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5 days ago · Physical Activity through the Livestrong Program in Cancer Education Center


Article contributed by Cancer Education Center staff, Tammy Adams, R.N.

The LIVESTRONG Foundation has partnered with many local YMCA’s throughout the nation to provide a structured, supportive, research-based physical activity and well-being program to help cancer survivors move beyond cancer in mind, body and spirit.

The program includes:

  • Free 12-week YMCA membership for survivor and primary caregiver
  • Two 75-minute classes per week
  • Individual instruction and group activities
  • Cardiovascular exercise, strength training, stretching and balance workouts

The goals are:

  • Improve energy levels
  • Reduce the severity of treatment side effects
  • Reduce stress levels
  • Support positive self esteem
  • Incorporate physical activity that is safe for each survivor
  • Help build muscle strength
  • Increase flexibility and endurance
  • Restore balance

What to expect during the 12 weeks, 24 sessions of LIVESTRONG

(Adapted from Partners in Recovery LIVESTRONG at the YMCA)


-Become part of a small group of people with similar life experiences.

-Sharing and forming friendships that will last beyond the LIVESTRONG session dates.


-Learn to trust your body again- learn a new normal

-Become familiar with cardio and strength machines in the fitness Center

-Experience different types of class offerings at the YMCA


-Devotion, meditation and yoga classes will be offered during the session dates

-Building trusting with the other LIVESTRONG participants and learning how to supporting each other through good as well as hard times.

Fitness instructors receive specialty training in the elements of cancer, post rehabilitation exercises and supportive cancer care. To learn more or find a program near you, visit the LIVESTRONG website.

The program in Rochester, Minnesota is recruiting patients now for its program starting

February 4-April 23, 2020, 1:30-2:45pm, sessions every Tuesday and Thursday

or March 2-May 20, 2020, 5:30-7:30pm, every Monday and Wednesday

Please call 507-287-2260 or visit http://www.ymcamn.org/rochester

If you’d like to talk to others who have been diagnosed with cancer about working on physical activity and general well being, join in discussions in the Cancer: Managing Symptoms group. Research shows sharing fitness goals with friends helps you stick to your program and reach your goals big and small.


Dec 18, 2019 · How to Enjoy the Holidays When You Have Cancer in Cancer Education Center


Article contributed by Jackie See, Registered Dietitian

The holidays are upon us and food and drink seem to be the focus of every event.  This is the time of year when many people struggle to eat well.  The holidays bring celebrations and special foods you would not ordinarily eat.  They can also create other challenges, if you are not feeling up to it.  Whether you are experiencing side effects of treatment, struggling with fatigue or just trying to eat healthy, here are some strategies to help you enjoy the holidays.

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), approximately 1/3 of all cancers can be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active and consuming a healthy diet.  The same guidelines may apply to cancer survivors.  The good news is you can still enjoy some of your favorite dishes.  It’s just a matter of moderation.   Having a few unhealthy meals now and then is unlikely to ruin an otherwise healthy lifestyle.

An abundance of cancer fighting foods

On a positive note, many of the holiday foods are quite healthy and ones we should be eating more often.

Holiday food                       Why you should eat it

Sweet potato/yam            beta carotene (an antioxidant), vitamin-C (antioxidant), potassium, fiber

White potatoes                 potassium, fiber, vitamin-C

Winter squash                   beta carotene, vitamin-C, potassium, fiber

Pumpkin                             beta carotene, vitamin-C, potassium, fiber

Rutabaga                            sulphoraphane (phytochemical), vitamin C, fiber

Walnuts                              omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin E, unsaturated fats, protein

Brazil nuts                          selenium (antioxidant), unsaturated fats, protein

Other nuts                          unsaturated fats, vitamin E,  protein

Cranberries                        anthocyanins (phytochemicals), vitamin C, fiber

Clementines                      vitamin-C, fiber

Cocoa                                  flavanols (phytochemicals)

Oysters                               iron, protein

Shrimp                                omega 3 fatty acids, protein

Eggnog                                protein, calcium

Turkey                                low-fat protein

Even red meat can be part of a healthy diet.  Although ham is a processed meat, which is potentially carcinogenic, according to AICR it can be eaten on special occasions.  It may also taste better to you  than other meats  if you’ve experienced taste changes from your chemo.   Lean red meat, such as beef, can also be eaten in moderation, about 18 ounces per week.

