Few words can be more terrifying than, “You have cancer.”
Having heard those words myself I can attest to the looming horror that those words leave in the air. And while a cancer diagnosis can instantly change your life in a scary way, it can also be a gift. Cancer can be a catalyst for connecting the body and mind in a more authentic way than one ever thought possible. We are all guilty of running around like headless chickens not fully paying attention to how are bodies are trying to get our attention. Cancer halts the chicken dance as immediately you are forced to pay attention to your body, your mind and your spirit. Complimentary medical modalities, like acupuncture, in addition to standard medical care can help to bridge the gap between being just a patient and being a mindful patient in charge.
While modern medicine has made tremendous strides in cancer care and we have the survivorship to prove that, there can often be a crucial component missing to the standard approach to care. The patient. What most cancer patients want to do is live, what we need to start thinking about is how cancer patients live with a high quality of life.
To achieve a high quality of living through cancer treatment is both patient and doctor responsibility – it takes a village. Enter treatments like acupuncture, nutritional therapy, spiritual therapy and the like. These particular modalities can not only ease the stress from typical medical interventions like surgery, chemo and radiation; but they enhance the immune system, balance the nervous system and help prep the body for the intensity of fighting cancer. These treatments don’t need to be thought of as “alternative” or “fringe” they should automatically be put on the patient’s calendar right next to the chemo rounds.
Acupuncture is being recognized and used by Western doctors for the treatment of chemo related nausea and vomiting and chronic inflammatory pain. Some other lesser know symptoms that are treated with great results are hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety, stress, and sleeping issues. And while reduction in physical symptoms is great, for me what’s more special about acupuncture and cancer care is the emotional growth that happens through physical changes during an acupuncture treatment.
Cancer can feel like the body’s ultimate betrayal. Acupuncture in particular can help the patient to connect more deeply to the emotional/physical response to a life threatening diseases. These moments of introspection can be very telling of the life we truly want to be living.
Being able to openly go into ones body not only allows a person to bear witness to the physiological changes happening inside of them, but also helps them to understand that there is no separation of body and mind. Each physiological reaction has an emotional component and vice a versa. The mechanisms behind acupuncture become acutely apparent during these quiet, nurturing and patient focused treatments.
Being able to understand your body, listen to your heart and feel supported in your cancer journey gives patients the power to become their own best healthcare advocate. There is, after all, nobody that knows your body the way you do. Listen to it.