One year ago today I almost died.
My appendix acutely ruptured and I went into shock. I was rushed into surgery and my surgeon said I was about 2 hours away from things being very dicey with survival.
Thank God, truly, for advancements in modern medicine such that they could save my life that day.
That said, what modern medicine has not quite figured out as well, is how to maintain or boost wellness. Or how to recover wellness after a major medical crisis. After surgery I had one follow up appointment where they made sure I was basically still alive and not having any infection or prolonged pain, and I was sent on my way.
After cancer, I hear many patients tell me the same thing — that they were given a pat on the back and told to come back for follow up periodically to rule out that cancer hasn’t returned. But that they didn’t hear as much about how to boost wellness in between appointments.
After cancer you are left with quite a bit of fatigue, lingering symptoms, fear and shock. That’s normal. It’s a time to recover and a time to uncover a new identity.
Modern medicine doesn’t help you so much with finding the new you.
I truly believe that modern medicine is fantastic at helping in a medical crisis, and in treating disease. I am all for conventional medical treatments, especially as they pertain to cancer treatment or other health emergencies. In a car crash, you want the ambulance taking you directly to the ER for evaluation of your internal injuries… modern medicine is blessedly so good at saving your life.
So I was really sad to read a medical study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute that looked at patients who chose to do absolutely no modern medical treatment for cancer at all and instead only use alternative therapy for treatment.
This study found that patients who exclusively used alternative medicine for cancer treatment (without any conventional medical treatment at all) had dramatically decreased survival rates. For example, breast cancer death rates were more than 5.5 times higher in the alternative medical ground vs. conventional medical therapy, colorectal death rates were 4.5 times higher, and lung cancer mortality more than doubled. All in all, for all forms of cancer studied, survival decreased 2.5 fold when patients did not utilize conventional medical care along with their alternative therapies.
So after reading that study, I wanted to make sure that my readers know that you can approach cancer treatment and recovery both conventionally and holistically at the same time. It’s not one or the other… it’s both. Modern medicine to remove tumor and/or treat disease, and holistic health care approaches to support wellness.
So today, in addition to the recommendations of your cancer care team, I give you 8 holistic ways to boost wellness after cancer recovery.
These all work in addition to and synergistically with your conventional medical care and follow up:
1. Walking Daily
Did you know that simply walking has been shown not only to reduce cancer recurrence rates (for example, cutting the risk of colorectal cancer recurrence in half!) which I blog about for you here. Oh and walking also deepens restorative sleep during and after cancer treatment, which is always a good thing. Hop over here to read more about that. Exercising daily is great but if you are not feeling up for exercising, focus on simply reducing inactivity by walking. Even just standing up more often to break up sitting intervals… it all helps.
2. Fasting Overnight
Did your doctor tell you about the wonderful study that showed that fasting every night (going for 13 hours or more without eating between dinner and breakfast) dramatically reduced cancer recurrence? I blog about that for you here.
3. Addressing Brain Fog
Feeling in a fog or with a markedly decreased attention span? Yep, that’s neuroinflammation and that is normal — typically the stress of cancer spikes cytokine levels, which cross the blood brain barrier and interferes with brain function. We can decrease this with antioxidants that also cross the blood brain barrier (like theracurcumin) and omega 3 fatty acids (which has also been shown to decrease cancer recurrence, so hey that’s win-win!)
4. Restore Nutrition
After cancer treatment, patients often have nutritional depletion because nausea and vomiting during treatment can limit food intake drastically. Whole foods, unprocessed foods, Mediterranean and paleo style diets work well to get in plenty of veggies, fish, nuts, seeds… and don’t forget berries, well known for their cancer prevention properties. All phytonutrients and antioxidants are basically wonderful.
Eliminating pesticides and eating organic as much as possible helps to decrease the toxic load on the body. Pesticides and other chemicals (as well as the presence of genetically modified foods) harm our body and inhibits our ability to heal. Eat organic whenever possible, wash produce well before consuming, eliminate convenience packaging (never microwave food in plastic containers and try to choose beverages in non-plastic containers when available) and drink filtered water often.