Sometimes it is the way foods are prepared or the quantity we eat that can counteract the health benefits.  If you are the chef, you have more control over how the food is prepared.   You may be able to substitute healthier ingredients, such as applesauce for oil in baked goods or evaporated skim milk in recipes that call for cream.  But, some recipes just can’t be tampered with and, in this case, limit the quantity you eat.

Try roasted potatoes instead of potato dishes with butter and cream. Toss cut up white or sweet potatoes with olive oil and roast in a 375 degree oven.  If you like to bake, just bake small batches of your family’s top 3 holiday favorites or give some of it away.

Pace yourself

Although this time of year brings cheer and joy, it may also be filled with lengthy to do lists. For people who may be experiencing fatigue or other symptoms from their treatment, the tasks can be even more challenging.  If your energy level is low or you tire easily, choose activities that don’t require as much exertion, for example, writing Christmas cards. Do your Black Friday shopping online this year, sit and frost the cookies that someone else has baked, sit while you wrap gifts.  Accept friends’ offers to give you a hand this year or delegate some of your responsibilities.  Take more breaks.  Pace yourself to avoid excessive fatigue.

If you do not feel up to it, don’t feel obligated to say yes to every invitation or request.  Do the activities you enjoy,  that put a smile on your face and that are meaningful to you.

Schedule some “me time” or down time every day – a nap,  a hot bath or cuddling with your pet.

Do good to feel good

Doing a good deed for someone can make you feel better.  If you look around, you can almost always find someone less fortunate than yourself.

Protect yourself

On a final note, stay healthy if your immune system is compromised due to cancer treatment.  Prevent infections by taking these precautions:

  • Wash your hands often
  • Steer clear of buffets
  • Avoid unnecessary crowds or wear a mask
  • Avoid people who are sick
  • Get adequate rest

Dec 12, 2019 · Managing Your Weight Over the Holidays in Cancer Education Center

shutterstock_770296999Article contributed by Jackie See, Registered Dietitian

Whether you are trying to gain weight or keep from gaining, here are some tips to help you achieve your goals over the holidays.

If you need to gain weight

If you want to gain weight, the holidays are a great opportunity.  However, if you are undergoing treatment or recovering from surgery, you may experience a loss of appetite, taste changes or other effects that may make it difficult to eat.

If you fill up quickly, eat smaller meals and save the dessert for in between.

If sweets are unappealing, snack on cheese, nuts, crackers with dip, hummus, deviled eggs and other savory snacks.  Or try less intense sweets such as dark chocolate, pumpkin pie or cranberry sauce.

Take advantage of the higher calorie foods the season brings.  Although sugar does not feed cancer, as is widely believed, no one should over indulge on sugar.  So, eat those traditional cookies and candies in moderation.

Swap out some of your usual nutrition drinks for other nutritious beverages such as egg-nog, apple cider or hot chocolate (don’t forget the marshmallows)!

Indulge but don’t overindulge

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR),  being overweight is responsible for 13 different cancers and may also contribute to cancer recurrence.  So, it is wise to try to prevent weight gain during the holidays and then resume your weight loss efforts after the holidays.

Fasting may be a popular trend, but don’t try to do it before a feast because you will be ravenous and more likely to over eat.  In fact, it may even be helpful to eat a snack before you go so you don’t arrive hungry.  Have some yogurt,  fruit, a few nuts or a piece of cheese.

Eat from a plate rather than out of your hand.

Pick the smaller plate if you have a choice.

Scan all of the options on the buffet table before you start filling your plate.  Choose the foods you really like and can only get this time of year.  Don’t waste your calories on ordinary foods that don’t have a special significance.

Seek out the lower calorie choices such as turkey or other lean meats, fruits, vegetables, salads, non-creamy soups and shrimp cocktail.  Take larger servings of these foods.

If you are a guest, offer to bring a dish and make it something healthy.  Everyone loves raw vegetables with dip or a fresh fruit plate.

