A talk about mapping the cancer journey and how good information and a solid plan help you make sense of a new emerging Self.
You cannot avoid that cancer presents a turning point in your life. Your cancer journey depends largely on your unique stage of where you are in the course of your illness. Because of that, your cancer journey is like no one else’s.
At that moment, when you are diagnosed and from then forward, you become a patient treated for her illness. You are no longer the person you were before you walked into your oncologist’s office.
As you can guess, there will be a “before” and “after” being diagnosed with cancer. Perhaps you will find yourself in a profound and dynamic transition. You maybe try to make sense of a new Self unfolding as a result of being diagnosed, treated for, and living with cancer (Gordon & Edwards, 2005; Mailman, 2014).
Also, you may have a hard time grasping what lies ahead. You will no doubt attempt to figure out what your illness means to you. Indeed, you may struggle to come to terms with this turning point.
Mapping Your Cancer Journey
Dr. Werner will help you break down options in “Mapping Your Cancer Journey,” on Tuesday, January 12, 2016, at 5:00 pm at Mercy Health’s Johnson Family Cancer Center in Muskegon.
This talk will give you a chance to learn about the latest evidence-based mind and body approaches that can help you get a grasp on this turning point, and help you smooth out your journey. There will be plenty chances to get answers to your most pressing questions about your journey and the topics covered below.
You are now a Cancer Survivor
The National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship ([NCCS], 1996) was the first group to pioneer the term cancer survivor. The label cancer survivor is stuck with you from the time of diagnosis all through the rest of your life.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention writes that cancer survivorship is an active process of living with, through, and beyond being diagnosed with cancer (2004).
The National Cancer Institute’s (2004) Office of Cancer Survivorship also includes family members, friends, and caregivers in the term cancer survivor.
Current research shows that survivors deal with a diverse set of acute, chronic, and late effects of cancer and treatment. Being diagnosed with and treated for cancer can give rise to a host of physical, psychological, emotional, social, spiritual, and economic after effects.
During your treatment, which may include chemo, radiation therapy or both, and after treatment you may start to look and feel like you are no longer the person you thought you were. Your body may have had to endure major surgeries. Further stirring emotions, might be the fact that your image as a healthy person is most likely gone as well.
As you can see, while plotting a course for your cancer journey, it is not at all rare for you to feel unease about your health and uncertain about how to move forward during and after treatment.
Despite the other 12 million survivors living in the United States, your journey is unique to you. The vital point is how you define and what you do during your cancer journey (Ness et al., 2013).
Curing ≠ Healing: Embracing the Two Faces of Medicine
Yes, curing does not equal healing. Curing is an action carried out to stamp out a disease or correct a problem. Healing leads to being aware of the need to restore a sense of being complete and whole in response to an illness that occurs within you (Hutchinson, Hutchinson, & Arnaert, 2009).
For example, if you are in the “curing mode” the only goal is to stay alive. Not just for your body to survive, but the curing mode extends to keeping alive all that you have learned and how you know Self. In curing mode, you are trying to keep up things as they are.
The way your body looks, your way of life and daily routines, how you relate and connect with family and friends, and all else that makes up your life. In other words, when you are in curing mode, the goal is to avoid change at all cost (Hutchinson et al., 2009).
On the flip side, when you are in “healing mode,” healing will happen by accepting change. Once you accept change, you will be able to morph and shape a new sense of Self. You will learn that the person living with cancer (as a chronic disease) is unique from the Self you knew before diagnosis.
Thus, acceptance of change facilitates a grasp and unveiling of a new Self, that can be complete, whole, and unique, when compared to the Self before diagnosis (Hutchinson et al., 2009).
You can see the groundwork we are laying here. There is a stark contrast between the roles your health care team needs to juggle when we talk about “curing” and “healing.” In the curing mode, your primary care provider, through her know-how, skill, and expertise about your disease, has without a doubt, more power. That is the main reason you consulted her (Hutchinson et al., 2009).
When you are in the healing mode, this power and control transfer to you. It is within you that healing will occur, and it is you who will make the cancer journey. From that point forward, your health care team’s role in your healing journey changes from being in charge to “coming along for the ride.” (Hutchinson et al., 2009).
