Life After Cancer: Moving Forward with Positivity and Strength
Sadly, it is all too common today to know someone who has been touched by cancer. It may even have touched you. Discovering cancer may come from the presence of symptoms, or it may be an unexpected outcome of a routine examination.
In either case, the experience is fraught – first with shock in hearing the word, followed by fear of the future. The only thing you might know in that moment is that you want to be cured.
Initial Reactions to Life After Cancer
In listening to my clients who have had this experience, it seems that each one goes through a process of tests, consultations, a probable prognosis and recommended treatments. Some take a very active role in this early stage, while others defer to their practitioners and perhaps their loved ones while deciding on treatment.
It is a very busy time where people describe putting one foot in front of the other with the destination of recovery sitting on the horizon, much like the marathoner facing Heartbreak Hill in the famous Boston Marathon. People may go through tests, scans, surgeries, complementary treatments, and with hope, prayer and determination, reach that coveted finish line that is the discharge from care.
Now What? Am I Okay?
Treatment is finally over. The medical team says you can be discharged. You are on your own.
And then something happens. Borrowing the words of one client, it is the black hole. It is that place where you are put back in charge of your life. But questions come with that: Is the cancer gone for good? Will it come back? How will I know if that pain in my back is just a sore muscle, not a tumor? Do I dare change jobs, take that trip, buy that house?
These worried thoughts can be paralyzing and detrimental to your healing. A better course of action is to boldly take charge of your future. You can do that by being an active participant in your healing through quality nutrition and positive thoughts.
What Nutrition Can Do for You Post-Cancer Treatment
Stated simply, what you eat becomes your body. If you want to protect and preserve your health, you need to nourish yourself with clean foods. My book, Food Becomes You – Simple Steps for Lifelong Wellness, shows how to choose the best foods, and how to easily make them a part of your life.
In the US, we have standards for food, but if you want to eat really well, it is important to choose far beyond the basic standards. Eat organic as much as you can. Eating organic lets you avoid the residue of pesticides and chemical fertilizers that infiltrate conventional and genetically modified foods. When choosing meat, poultry or fish, avoid any added hormones or antibiotics that are used in conventional farming. It may be slightly more expensive, but protecting your health is worth it.
Eating well is a powerful way to take charge of your future.
Researchers have identified specific foods for their ability to reduce risk or build protection from certain cancers. The Cancer Project is one such organization and the chart here illustrates the protective properties of certain foods.
Most vegetables, including sea vegetables, have medicinal qualities. They provide vitamins and minerals and some work like scrubbers, cleansing the digestive system as they move through.
Foods with strong medicinal qualities that I use regularly include organic onions, mushrooms, sea vegetables, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, wild salmon, berries, whole grains and green tea. These foods have qualities that increase your protection from cancer and keep your immune system robust and protected from serious illnesses.
Foods to Avoid
If you want to protect yourself from cancer recurrence, stop eating sugar. Alhough a direct connection between refined sugar consumption and cancer is still being studied it’s clear that excess sugar in the diet causes inflammation. My recent blog post lists 78 ways Nancy Appleton PhD., identified how sugar hurts the body.
And here’s a little tip – for years I felt like a sugar addict, eating my sweets every day, mostly sugary candy bars. I began eating more organic fruit and my craving for refined sugar subsided. I call this the “crowding out” theory. Eat well and your body stops craving junk.
Other foods to avoid are deli meats with nitrates and processed packaged foods with artificial colors. Stay away from meats with added hormones. You have your own hormones; you don’t need those of an animal.
The Power of Positive Thoughts
Another way you can support good health after cancer is to focus on positive thoughts. Do this and you will change your biology. It may seem hard to imagine, but the way we think influences our body’s chemistry, and therefore our health. For years, these ideas were considered only by spiritual leaders or were dismissed as new age nonsense. Today they can be measured through brain scans and blood work.
Because how you think affects your body chemistry, having fear about the future creates a cascade of hormones that can stress the immune system. Here are some techniques for changing your thoughts.
First, notice your thoughts and cancel negative ones by replacing them with positive statements. For example, change “I’m afraid I’ll get sick again.” to “I know how to care for myself and stay well.”
Identify activities that bring you joy and fit them into your day and express gratitude daily. You can also adopt a practice like yoga, meditation, guided imagery, walking in nature or prayer.
Finally, clear things out of your life that trouble you or wear you down. If you have not tried guided meditation, I invite you to sample a track from my recording “Beyond Cancer | Healing Meditations.” If you find it helps, you can order the whole recording in CD or mp3 format through this resource.
Final Thoughts on Moving Forward
My training and background includes study of Traditional Chinese Medicine. In that philosophy, when illness appears, one asks the question, “What is the gift in this illness?” This may seem an odd question, as I once thought, but as time passed, I saw there is a gift that comes with every unfortunate event we face in life.
The gift can be that we value life more than we did before. It may be that we resolve things that trouble us. Or we may discover how truly loved we are. Finding the gift in illness or any other unexpected challenge can bring meaning and peace to the experience. It can teach us to live a richer life going forward.
If you have experienced that sense of terror after being discharged from care and found ways to move past it, please share your story. For everyone, trust that your food and your thoughts are tools that can change your view of the future into something filled with promise, hope and renewal. Take action and really take care for yourself through food and good thoughts. It’s a powerful prescription for life.
How did you manage with a cancer diagnosis? What practices helped you to get the most from life after cancer? Do you have any advice for other women facing this journey? Please join this important conversation.