woman undergoing breast cancer treatment practicing radical self care

Practicing Radical Self Care

For some who receive a cancer diagnosis, it can feel like the beginning of a lonely, uphill battle. Not only are cancer patients fighting for their lives, but also their autonomy, authenticity and dignity as they choose how to proceed with treatment. Choosing can look like sticking with the “norms” of conventional medicine, or it might look like embarking on another path.

Cancer treatment is as individual as the person contemplating it. And, as much as it’s hard to say, there is no one size fits all, perfect solution for living with cancer. What is right for one person, might not be right for another. It all comes down to the innate essence of each human to choose, with dignity, how to proceed.

Although family members and/ or caregivers want the best for the cancer patient in their life, it can be hard to relinquish control when a loved one is facing death. Survival is the ultimate goal, but on whose terms? For a cancer patient, surviving as someone else dictates might not feel very much like living at all.

So many times, those who have been diagnosed with and are now being treated and surviving cancer have been made to feel like their treatment choices are “difficult”, that they, themselves are difficult. So, for those who are living in the tension between choosing what others want, or choosing what is best for yourself, it is time to commit to RADICAL SELF CARE.

You have no time to lose.

Your breast cancer diagnosis is an opportunity to take care of yourself in ways you may not have considered before. It is an opportunity to do things differently; to walk in your own power, down your own path. Everything is different after your diagnosis, so you get to find a new way to BE. And the more you care for yourself, the more likely it is that you will survive to spend the rest of your days with the people who love you.

Practicing radical safe care starts with the idea of shifting who you once were into something a bit more unique to who you are now. You have to let your identity become something new. You have to invest in the person you are becoming from this minute forward, not who you once were. At this time, you have to reconcile with doing what is best for you in the present moment and letting go of what you think the outcome will be. All you have is now.

Our minds, our egos, often lead us from a place of fear. Especially in a traumatic situation, we can easily slip into the worst-case scenario. But that isn’t a healthy place to exist – mind, body or spirit. Practicing radical self-care after a cancer diagnosis means digging deep past the story your mind is telling you and getting in touch with what you are feeling and what your body needs from a deep intuitive place. Ask yourself, who are you listening to? Is your direction being led from your mind or from your body?

Cancer patients are not fearless – that is, absent of fear. Cancer patients are courageous – having fear and showing up for the challenge of living anyway. Simply, there’s not a whole lot of support for women’s healthcare. There’s not a lot of support for integrative medicine. There’s not a lot of support for women who are looking for different choices. Women are not rewarded for having a dissonant voice. It’s ok to seek out what you know you need, though, regardless of what standard conventional care is telling you. Having the courage to go your own way is practicing radical self-care.

Radical self-care is letting go of what people think. As a woman you may tend to sacrifice your needs for others. Now, you have to make a choice about how you will move forward for yourself. At some point you will need to let go of the notion that you can juggle all the balls in the air. As they start to fall, let them. You only have control over yourself, your actions, your words, your mind. You are now the center of the universe. Let yourself BE.

You don’t have to follow a specific path. Listen to your gut and trust yourself. There is no “right” answer. There is no predictable outcome. You can do all the right things and you may still die, because sometimes the fight is bigger than you. But in this moment, in this life at present, you still have the ability to make the most empowering choices. No one on the planet will feel the way you do as you journey through cancer, but you are not alone.

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.


February 21, 2023

Beautifully said, Dr. Laura. Thank you for understanding and supporting and verbalizing women's/my journey. It's comforting, actually.

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