A Mother and her Two Daughters

12 April 2010

A New Strategy for the Fight-Complementary Therapy


Dr. Bernie Siegel, a cancer surgeon wrote, "Show me a patient who is able to laugh and play, who enjoys living and I'll show you someone who is going to live longer.

In my initial meeting with my oncologist Dr. Makhoul, he clearly laid out each of our areas of responsibility.  He explained that it was his job to know everything about my cancer and provide me with the most aggressive and best researched conventional medical treatment, to ultimately shrink my Stage III cancer to a size that will allow for successful surgery, hopefully in July.  It would be my responsibility to take charge of my mind and attitude and emotions, to create and maintain my own world of support that will help me deal with the emotional and psychological stresses that result from cancer treatment.  This is often referred to as “complementary therapy.” 

There are several methods of complementary therapy:  acupuncture, aromatherapy, art and music therapy, biofeedback, hypnosis, imagery and visualization, massage, prayer and spiritual practices, relaxation and yoga. 

None of these therapies have been proven to shrink cancer.  However, it has been proven that the recurrence-free cancer survival rate at five and ten-year follow-ups is much higher for patients who respond with a fighting spirit attitude.  Because the five-year survival rate for Inflammatory Breast Cancer is between 25 and 50 percent with a higher likeliness of recurrence, I think I’m headed down the right path. 

The world is not a peaceful place and within each of us there is some form of tension and stress. Life situations can bring disappointments, sadness, anger, frustrations, and other negative emotions, which not only can adversely affect our minds but our bodies, as well. 

In 2004, after surviving three contentious and time-consuming years of education reform in Arkansas, I made two major life-style changes.  First, I learned to eliminate alcohol as stress reliever.  Second, I took a Mindfulness Meditation class at UAMS.

In general, meditation is an effective way to help the mind create positive and peaceful thoughts, to change thoughts from negative to positive.  Mindfulness Meditation is a specific technique that combats life’s problems and situations.  It allows one to be aware of their surroundings, to develop a high sensitivity in perceiving every moment, and enabling them to accept stressful situations, instead of avoiding them.

Mindfulness Meditation can train our minds to achieve a state of tranquility, without being disturbed by outside forces. Not only is it an emotional and spiritual experience, it is also a peaceful lesson in self-discipline and strength of mind.  The practice of Mindfulness Meditation focuses our attention on our thoughts, actions, and present moments non-judgmentally. It does not encourage evaluating or thinking on our past actions and neither does it take our thoughts to the uncertain future. Mindfulness Meditation helps and trains our mind from getting distracted by outside disturbances and enables us to focus our thoughts and relax the mind.

To fight some of these cumulative chemo effects, I’ve made a decision to move myself into some additional complementary treatments.  Maybe acupuncture is not on my list, but I feel fortunate to have been trained in Mindfulness Meditation, to already have been given the tools of discipline that have made this an easy therapy to get back into.  Maybe even a little music therapy will be good for my soul.  I love music, all kinds except raw country.  And my dear friend Ruth gave me a very cool green iPod, so maybe some jazz or classical or even light opera would do my soul good. 

This weekend Tim said something that is so very true – I’m going to have to deal with whatever the day dishes out.  And he’s correct.  Some days it’s been a little nausea, most days it has been extreme fatigue, a few days it has been a strong sense of loss.  I think I’m entering a new phase in this cancer fight that will require more from me, a more proactive plan of self-support, and I’m ready. 


3 comments:

  1. Oh how you will be rewarded for opting to go down this wonderful mindfulness journey path and to receive the benefits of alternative therapies. I did the same thing, and am convinced my life is much richer because of it - and my physical condition better, too. There is a difference between a cure and healing. We all can make healing choices for ourselves regardless of the odds of a cure, and exploring gentle healing options can be FUN! btw, I LOVE my acupuncture treatments! I kept putting that one off, but once I started, it was fabulous and I wondered why on earth I had not tried it sooner. I still get treaments weekly or at least every other week. I highly recommend it!
    Love,
    Ginny :)

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