Permission to Be Human During Treatment
After receiving a breast cancer diagnosis there is so much going on in your mind. The first thing is accepting the reality of the situation. Then your focus shifts to treatment and how best to manage the difficult road ahead. Oftentimes women bear the weight of responsibility. And after a cancer diagnosis, the responsibility of treatment sits on the top of the pile.
You might ask yourself:
Have I chosen the right options for my individual situation?
How will I balance treatment AND getting dinner on the table tonight?
How can I avoid letting cancer take over my life?
Honestly the questions are endless. Especially if you let them be. In times of challenge, we often set a mindset to just power through the difficulty. But I promise there is a different way. You may never have given yourself the permission to slow down and focus only on yourself. During cancer treatment, this is just the medicine you need.
One important naturopathic principle is you have to give your body the tools it needs to heal itself. And the most important tool in your toolbox at this time is to listen to your body and address your own personal needs. That’s a hard pill to swallow. As a naturopathic doctor specializing in oncology, it’s my job to give you the tools your body needs to survive.
As such, I want to share with you the permissions you might not be able to give yourself at this time. Sometimes survival looks like holding on for dear life. But in this moment, I want you to let go of all the things you cannot control. Instead focus on the things that are within your power.
I give you permission to do the following:
- Stop when it gets painful. Such a huge piece of treatment is rest. Particularly women with breast cancer who are going through treatment need to take rest seriously. That means getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night. During treatment, get in the habit of practicing sleep hygiene: take a bath before bed, add lavender oil to your bedroom diffuser, turn off all electronics and dim the lights one hour before sleep, and practice some type of meditation or prayer centered around gratitude.
- Affirm your choices. It’s hard to ask for what you need, especially when you’re used to taking care of others. Pick at least one thing to delegate to someone else each day while you’re going through treatment.
- Practice “grace”. During times of difficulty, we are not always our best selves. Let yourself off the hook when you are short with someone or don’t want to engage in one more conversation about the future. Take yourself down from the pedestal and walk away from the moral high ground. Your people will understand.
- Let other people handle their own needs. Accommodation of other people’s wants/ needs takes away your precious energy. At this time, you cannot be all things to all people. Let others do what they can.
- Lower your expectations. Get rid of the thought that you must perform for others. The responsibility you take on – working, taking care of kids, animals, etc. – only reduces your ability to focus on your most important job which is your treatment. It will all be there when you survive.
- Feel awful. It’s ok to measure when you feel good or bad based on your own scale and not measure your health by other people’s standards. You are not complaining. You are not too much. It’s ok to allow yourself to take up your own space in pain.
- Be present. Identify what you think and what you feel. Notice in your body the places that hurt. Let your feelings come and go. Be present with what is happening now – not the wistful memories of how you used to be nor the fear or anticipation of what is to come.
- Stop taking advice. Everyone has an opinion. If you are listening to your body, you know what it needs. You don’t have to listen to other people.
The time during treatment can leave you feeling powerless. So many decisions are out of your control and you may feel like your options are limited. I hope you come back to this post and remember that there are some very important things you have permission to do. I’m not being flippant when I say they are life giving.
Naturopathic oncology is an integrative approach to breast cancer treatment. In conjunction with your entire team, I can help you maintain the pillars of health – nutrition, movement, sleep and stress management – to make sure you maintain optimal wellness during treatment and prevent recurrence afterwards. One needs both conventional medicine and naturopathic wisdom to beat cancer.
As a naturopathic oncologist I am trained to safely manage complementary and alternative therapies for cancer patients undergoing conventional cancer treatments. I provide complementary medicine consultations regarding whole foods nutrition, botanical medicine, nutritional supplements, and lifestyle modifications to attain optimum health during cancer treatment and after.
Please contact Dr. Laura James ND, FABNO if you have questions about integrative solutions during your breast cancer treatment. If you live in the Bellingham, Washington area and would like to learn more about a naturopathic approach to your wellness, please call 360-738-3230 or CLICK HERE to schedule a consultation.