In 1998 at 24 years old, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Since then, I’ve had three awake brain surgeries, radiation, chemotherapy and clinical trials.
Through my healing journey as I searched to acquire support, I found I was only scratching the surface in my new cancer world. As I explored to find new resources—in time—clarity emerged. I could not just focus on the disease and instead had to include the whole person.
Integrative cancer care makes use of all appropriate therapeutic approaches, doctors, providers, and self-care to support optimal health and healing. Through compassionate, comprehensive patient-centered care for the whole person, integrative cancer care addresses the totality for each individual of body, mind, spirit, social, and environmental health. Research shows that integrative cancer care improves quality of life. Here is a quick snapshot to the whole person:
BODY— Integrative cancer care addresses the cancer diagnosis and the entire physical body. Among other factors, benefits can occur from a healthy diet, exercise, adequate sleep, stress reduction, immune support, and addressing obesity or being overweight for some people.
MIND— Mind-body wellness practices such as breathing, meditation, guided imagery, music, connecting with meaning and purpose, plus other strategies can improve one’s health and outlook.
SPIRIT— Through the cancer experience, some people may engage more with spirituality or a faith community. These forms of support are vital and uplifting.
SOCIAL— Living with or beyond cancer can involve new perceptions and social experiences. People dealing with cancer—patients, family members, friends—endure social challenges and opportunities. Asking for help, increasing self-awareness, and becoming even more open in communication are only some strategies for social support.
ENVIRONMENTAL— Take steps against toxins and chemicals with what you put in your body, on your body and around your body into your environment inside and outside your home. Some examples involve wearing sunscreen, avoiding places where there is second hand smoke or trying to limit time outside when there is an air quality alert. Addressing cancer and the environment is also essential for cancer risk reduction.
In my quest, it took me years to understand integrative cancer care. Now in 2015, more people in the cancer arena provide components of integrative cancer care, including hospital departments, clinics, oncologists, other doctors, providers and survivors with education and incorporation of these approaches in practice. For patients getting to know ways to achieve optimal health and healing, learning more about integrative cancer care for the whole person, talking to their health care team about creating an integrative cancer care plan, conducting further research, and using daily self-care strategies are extremely helpful. Be proactive and engage in actions for major improvements. You deserve it!