Eat slowly and savor every bite.  You will get more enjoyment out of the food.  Also, if you finish before other guests, you may be tempted to go back for seconds.

Be wary of food pushers and tell a white lie if you half to – I’m stuffed and couldn’t eat another thing.  I will have some later.

Alcohol – there is no safe level.

The holiday season also brings more opportunities to celebrate with alcohol.  While one drink per day for women and two for men has been shown to have some benefit on heart disease prevention, even one drink per day has been associated with an increased risk of some cancers.  So, if you must drink do not exceed these amounts.  Try some non-alcoholic drinks instead, such as sparkling water with a splash of fruit juice, a non-alcoholic spritzer, non-alcoholic punch, a virgin mary, or tomato or V8 juice.

Exercise has many benefits

Sometimes exercise can get crowded out by all the other activities this time of year.  But staying active has multiple benefits.  Exercise is important for everyone including those on treatment and longer-term survivors.  Exercise is the best way to counteract fatigue in patients undergoing treatment.  It can help prevent unwanted weight gain over the holidays, may help prevent cancer recurrence  and can help manage stress.

If you do not have time to go to the gym, stay active by going for short walks, shopping, skating, wrapping gifts, decorating and other fun holiday activities.  Every form of movement helps.

Stay motivated with your online peers in the Healthy Living group on Connect.

Happy Holidays

Dec 2, 2019 · Music Facilitates Healing in Cancer Education Center

shutterstock_723745729Article contributed by Erin Haefner

Music is a universal and beautiful thing. Some use music as background noise on their morning commute, some like to use it as a motivational tool while they exercise, and some study it, wanting to learn how it works. Music can also be used as a healing tool because it connects us with our emotions, and helps us reduce the stress of everyday life.

But how can music help those with cancer? Listening and/or playing music can be calming and relaxing. Music helps us express and communicate our emotions in a safe way to help us find peace, comfort, and closure. Specifically with cancer, it can help reduce anxiety. In my personal experience, I tend to be stressed a lot of the time. However, whenever I listen to one of my favorite pieces of music, I realize that what I need in moments of high stress and anxiety was to slow my mind down, and purely listen to the music being made before me.

Here are some ideas on how to use music as a coping mechanism:

  • Listen to a favorite song and think about why it means so much to you.
  • Watch a video online of an instrument you have always wanted to learn more about.
  • Check out some events put on by Mayo’s Center for Humanities in Medicine.
  • Play an instrument or bang on a drum, this will create a sense of control, as the player controls tempo, sound, and mood through their playing.
  • Ask your physician or primary care provider about Mayo’s Arts at the Bedside

On a personal note, music can also help find closure and peace after a death. Music has always been a very special part of my life. I have always been drawn to the way it has a huge emotional grip on me, and moves me to tears in many ways. I knew I was meant to be a music major when I went to my college’s Christmas concert when I was in high school. Each year, Luther College puts on a program called “Christmas at Luther.” In this concert, all five choirs perform, as well as the Symphony Orchestra. In addition to each ensemble performing two pieces, everyone participates in a few “mass pieces,” which are pieces everyone sings and plays on. The second to last mass piece of the concert is always a candle-lit piece. The only light in the entire auditorium is each choir member holding a candle. When I was a senior in high school, I went to the Christmas at Luther concert that year. The candle-lit piece was “The First Nowell,” which also happens to be my favorite Christmas carol. I am not sure whether or not it was the wonderful arrangement of the piece or the candles everyone was holding, but I couldn’t stop crying. I was so moved by the singing and the orchestra that I was a mess of tears. It was in that moment that I decided to become a music major, and study at Luther College. This past year’s Christmas at Luther, my choir sang a piece called “In This Place.” (Listen to the composer’s recording here). The lyrics to this piece are,

“In this place, I have been made new. I have been gifted jewels beyond price. In this place, greater dreams are given. I am made everlasting. In this place, I am light. In this place, in your sight. I am made everlasting. In your love, starting and ending. I will be carried softly to heaven. In your love, I am given beauty. I am made everlasting. You give the strength for me to hold. You are the hope that shines like gold. In this place, I am new. In your love, I am true. I will fly with angels to this place and be made everlasting. In this place, I have been made new.”