Decrease alcohol consumption and decrease sugar as much as possible. Adding supplements with high quality antioxidants, trace minerals and vitamins can help optimize nutritional status and boost mitochondrial function to get your energy back where you want it to be. There are also some specific recommendations for supplements depending on cancer the type that you might want to ask your physician about… for example blueberry extract and/or green tea extract for decreasing breast cancer recurrence, curcumin for decreasing melanoma and prostate cancer recurrence , omega 3 fatty acids for decreasing colon cancer recurrence, etc…
5. Reduce Toxins
Eating organic is great to remove toxins from your internal environment but you can also significantly decrease your toxin load by removing them from your external environment too.
Remove as many artificial ingredients, preservatives, scents and additives from laundry care products, house hold cleaners, body care products, hair & make up products and household cleaners and items as well. Organic mattresses that don’t have flame retardants in them, for example. Try to decrease the toxic EMF radiation exposures in your home. Here are some ideas to help with that.
6. Fix Sleep
Patients can still have lingering fatigue long after cancer treatment is stopped… this is not only from disrupted sleep during treatment but also from a deeper HPA axis imbalance from stress on the adrenals. Over time you can reverse this by restoring sleep and addressing adrenal fatigue.
You can restore balanced sleep in many different ways, from supplements such as L-theanine and melatonin to light box therapy, all of which I blog about for you here.
To help assess your adrenals you can have your cortisol levels checked with a simple salivary test, add adaptogenic herbs such as ashwagandha and Maca Root, and nutrients like CoQ10 can help you recover strength. My favorite pharmacy grade supplements are available to you right here.
!As a side note, make sure you purchase any supplements either directly from your physicians office or from a trusted online dispensary, and steer clear of purchasing supplements off of sites that are not set up to specifically store or ship supplements. For example, I wouldn’t recommend buying supplements from Amazon where they are often shipped by independent sellers that have no guidelines for storing or shipping supplements. Supplements can easily go rancid or become worthless if not stored properly. You don’t want someone who stored their supplements in their home garage sending you something as important as your therapeutic nutrients. A pharmacy grade shop devoted to proper storage and shipment of supplements is your best bet to get the most out of your treatment plan.)
7. Follow Up With Your Physician
Make sure you stay in close follow up with your medical team. They can help support all of these symptoms by offering therapy, reassurance, lab studies and other medical follow up, and offer even more powerful treatments when necessary (such as sleeping medications for insomnia when holistic approaches are not enough.)
They can also order labs to follow markers of inflammation such as C-Reactive Protein (CRP), cytokine levels, homocysteine levels, and neutrophil-lymphocyte ratios, all markers that can help you see tangible proof that your health is improving even when you don’t feel fully restored. Also important, they can double check that your Vitamin D levels are good, which improves remission rates in multiple types of cancer as I blog about here.
8. Support Your Spiritual Nature.
Do anything and everything that helps to provide meaning and spiritual growth to your recovery. Increase your time in nature (you all know I feel that grounding is essential to boosting wellness both physically and spiritually!) increase your time spent in spiritual growth, retreats, religious groups, support groups, prayer, read spiritually uplifting books, listen to spiritually uplifting music, and perhaps most importantly of all, connect as often as possible with your loved ones.
Be sure to also address any anxiety, depression or PTSD that you may have as a result of your cancer diagnosis and recovery. For some more support directly from me, I’d love to have you join into my Trauma Recovery & Resiliency online class that I run once a year… it starts next month and you can sign up right here, right now to reserve your spot.
Research (published in Nature Dec 16, 2015) shows that cancer is a very modifiable health risk… estimating that the vast majority, up to 90% of cancers, are actually environmentally induced.
Why is this good news?
Because if the vast majority of cancers are caused by extrinsic factors (not *pre-determined* in your genetic make up) then the vast majority of cancers are actually preventable, so there are tons things you can do to prevent the occurrence of cancer and decrease your own recurrence risk dramatically!
That means that cancer risk is influenced most heavily by things *you actually can modify*… much more heavily than by things you can’t modify.
So know that the above measures, along with guidance from your in person medical team, can truly help you move on once and for all into a new level of health and a new platform of recovery.
Your body is naturally, literally, a healing machine… we are well equip to deal with mutations on a cellular level and when aberrant cells do arise, our body naturally gets rid of them through the process of cellular apoptosis. And on top of our bodies being naturally equip to clear out potentially cancerous cells at all times and our body’s incredibly resilient basic design, we can also enhance our well being even further with the above steps.