Something you don’t hear much about is what happens to cancer survivors, post-treatment. Surviving is one thing — the first hurdle in a long road back to a normal life. Beyond that, a cancer survivor has to deal with the emotional fallout that comes from being diagnosed and going through a treatment ordeal, plus any other challenge that comes as a result of cancer.
Cancer survivors belong to a special club — a club none of us wants to join, but we don’t have a choice. This issue will deal with some things a cancer survivor can do to make life better…
Continued below. . .
This Cancer Cure Video Circled the Globe in 31 Minutes
Every 60 seconds someone dies from cancer — and every 3 minutes, someone new is diagnosed with cancer. That someone could even be you.
If you know anyone who’s suffering from cancer, you *must* watch this 5-minute video. This is the video that the pharmaceutical industry doesn’t want you to watch.
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Healing is not just skin-deep…
Compare it to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), where anxiety develops after a person is exposed to something psychologically traumatic. We usually think of PTSD in connection with military combat, but it can follow any frightening or damaging experience.
Just being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness is enough to trigger PTSD. Undergoing treatment and surviving the illness can actually make PTSD worse.
For a lot of cancer survivors — especially those who go the chemo route — figuring out how to survive life after cancer brings almost as many challenges as life with cancer. Especially for anyone who had body-altering surgery, or suffered a permanent handicap.
The real issue here is that cancer patients are inundated with support while they battle their disease. But if they conquer it, the support often vanishes. The expectation is they’ll return to the “real world.” But here’s the crux of it: Post-cancer, they’re part of a whole new world.
For starters, they’ll forever carry the label “cancer survivor” — a term that blends life and death together into one bundle. Depending on the effects of their specific type of cancer, they may face a variety of new health problems — everything from changes in memory and concentration, to persistent pain, to bladder or bowel control problems, to intimacy and sex issues.
Fortunately, there’s an ever-growing wealth of resources to help survivors. Do an online search for “life after cancer” and you’ll find thousands of links to post-cancer support groups and forums.
I did this and was struck by the results of a particular study. It’s called “Finding a New Normal:” Using Recreation Therapy to Improve the Well-Being of Women with Breast Cancer.
The study makes an important point, which is something we often talk about here at Cancer Defeated. That’s the fact that healing — whether it’s post-cancer, or whether you’re trying to prevent cancer in the first place — has to take place on both a physical and emotional level. When this happens, the results are astounding.
The mind-body healing connection (something we know well)
The study took place in 2009, when researchers Diane Groff and Claudio Battaglini and team looked at post-breast-cancer survival. They tracked six women who went through standard breast-cancer treatment, followed by something called HeartMath® treatment.
HeartMath® treatment is offered by the Institute of HeartMath, a nonprofit dedicated to helping folks lower stress and manage their emotions in a way that benefits their physical bodies. They help people “reconnect with their hearts” so they can de-stress and build resilience. One of the group’s major tenets is the power of emotions to increase energy and well-being.
On a practical level, this means taking the women who volunteered for the study I mentioned and putting them through a regimen of exercise and recreation therapy. This might be any combination of cardio and weight training, stretching, relaxation techniques, and group activities. A grant-funded program in North Carolina called “Get REAL & HEEL” is one of several programs that take HeartMath® techniques and translate them into practical application. That’s where the study participants went for their post-cancer treatment.
The results were profound. Not only were the women better able to cope with stress and other emotional challenges, but their immune function improved dramatically. The women also experienced mental and emotional improvement. Decision-making got easier, they felt more in control, and they were better able to cope with daily challenges.
It’s proof that recreational therapists can play a significant role in helping cancer survivors get their lives back.
If studies like these continue to prove the importance of addressing the mind and body challenges survivors have and the important role these therapists can play, there’s a good chance insurance companies will do a better job of accepting and funding interventions like this. Especially if it’s consistently proven that this kind of treatment boosts long-term survival rates.
For that matter, it’s also proof that daily exercise, paired with taking the time to appreciate what you have, will do you worlds of good — whether or not you follow a formal treatment program.
A useful resource for you
Really, this concept applies to anyone who’s faced a complex disease. Beyond curing the pathological side of the disease, there’s an entire social and emotional spectrum of healing to address.
Whether you’re a survivor or you know a survivor, I recommend reading this online booklet: Facing Forward: Life After Cancer Treatment. It’s a helpful guide from the National Cancer Institute for navigating life post-treatment.
Lee Euler, Publisher