Today we bring you the fourth and final installment from our guest blogger Jane Wilkens Michael, host of the Jane Wilkens Michael Show…Better Than Before.
For my fourth and final contribution to this wonderful site for this particular series of posts, I wanted to share advice that I hope will inspire readers to look and feel Better Than Before forever more. I am happy to report that I am about to start working on my new book on this very subject. And as I mentioned in an earlier post, my Better Than Before program actually began with cancer survivors. I was personally motivated by a doctor from Memorial Sloan- Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in New York City, the world’s preeminent cancer hospital, who I interviewed very early on in my research. (Note: The Look Good Feel Better program is offered at this hospital.)
In referring to trying to ensure that patients enjoyed a satisfying quality of life long after their protocol was completed, he told me, “Doctors cannot do it alone, and too often patients cannot do it either—it must be a team effort. We don’t just save lives – we want to change them, as well. Once their treatments are finished, it is up to the survivors themselves to take over.” But, as we all know, it takes a lot more than just eating kale, walking around the block and thinking happy thoughts to be a thriving survivor.
Recently, I had the opportunity to receive an advanced copy of a new book from Spry Publishing. Survivorship, Living Well During and After Cancer Survivorship (available for sale April 1, 2014) by a distinguished author, Dr. Barrie Cassileth, PhD, Laurance S. Rockefeller Chair and Chief of the Integrative Medicine department at MSKCC. Conventional therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation treat the tumor, but adjunctive complementary (integrative) therapies such as acupuncture, massage, meditation, guided imagery and self-hypnosis, and yoga, deal with the physical and emotional symptoms.
Dr. Cassileth stresses, though, that bogus “alternative” treatments must be separated from “complementary” therapies which are evidence-based and used to control symptoms and enhance well-being, but never instead of conventional treatment. That being said, here are four tried and true modalities that she mentions in her book, along with her comments:
1) Food: “What you eat matters. It’s a simple, perhaps obvious fact, but one that is too frequently overlooked.” The doctor suggests that survivors continue to focus on maintaining a healthy weight by choosing a diet comprised of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and low-fat foods, including dairy. “Replacing carbohydrates and animal fat with vegetables is a smart move as it improves survival in patients with cancer.”
2) Activity: “A flood of recent studies shows that cancer patients who are more physically active tend to live longer after their diagnosis and are at decreased risk of the cancer coming back.” She suggests combining yoga with aerobic exercise and resistance training in order to achieve the greatest benefits for both mind and body.
3) Acupuncture: “Research demonstrates that acupuncture can safely and significantly reduce physical and emotional symptoms associated with cancer and its treatment.” And while it does not treat the cancer itself, it does help to reduce pain, anxiety, and depression, as well as chemotherapy-related and postoperative nausea and vomiting, hot flashes, xerostomia (extreme dry mouth), chronic fatigue, lymphedema, and peripheral neuropathy (nerve-related tingling or lack of feeling in hands or feet).
4) Mind-Body Medicine: “The tools of mind-body medicine, such as meditation, guided imagery, and biofeedback, can reduce stress, depression, anxiety, and other negative thoughts and feelings. In so doing, they can help to prevent serious illnesses from worsening, or at least help you through the disease with as little mental and physical wear and tear as possible. Through practice and discipline, mind-body approaches also increase your ability to manage stress.”
So until we meet again, I leave you with this thought: Being Better Than Before doesn’t mean that we have to change the world. All we need to do is direct a little more positive energy toward improving our lives and our universe today than we did yesterday – in other words, to slowly become Better Than Before!