What can I do so my cancer doesn't come back...or what else can I do?

Many women are asking this question now because they want to be proactive and often feel on shaky ground once treatment is over. This can be a difficult question that could take a lifetime to answer. Also, there are many tiers to answering it. I have found that I can provide the sources of information and let the woman delve into it as much or as little as they want. Some need a little push; some get a bit obsessed, and most find a good balance over the long haul. I have learned a lot from them and will try to share it.

I usually answer by asking a few questions —

  • Can you see any meaning in this diagnosis for you?
  • What would you change about your life?
  • What about this diagnosis is a wake-up call?
  • If this were the last year of your life what would you do differently?

In asking this question I preface by saying I am not placing blame anywhere, that you did not do anything wrong, but there is always room for change. This can be a hard concept for some to differentiate. It is also hard for me to hear and understand, but many women tell me years later that getting breast cancer was a "good," or some the best thing, because of the changes they made.

What changes —

Many women choose to make changes in their job or work environment, others in their relationships — friends or family. Some find a good support group; others use a therapist, and other women do it on their own with meditation, art or writing. A very good college roommate of mine has taught writing for many years and has a website to share her tools: www.creativechoices.net. And of course most women experiment with many new choices but settle into one or two which feels best for them.

Most women also know that their nutrition hasn't been right for awhile and want to know what to eat. This topic could obviously fill another whole website, so I will try to be brief and to the point. I have not found one eating plan that works for everyone. I have found that there are certain points within many diets which are the same, and which I think everyone (with cancer or not) should try to follow.

To summarize —

1. Decrease portion size

2. Eliminate the "whites" — white sugar, white bread and rice. Use honey, maple syrup, "date sugar" or Stevia

3. Avoid hydrogenated fats with trans-fatty acids (read labels), most processed foods — i.e., donuts, bakery sweets. Butter in moderation; olive oil is best

4. Use alcohol and caffeine in moderation — teas are better options

5. Increase the use of washed organic fruits and vegetables and organic chicken, red meats and fish

6. Take a good multivitamin without iron and with lots of folic acid, and add extra omega 3 fatty acid (fish oil) supplement

7. Add flax in ground seed form or oil — increases fiber (other fiber sources essential also)

For more details I would refer you to the website of Diana Dyer, a nutritionist who has had breast cancer 3 times: www.dianadyermsrd.com, or Anne Fonda's website: www.annieappleseedproject.org. Anne had breast cancer over 10 years ago and has compiled a wealth of personal and scientific information on complementary and alternative, including nutritional treatments.Also I would suggest www.drnorthrup.com and www.drweil.com for diet, recipes and supplement ideas.

I have found that some women do well adhering to the Diet for their Blood Type: www.dadamo.com, particularly the women with Blood Type A.

Other books I would recommend include:

The Breast Cancer Prevention and Recovery Diet by Suzannah Olivier
What to Eat if you Have Cancer by Maureen Keane and Daniella Chace
Beating Cancer with Nutrition by Patrick Quillin

There is a plethora of supplements to treat cancer — again, I haven't found one that cured everyone. There are many which I think are perfectly safe and worthwhile and can be found at reasonable prices. A short list would include:

Folic acid
Modified citrus pectin
Turmeric or curcumin (a spice)
Lycopene (from tomatoes — once thought to be carcinogens
      because they looked like a tumor)
Green drinks
Co-enzyme Q 10

I would recommend discussing these with a health care professional to decide which are best for you. You could be taking a pill every hour which isn't healthy either.

Most women also find benefit from doing something for themselves. For many of us, we have been giving and giving and taking care of others — family, friends, pets, charity, and have forgotten how to, or feel too guilty to indulge in "self-care". Much has been written about this and I would refer you to the website of Cheryl Richardson, the premiere lifestyle and life make-over coach: www.cherylrichardson.com.

Other women get involved in the politics of breast cancer — certainly a worthy cause. Check out the national breast cancer coalition's website: www.natlbcc.org or www.bcaction.org.

I would say that most of the women I see do well have identified or uncovered a PASSION and pursued it. The key (if there is one — and the locks probably change) is to keep looking and asking, moving ahead and enjoying life.


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©copyright Dixie Mills, MD, 2006-2010