This piece is about death and dying. The lyrics embody a spirit going to a better place, where they can live again and thrive. The first time I listened to my choir’s rendition of the piece was the day we had to put my dog to sleep. By listening to this piece over and over again, letting the tears come and the emotion fall out of me, I was able to find closure and peace after a death.

Here is a good album of pieces to listen to about finding comfort and peace.  What songs bring you comfort and peace this time of year?

Talk with others about how music is healing for you in the Music Helps Me discussion on Mayo Clinic Connect.

Nov 19, 2019 · Don't Push Yourself to the Point of Burnout in Cancer Education Center

shutterstock_1385815337Article contributed by oncologist Edward T. Creagan, M. D.

Resiliency, stress, and burnout have become common topics in the corporate community.

Resiliency means that bounce back factor, that inner strength to overcome adversity, suit up, and get back into the arena despite the setbacks. Burnout has really reached epidemic proportions. So what do you do about this?

Everyone recognizes the importance of reasonable time management, which is actually self-management. But let me share with you the rest of the story.

Several close family acquaintances are commercial airline pilots. As part of mandatory training, at least once a year they go to corporate headquarters to be updated on technical aspects of navigation and also on the psychology and physiology of travel.

They shared compelling data that to be cognitively restored, you may well need one day of rest and recuperation for every time zone of travel. This isn’t science fiction. This is real.

Professional opportunities and obligations afforded me the opportunity to travel to Europe recently for an intense two-week tour involving five major cities and multiple contacts with professional and civilian colleagues. It was rewarding yet emotionally draining, especially exposure to some aspects of the Holocaust.

The flight from Western Europe back to Minnesota was approximately eight hours with travel through several time zones. That means approximately seven days to get back on target. Instead, you push the envelope and pretend you’re not tired. What can you do?

  • Set one day of recovery for every time zone means exactly that. If you’re not up to speed, you make mistakes. For example, I typically put my car keys in my valise. While preparing for a presentation and walking to the venue, I didn’t do this. Guess what? When I got to my car that evening, the keys had disappeared. I hadn’t followed my routine. Later, I found the keys.
  • You’re creatures of habit. You have a normal circadian rhythm, and you need to be aware of time zone changes.
  • You need to recognize that if you’re not physically fit prior to such trips, your recovery may be protracted and extended.

So the bottom line is clear: You’re mortal. You can only push yourself so far before your ability to function at a high level becomes impaired.

Whether you are changing time zones or just under pressure and may be approaching burnout, what do you do prevent burnout?

Chat with others on ways you are managing cancer symptoms in the Cancer: Managing Symptoms group.

Nov 4, 2019 · Acupuncture Information in Cancer Education Center


Article contributed by Mayo Clinic acupuncturist Sara Bublitz, L.Ac

What can acupuncture treat?

Acupuncture can treat a myriad of conditions.  It not only treats physical symptoms but helps with mental and emotional support as well. The World Health Organization [Who] published an official report listing 31 symptoms, conditions and diseases that have been shown, in controlled trials, to be effectively  treated with acupuncture. The top conditions treated with acupuncture on the WHO list are:

-Chemotherapy-induced and postoperative nausea and vomiting

-Dental pain

-Headaches, including tension headaches and migraines

-Labor pain and pregnancy support

-Low back pain

-Neck pain


-Menstrual cramps

-Respiratory disorders, such as allergic rhinitis

How does acupuncture work?

While there is not one mechanism of action for how acupuncture works, studies show that it releases endorphins [the body’s natural pain killers], reduces inflammation, increased circulation and relieves pain.  It also relaxes the central nervous system and helps relax the fight or flight response within the body [also called the sympathetic nervous system] and allows the body to go into rest and digest stage [the parasympathetic nervous system response] which may help patients with anxiety, depression and insomnia by allowing for a sense of calm.   Recent studies show that acupuncture is also working on the connective tissues, nerve bundles, muscles and fascia to relieve musculoskeletal conditions.


