical care and diagnosis. Individuals should always consult with their health care provider before beginning or changing any treatment program.
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