Let’s be clear: surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation can play an important role in cancer treatment. But with breast cancer, especially early-stage breast cancer, the benefits that conventional treatment may provide must be carefully weighed against the risks. Those risks are great, including the potential for premature death and greatly reduced quality of life.
Science is beginning to discover what healers have known for centuries — that our mind and body and spirit are inseparable. Together they create a life force that nurtures health, healing, and the optimal functioning of our immune system.
Understanding and acknowledging that our body and mind and spirit are inseparable, the emerging paradigm of breast care provides optimal support for one’s whole person. These disciplines can be naturally and safely integrated with conventional breast cancer treatments. Supporting overall health supports immune function, which in turn facilitates the healing process, improves our quality of life, and enhances recovery. In short, the wise integration of body, mind, and spirit creates health.
Empowering the Immune System
Scientists are discovering that when we feel empowered, our immune system is empowered. Fear can have a substantial negative impact on immune function, whereas regaining a sense of control and positive engagement in our own health and healing helps support immune function. The important principles of empowerment, self-engagement, and personal choice are at the heart of the emerging model of breast care.
We are moving away from the single-dimension tumor model of breast cancer care toward multiple ways of supporting mind, body, spirit, and immune function, such as exercise, nutrition, and stress reduction. They are all interrelated, each contributing to the benefit provided by the others in a synergistic way. A breast cancer recovery program without integration of body, mind, and spirit is incomplete.
Thousands of cases of recovery from so-called incurable, life-threatening diseases, including advanced cancers, have been scientifically documented. I am one of those documented cases. You also have that potential.
Beyond the Cause: Your Response
The new model of breast health means there is limited room for patient passivity. The good news is that when we do engage in our own process of recovery, we regain a sense of autonomy, a feeling that we can impact our own health and life, a sense of being in charge. Numerous studies have shown that patients who become actively involved in designing their recovery plan are more likely to follow through with their treatments, less likely to have complications, and more likely to have favorable outcomes than those who simply take a passive role.
Most breast cancer patients are also haunted by questions about their prediagnosis role. I often hear statements like “Why me? What did I do wrong? What could I have done differently? Am I to blame for my breast cancer?” These questions are a natural response to a significant diagnosis. While natural, they can generate thoughts and feelings of worry, despair, self-blame, and even resentment toward others. As a consequence, women with breast cancer are often left feeling isolated, frightened, and depressed, a state that inhibits both immune function and healing.
In our work, we help cancer patients reframe their experience from blame, self-recrimination, or disempowering fear. We help patients gain a broader understanding of cancer and the healing process, develop self-compassion, and create a practical action plan. In this way, patients develop a sense of regaining control and being in charge of their life and health. And that sense of control is a central element that helps in one’s healing.
Choosing Treatments that are Right for You
For many breast cancer patients, the fact that many complementary therapies seem to lack the same scientific basis accorded surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy is a real problem. I recognize that scientific evidence is a very helpful guide to choosing treatments. informed care is valuable. But as said, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” Trusting your own wisdom is also a very helpful guide to choosing treatments.
The shift to the new model in breast health honors both the contributions and the limitations of orthodox cancer care. By removing or killing tumor cells, conventional cancer treatments can play a valuable role in reducing the tumor load with which the body has to deal. However, since many conventional cancer treatments also have negative effects on healthy cells, these same treatments are often associated with significant side effects that can substantially reduce both immune function and quality of life. Even, worse, the long-term negative health consequences of these treatments often mean compromised health for the rest of one’s life.
Complementary medical therapies function in an entirely different way. The goal of these therapies is to support the immune system and health, thus facilitating the body’s healing abilities. They work together with the body to promote healing. Through this synergistic action, complementary therapies can support the body’s health and improve quality of life.
The New Model of Breast Care
As you consider your own integrated breast cancer treatment program, please remember, conventional treatments do not address the underlying factors that predispose one to breast cancer development. Conventional breast cancer treatments address symptoms. The tumor model of breast cancer care considers the tumor the entire problem. The emerging model of breast cancer treatment recognizes the tumor as a physical indication of an underlying imbalance. And the condition of the body, mind, and spirit combined is the deciding factor in the required rebalance that leads to health and healing.
The new model of breast care is grounded in helping your body’s natural ability to get well and stay well. Gone is the total focus on the tumor as the problem. The new model focuses on the whole person, creating health and well-being physically, emotionally, and even spiritually. Of course, surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy may still play a role. But in the new model, it’s not all about the treatment. It’s about you. And that is very good news indeed.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Conari Press, an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
©2011 by Greg Anderson. All rights reserved.
This article was adapted with permission from the book:
Breast Cancer: 50 Essential Things You Can Do
by Greg Anderson.
Cancer-survivor Greg Anderson, offers critical information about the major issues patients face following a breast cancer diagnosis, and shows how to implement a comprehensive recovery plan that maximizes opportunity for healing and recovery. This is a fully integrative approach--one that questions Western medicine's tendency to overtreat and proposes a combination of nutrition, exercise, mind/body approaches, and social support along with conventional medical care.
About the Author
Greg Anderson is a recognized pioneer in the field of integrated cancer care, and founder and CEO of Cancer Recovery Foundation International, a global affiliation of national charities now operating in the US, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, and Australia. Visit him at: www.CancerRecovery.org