Basic philosophy and orientation
Cancer, and other major health issues, can stop us in our tracks. They are also an opportunity to reassess ourselves, our lives, and our choices. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we are always presented with choices.
Crisis equals opportunity: Physical, Psychological, Spiritual reassessment is possible, along with an opportunity to take responsibility for one’s role in relationships, resolve conflicts, AND redefine what you leave behind.
Reclaiming self – Embracing Life
Treatment strategies, from a Western Medicine perspective, are focused on eradicating cancer cells. Treatment typically includes surgery (direct elimination of primary source) and/or use of other modalities—chemotherapy (chemo) and/or radiation (XRT) — to shrink and/or eliminate the tumor cells. When a more systemic approach (chemo or XRT) is involved, more global effects occur. The toxicity of these modalities is titrated to give maximal benefit–kill off of the cancer cells, which are the most rapidly dividing/propagating—with minimal generalized loss of vitality. In order to have the best possible outcome, the short and long term effects of these modalities need to be understood.
Radiation: Ionizing radiation (XRT) kills cells and alters the matrix in which surviving cells exist, from cellular to organ level, depending upon dose delivered and volume of tissue exposed. Some cells are more vulnerable to the effects of XRT than others. The more rapidly the cell type divides, the stage of division at which the cell is exposed, and the more oxygenated the tissue involved, the more vulnerable it is to XRT (and Chemo). Short term, inflammation (see below) occurs. Long term effects are determined by the area of exposure, which tissue/organs are involved, and how sensitive they are to XRT. Long term effects may not be obvious for years.
Toxins (LR, KD): Toxins from chemicals and cell death are gathered and sent to the liver to detoxify and eliminate through the gut and through the kidneys. It is essential to optimize the health of these important systems, with good nutrition and hydration. Acupuncture can be an effective modality to reduce some of the toxic side effects, as well.
Inflammation: Our immune system is the defender and clean-up crew of the body. When there is cell destruction through surgery, XRT and/or chemo, increased swelling and discomfort occurs. This is due to inflammatory cells drawn to the area to eliminate invaders and debris. Fibrosis, or scar tissue, with loss of suppleness and tissue function may occur, depending on the degree of cell death, and the overall general resilience of the body.
****Scar tissue: Movement is essential for life. Limitations due to scar tissue can seriously affect function and quality of life. The purpose of scars is to hold tissue together after damage. It is made of connective tissue, with a collagen matrix, and contracts or shortens over time. In some people, scars keloid or become exuberant, over developed, and grow and pull in all directions. Scar tissue is modifiable, especially early on. It will respond to pull and pressure, contouring and remodeling as movement directs and demands.
Debility: While all these physiologic processes are going on, energy levels are “zapped”, our stores of cellular energy are being directed to basic survival. Extreme fatigue, weakness, and brain fog are common.
The Will to live
Strategies for improvement
Honor where you are. Listen to what is asking for your attention. Give yourself time and space to heal. Set realistic simple goals, and be satisfied with baby step gains. Pushing too hard often triggers demoralizing setbacks.
This is a time to take stock of what is important, as well as how important, and to reorganize yourself around those values and activities you deem essential.
Let pain teach you:
Listen to what is generating pain. Gently explore the parameters, stretch and test limitations. Pain is a teacher. What is it trying to tell you?
Balance: It is important to find balance on all levels of being. Physically, one major goal is to find and/or restore a balanced musculoskeletal matrix, which allows freedom of movement, strength and endurance. Balanced physiology is essential to allow elimination of toxins accumulated through tissue damage associated with surgery , chemical, radiation, and/or accumulated life exposure. Balance, from an emotional and spiritual perspective, means finding internal peace in the midst of chaos.
Reintegration: You need to stay in your body in order to heal, and to recover suppleness, strength, and ease of movement
Therapeutic modalities that may help:
Acupuncture: One of the earliest accepted benefits of acupuncture in Western medicine is reduction of nausea associated with chemotherapy. Acupuncture supports the body’s ability to detoxify and reestablish physiologic balance/homeostasis. It can be an effective tool in reducing pain and swelling, and thereby promote faster healing.
Movement therapy (Manual therapy, Physical Therapy, Body Workers, Massage): Movement is essential for life. Working with a knowledgeable hands-on practitioner can be helpful in discovering what tension patterns are limiting you, and developing strategies to release what is over-active and strengthen that which is inhibited or weak. Massage mobilizes tissue and accumulated fluid, and can be very helpful in bringing you more in harmony inside your own structure.
Nutrition: Hydration and a quality whole foods nutrition program, as tolerated, is essential for restoring cellular health, and detoxifying the chemical agents used to eradicate tumor cells. Digestive enzymes and probiotics are often very helpful in facilitating digestion. Since the immune system is strongly influenced by gut health, inflammatory status can be influenced by what we eat.