Cancer is a complex disease, each case is unique as is each individual and as such there is not one single way to approach treatment, management or prevention. It may be tempting to seek a single elixir however a more balanced approach is usually multifaceted.
Solaris Cancer Care promotes the ‘wellness approach’ to cancer which is about living as well as you can, exercising your personal strengths, and reaching out for connection with nature and community.
Wellness means different things to different people. Ideally we all hope to live cancer free, however sometimes that isn’t the case, and so wellness can mean feeling as good as possible in your particular circumstance.
Living well with cancer might mean making balanced choices, learning self-help strategies, accessing and strengthening inner resources; discovering supports and health information, developing a positive outlook and managing the stresses of cancer and everyday life with grace and ease.
The positive benefits of wellness flow to every part of your life including your environment, health, food, state of mind, relationships and spiritual life.
Wellness approach to living with cancer
A wellness approach puts your needs at the centre of your life. Many people find a health crisis prompts them to reflect on their life and reassess their priorities. Creating healthy boundaries, communicating effectively and choosing activities that reflect your values and nourish you can mean small shifts, or sometimes dramatic changes occur. You might have clear ideas about what you want, or you may seek to work collaboratively with one of our counsellors to gain insight into your own unique experiences.
There are some well -known factors that increase risk for many different types of cancer, so it makes sense to have a look at what might shift around cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, processed diet, obesity, and inactivity. Behaviour change can be challenging so we suggest starting with small steps, and seeking support when you need it.
Creating a wellness lifestyle for yourself can take almost any form but here are some of the key elements the Solaris Cancer Care community tend to focus on:
- Physical activity – get moving. Even during treatment, doing as much physical activity as you can tolerate is likely to be helpful. Check with your doctors if you’ve had recent surgery, have bone metastases, or other risk factors. Current recommendations are 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise. Make it something you enjoy, get outdoors, or connect with friends. We have tai chi, yoga, pilates and group fitness here weekly, and there’s a huge variety of options in the community. Be sure to tell the instructor about your health, there are cancer focused programs, and many exercise professionals have done additional training to help them work optimally with individual needs.
- Healthy diet – eat your vegetables, however you like them. There are many ways to have a healthy diet, and yet, despite most people having good knowledge of what to eat, factors such as fatigue, convenience and habits sometimes lead us to choosing less than optimal food. As much as practical for you, aim for a high plant content diet – that means vegetables, fruit, grains, beans and legumes. Minimise the processed meats, red meat and alcohol, and aim for a wide variety of whole foods.
- Integrative Medicine – there’s no need to choose between conventional or natural medicine, why not use the best of both? Integrative medicine is a growing field which uses reliable scientific evidence to inform treatment and management plans using complementary therapies alongside conventional medicine. This is different from taking an ‘alternative’ approach, which implies using unproven remedies or therapies and avoiding conventional care. At Cancer Support WA we can guide you towards resources that provide the current evidence for many complementary therapies that will not interfere with the effectiveness of oncology treatments.
- Stress management – no matter what life throws at you, your inner life is your own. A health crisis is stressful, and the other stressors of life don’t disappear either, so it makes sense to invest some time developing inner resources through meditation and relaxation.
- Support – emotional, practical and spiritual support from your networks, healthcare team, support groups, family, community.