The risks of acupuncture are very low if you have a competent, licensed acupuncture practitioner using sterile needles.  Acupuncture is virtually painless. Common side effects may include soreness and minor bleeding or bruising where the needles were inserted. Single-use, disposable needles are now the practice standard, so the risk of infection is minimal.

Choosing a practitioner

If you’re considering acupuncture, take the same steps you would to choose a doctor:

-Ask people you trust for recommendations.

-Check the practitioner’s training and credentials. Most states require that non-physician acupuncturists pass an exam conducted by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Licensed acupuncturists have at least three to four years of training with at least 2,500 hours and a Master’s Degree or a Doctorate in Acupuncture.  Physicians that receive acupuncture certification have 300 hours of training.  Certified acupuncture Chiropractors have 100 hours of training.

-Interview the practitioner. Ask what is involved in the treatment, how likely it is to help your condition and how much it will cost.

-Find out whether your insurance covers the treatment or if it is an out of pocket expense.

How often should one get treatments?

Acupuncture treatments work in a cumulative fashion.  The more treatments one receives, typically, the better results they will obtain.  It is recommended that patients try at least six sessions to see how they will respond.  It is recommended to have treatments once a week or every two weeks for the first few sessions with the goal of spreading sessions out to a maintenance plan, depending on the condition.  Chronic, degenerative disorders may need regular acupuncture to keep symptoms at bay, whereas acute conditions may only require one to six sessions without continued maintenance.  As a general rule, the more recent the condition, the faster you will respond to acupuncture. 

How often should oncology patients receive acupuncture care?

Research shows that weekly sessions are beneficial for treating nausea and vomiting as well as for pain management.  It is also recommended that patients continue with care after receiving cancer treatments as to help support the body during the healing stage. Maintenance would be every three to five weeks.

Acupuncture options at Mayo Clinic:

Outpatient- The patient will need a referral form their Rochester Mayo Clinic provider to be seen for acupuncture in the outpatient clinic. Insurance may cover treatments.

Inpatient- The patient will need an order from their provider or nurse to receive hospital inpatient acupuncture.  Insurance may cover treatments.

Rejuvenate Spa within the Healthy Living Program- no order is required.  The patient may call the spa as needed for a session and it is an out of pocket cost.  Insurance is not accepted at this location.

To hear Sara talk about how acupuncture can help with cancer treatment symptoms watch this acupuncture video.

Chat with others on ways you are managing cancer symptoms in the Cancer: Managing Symptoms group.

Oct 7, 2019 · Letting Go of the Past Can be Hard in Cancer Education Center

shutterstock_223317898Article contributed by Erin Haefner

We have all experienced pain at some point in our lives. Whatever pain we have experienced, it can be hard to let go. A good way to cure this pain is to let go of the past. Trust me, it is a lot easier said than done. I have a few tips on letting go:

  • You can’t change the past. You just can’t. But, you can change the future. When you put your past behind you, that gives you room to open your mind to the future. New opportunities lie ahead, and can only be fully taken advantage of if you are in the present; focusing on what you can do now that will benefit you in the future.
  • A favorite quote of mine from Abraham Lincoln:

“You cannot now realize that you will ever feel better. Is not this so? And yet it is a mistake. You are sure to be happy again. To know this, which is certainly true, will make you some less miserable now. I have had experience enough to know what I say; and you need only to believe it, to feel better at once.” My interpretation of this quote is that everything will all be well in time. I have found whenever I am very sad or angry, it doesn’t last forever. With time, I have laughed again, smiled again, and had fun again. Sorrow does not last forever.

  • You have survived 100% of your worst days. Keep up the good work. With each passing day, you are getting stronger and stronger. Each bad day comes and goes, and you are still standing.
  • My family and I always like to remind each other of this quote: “Where are you? Here. What time is it? Now. What are you? This moment.” – Dan Millman. This always reminds me to be present and live in the present moment – and not worry about the past or what I could have done differently. This also helps me to focus on goals I want to achieve in the future. What can I do NOW, HERE, and in THIS MOMENT that will benefit my future goals?

What are your tips and tricks to let go of the past?

Sep 25, 2019 · Cancer Affects Your Body, But it Affects Your Emotions and Feelings, Too in Cancer Education Center

shutterstock_98332214Article 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.