This issue’s column is dedicated to the amazing cancer warriors in the midst of the battle. While treatment, doctors, family and friends may be pulling you in a million directions, I hope this can give you a moment to stop and remember what’s most important—you should be your biggest advocate and you need to make sure you are taken care of during this journey.
The first thing that the Mayo Clinic advises after a cancer diagnosis is to get the facts about your diagnosis. Knowledge is power. I know a cancer diagnosis can be terrifying. You are allowed to yell, scream, cry, break some plates or do whatever you need to do to process that initial shock. To be your own best advocate, your next step should be understanding what your body will go through and how you will come through on the other side.
Stanford Health Care houses a wonderful resource page on its website discussing the role nutrition plays in a cancer diagnosis and how to make the best food choices while undergoing treatment. The page states that keeping a consistent weight is most important. I am a strong believer that food can be some of the best medicine. The earth has been giving us nutrient-packed, all natural foods for thousands of years.
Plenty of experts talk about “green foods” and their benefits. Dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach and mustard greens have significant antioxidant properties and actually boost the body’s own immune system. While chemo and radiation treatments have a tendency to weaken the body’s immune system, these vegetables can help counter those effects.
Other fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants include tomatoes, berries and avocados. If you choose to incorporate more tomatoes into your diet, they are best when cooked. During the cooking process, tomatoes release lycopene, the fruit’s strongest antioxidant and one that aids in improved heart health and lower risk of certain cancer types.
There are so many helpful (and delicious!) foods to choose from—you don’t have to limit yourself to just one or two. I encourage you to find all the foods you love. If you don’t like something, swap it out. I promise you there will be something you enjoy.
Although we could spend days talking about the benefits of a nutritious, well-balanced diet, another important point to focus on is the mind-body connection. Focusing on this powerful connection is another way to help soothe you through this journey. There are blogs, papers and research abound hypothesizing whether or not we can heal our bodies with our minds. The human brain is one of the most complex things on this planet, so who is to say we cannot help our body get better with the assistance of our mind?
Deepak Chopra, a licensed physician, author and alternative medicine advocate, has spent his life explaining why and how this may be possible. The one thing I noted from his many discussions is his explanation of the placebo effect. According to Chopra, there have been countless studies where an average of 30 percent of subjects given a sugar pill in place of a prescription have shown a positive physical response. A positive physical response without the prescription suggests something else, like the mind-body connection, may play a noteworthy role in our well-being.
For those who may be more skeptical of the mind-body connection, meditation is a great way to ease in. Meditation can be as simple as closing your eyes and focusing on your breath for just a few minutes. By doing so, you allow your body to go into a parasympathetic state. Essentially, you allow it to “rest and digest.” This simple act of closing your eyes and focusing on your breath reduces your heart rate and blood pressure, and that is definitely good for the body.
To all my fighters out there, I hope you find something that makes this journey even a bit more bearable. Listen to your mind and body when it asks for what it needs. I am sending you all my positive vibes!
Stay well and enlightened until next time.