Given the contrast between curing and healing, you may find it not at all surprising that doctors and other experts on your health care team have a hard time wearing both heads in their practice.
Because of the highly specialized skill and expertise needed in medicine (especially oncology), your health care team’s efforts are often restricted to one of the two faces of medicine, curing OR healing, but not both (Hutchinson et al., 2009).
Integrating Mind and Body Medicine in Your Cancer Journey
It is vital to briefly explain curing and healing. As you may recall, curing and healing are two contrasting aspects of medicine that we have talked about. Once we study both faces of medicine, whole person care can be fully revived. Whole person care arises, even amidst medicine’s quest to reduce health and illness to the tiniest of all levels (Hutchinson et al., 2009).
When you are in the curing mode, you need to work as close as possible with your oncologist and other members of your health care team. You need to know that your health care team will meet cancer head on because of their proper training, skills, and know-how.
That does not mean that you have to wait for healing to occur. The earlier you start to think about the healing process, the better you are equipped to traverse between curing and healing. When you do that, your quality of life will improve.
From Drifter to Pioneer in Your Cancer Journey
Increasing numbers of survivors have become very active in charting their cancer journey. This increase arises from a budding wisdom and use of treatments that aim to heal mind, body, and spirit.
Surveys throughout the nation show that a greater number of survivors try to find doctors and health care experts who can support both faces of medicine. This growing trend could be because survivors consider approaches such as mind and body treatments fitting of their values and beliefs.
It appears that these are issues people who walk the cancer journey have deeply thought about. A genuine thought has been given on how to best deal with health, illness, life, and dying with dignity (Gordon & Edwards, 2005).
Dealing with Too Much Health Info
Being diagnosed with cancer can make you feel that you must become an instant expert in oncology. You are yearning for counsel on how to approach and care for yourself during your cancer journey. The need for sound data increases, as you approach the end of treatment.
As your visits with your health care team decrease, you might even feel deserted by your health care team. In this stage, it is still vital for you and your family to single out treatments or health advice based on sound research. A growing body of research shows that incorporating mind and body medicine into your cancer journey can help ease this transition (Mailman, 2014).
Thus, your cancer journey can be helped by good health info and by teaching you sound self-care skills. That is why ACEF is excited to have been invited by Johnson Cancer Family Center (JFCC) to present these monthly Cancer Seminars throughout 2016.
Both, JFCC and ACEF have the means to play a crucial role at each stage (curing and healing) of your cancer journey.
What Does this Mean for You?
Let’s break your cancer journey down a bit further into a well-grounded outline that will guide ACEF as we offer evidence-based mind and body approaches to discuss your unique survivorship needs.
A Six-Step Approach
We will empower and improve the quality of life of West Michigan’s cancer survivors and their loved ones and caregivers, through research, teaching, and integration of evidence-based nutrition and mind and body medicine approaches.
Below are six guiding principles that serve as our blazes and cairns as we see our mission come to fruition. These six precepts align perhaps quite well with the many thoughts and concerns you have given on how to best walk your cancer journey.
1. The Unique Person
Integrative medicine is a system of care, a unique model of becoming aware of human health and a method that aims to combine curing and healing. Integrative medicine values that we are all distinct persons. Integrative medicine recognizes that you are unlike anyone else when it comes to the chemical substances and reactions that make up your body and allow for life to occur.
Integrative medicine also regards each person as unique when it comes mind, mental processes, and matters about spiritual practices. Integrative medicine accepts that because you are unique and unlike any other person, your cancer journey is unique and should be tailor-made to you (Gordon & Edwards, 2005).
Many mind and body medicine approaches lend themselves quite well to adapt your cancer journey to your unique needs.
Holism factors all of a person’s body, mental, and social way of being in the treatment of illness. Holism values that your body, mind, emotions, and spirit are all working jointly as one. Holism also weighs in the effects of all the outside factors, such as actions of people that surround you and who influence your life. Survivorship care is broad in scope and includes various fields of medicine.
The mind and body approach can help tailor treatments to you (the whole person). The thought is most often given to nutrition, exercise, emotional and physical well-being. It is also crucial to pick out mind and body approaches tested in the real world to manage your stress and stressors that are unique to you (Gordon & Edwards, 2005).
