Article contributed by Cancer Education Center staff; Jeri Lensing and Angela Young
Your attitudes, emotions, and moods can change from day to day, and even from hour to hour. You may feel good one day and terrible the next. Know that this is normal and that, with time, most people are able to adjust to a cancer diagnosis and move forward with their lives.
Once you learn that you or a loved one has cancer, you may no longer feel safe. You may feel afraid, exposed, weak, and vulnerable. Such feelings often last through treatment. Anxiety and sadness are common, too.
It’s normal to worry, especially at certain times, such as when waiting to start treatment. “The worst time for me was waiting for that first chemo treatment,” said one patient. “Once it was over, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, I was OK. I actually felt better because I was finally doing something about the cancer.”
Many people with cancer use one or more kinds of alternative or complementary therapies. And they often don’t tell their doctors about these decisions. The best approach is to look carefully at your choices. Talk to your doctor about any method you are using or thinking about trying. There are many complementary methods you can safely use along with standard treatment to help relieve symptoms or side effects, to ease pain, and to help you enjoy life more. Even if they aren’t fully tested, you can choose methods that don’t usually cause harm and won’t interfere with your cancer treatment.
Here are examples of some complementary methods that some people have found helpful and safe when used along with standard medical treatment:
- Acupuncture: Acupuncture is a technique in which very thin needles are put into the body to treat a number of symptoms. It may help with mild pain and some types of nausea.
- Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy is the use of fragrant substances, called essential oils, distilled from plants to alter mood or improve symptoms such as stress or nausea.
- Art therapy: Art therapy is used to help people with physical and emotional problems by using creative activities to express emotions.
- Biofeedback: Biofeedback is a treatment method that uses monitoring devices to help people gain conscious control over physical processes that are usually controlled automatically, such as heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, sweating, and muscle tension.
- Labyrinth walking: Involves a meditative walk along a set circular pathway that goes to the center and comes back out. Labyrinths can also be “walked” online or on a grooved board following the curved path with a finger.
- Massage therapy: Massage involves manipulation, rubbing, and kneading of the body’s muscle and soft tissue. Some studies suggest massage can decrease stress, anxiety, depression, and pain and increase alertness.
- Meditation: Meditation is a mind-body process in which a person uses concentration or reflection to relax the body and calm the mind.
- Music therapy: Music therapy is offered by trained healthcare professionals who use music to promote healing and enhance quality of life.
- Prayer and spirituality: Spirituality is generally described as an awareness of something greater than the individual self. It’s often expressed through religion and/or prayer, but there are many other paths of spiritual pursuit and expression.
- Tai chi: Tai chi is an ancient Chinese martial art. It’s a mind-body system that uses movement, meditation, and breathing to improve health and well being. It’s been shown to improve strength and balance in some people.
- Yoga: Yoga is a form of non-aerobic exercise that involves a program of precise posture and breathing activities.
Again, there are some safe complementary therapies out there that can help you feel better. But there are other treatments that can hurt you. Before investing your money and time in any non-traditional medicine, please talk to your doctor about whether or not it may help you in your fight against cancer. Especially if it is something you would take orally, such as a supplement.
Connect with others talking about emotions, feelings and mood related to living with cancer in the Cancer: Managing Symptoms group.