3. Healing Partnerships
Each person traveling a cancer journey, or a journey pierced with chronic disease, needs to be an active partner in her care. You need to find and surround yourself with health experts that commit to paving the way for you to play a decisive role in your journey to self-awareness and self-care. “Respectful collaboration, not compliance is the watchword” (Gordon & Edwards, 2005, p. 155).
Making self-care a central aspect of survivorship care will be crucial. The mind and body medicine approach we are offering focuses on increasing self-awareness, relaxation, meditation, guided imagery, exercise, nutrition, and spirituality.
These mind and body treatments can be tools to keep your body, mind, and spirit balanced and well. These mind and body treatments have been used with good results to manage symptoms also.
Once mastered, these mind and body treatments can increase your knack to take care of yourself, control and enhance feelings of well-being (Gordon & Edwards, 2005).
5. Group Support
Any illness can be draining. Due to fatigue, which limits how active you are, and because of your modern way of life, chronic illness can often lead to you feeling alone. A support group that includes other persons who face health challenges like yours can offer a unique chance to feel a sense of belonging and being accepted by your peers (Gordon & Edwards, 2005).
A support group’s skillful leader can inspire tactics that help you do well with the challenges that are part of the cancer journey. Research shows that support groups can be as good as many standard treatments.
Support groups designed to deal with problems that are unique to cancer survivors have become popular over the past decades and you can probably find many close to your neighborhood (Gordon & Edwards, 2005).
6. Your Illness as a Journey
Your cancer journey can be regarded as crucial in shaping your unique inner purpose of life that you can bring to light and realize (an existential crisis). Your cancer journey may also be a turning point. It can test your beliefs about life, death, meaning, and your sense of place in the world.
Cancer can be like a massive earthquake. Cancer makes the solid ground upon which you built your entire life and belief system shake and crumble beneath you, knocking you off your feet, and burying you and your family under its debris.
How you manage to emerge and decide to rebuild from the rubble will shape the course of your entire cancer journey. It will influence your treatment choices, your future life, and your treatment outcomes (Gordon & Edwards, 2005; Mailman, 2014).
Mapping the Cancer Journey Can Help You Make Sense of Emerging New Self
In the best of settings, your health care team is both a guide and ally on your cancer journey. As guides and allies in your cancer journey, JFCC and ACEF offer these monthly educational cancer seminars on evidence-based mind and body medicine approaches.
These mind and body medicine approaches can help you take the helm of your cancer journey. They can help you chart your course through the now and again rough waters and harsh landscape of your journey.
Well-researched mind and body approaches will help you jumpstart your journey. The evidence-based mind and body medicine modalities we are offering can help you smooth this profound and enormous shift in the landscape as you try to make sense of the new Self that unfolds and emerges because of being diagnosed, treated for, and living with cancer.
Will we see You for January’s Educational Cancer Seminar at JFCC?
Be a Best Friend: Share 6 Simple Steps for Your Cancer Journey to Meet Unique Survivorship Needs
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The Presentation, Mapping, the Cancer Journey Helps You Make Sense of a New Emerging Self is based on the following works:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2004). A national action plan for cancer survivorship: Advancing public health strategies. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/survivorship/pdf/plan.pdf
Gordon, J. S., & Edwards, D. M. (2005). MindBodySpirit Medicine. Seminars in Oncology Nursing, 21(3), 154–158. doi:10.1016/j.soncn.2005.04.002
Hutchinson, T. A., Hutchinson, N., & Arnaert, A. (2009). Whole person care: Encompassing the two faces of medicine. CMAJ, 180(8), 845–846.
Mailman, J. (2014). A patients’ perspective on integrative oncology: Getting past the “War,” living with and beyond cancer. JNCI Monographs, 2014(50), 291–291. doi:10.1093/jncimonographs/lgu035
National Cancer Institute. (2004). About survivorship research: Survivorship definitions. Retrieved from http://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms
National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship. (1996). Imperatives for quality cancer care: Access, advocacy, action, and accountability. Silver Spring, MD
Ness, S., Kokal, J., Fee-Schroeder, K., Novotny, P., Satele, D., & Barton, D. (2013). Concerns across the survivorship trajectory: Results from a survey of cancer survivors. Oncology Nursing Forum, 40(1), 35–42. doi:10.1188/13.ONF.35-42