SDCRI will invite people in the Integrative Oncology & Integrative Therapies field to contribute articles for our Education page. Our goal is to provide new and informative articles for you each month. We are very excited to be able to present these authors and hope that you enjoy what they have to share!
Here are the articles we have to offer today:
Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy: Ideas for Managing Symptoms by Cynthia Cooper, MFA, MA, OTR/L, CHT, posted on June 1st, 2018
Phoenix Rising Yoga for Cancer Recovery by Alessandra Colfi, PhD, posted on May 1st, 2018
Young Women Can and Do Get Breast Cancer by Amanda Nixon, posted on April 3rd, 2018
The V.I.P. of SDCC by Julie Shelton, posted on March 1st, 2018
Living with Cancer: Eight Things You Need to Know published by Scientific American
Cannabis as Medicine: Using medical marijuana in the oncology setting. by Teri Polley-Michea, posted on October 2nd, 2017
You Are Not Your Cancer by Dr. Paul Brenner, MD, PhD, posted on October 2nd, 2017
Fahnen fürs Leben • Hope Made Visible ™ • Banderas de Esperanza by Alessandra Colfi, PH.D. and Mary Hollander, RN/RMT, posted on August 1st, 2017
The Role of Chinese Medicine in Integrative Oncology by Kim Taylor, DAOM, L.Ac., posted on July 7th, 2017
Got chemo brain? by Teri Polley-Michea, posted on June 5th, 2017
Hacking Into Healing: The REAL Future of Medicine by Dr. Shamini Jain, posted on May 4th, 2017
Zumba: Gentle Dance Fitness for Cancer Recovery by Alessandra Colfi, posted on April 5th, 2017
Managing Side Effects of Stress, Cancer & Chronic Pain by Kitty Blincoe, posted on March 13th, 2017
The VITA Program by Jennifer Dawes Moore, posted on February 1st, 2017
SDCRI 2016 Yearly Review by Dan Vicario, MD, posted on January 12th, 2017
Hope Made Visible Project Update! by Alessandra Colfi, posted on December 1st, 2016
There is No Magic Pill for Burnout by Jimena Galfaso, MD, posted on November 1st, 2016
What is Yoga Therapy by Monique Lonner, Yoga Therapist, posted on October 2nd, 2016
The Life of a Therapy Dog by Isabella Polley, posted on September 1st, 2016
Fusion of Integrative Methods of Healing by Blanca Noel, posted on August 1st, 2016
Bone Broth by Kim Taylor, DAOM, L.Ac., posted on July 1st, 2016
From Tennis Player to Caregiver by Suzi Martel, posted on June 1st, 2016
Your Complete Guide to Mastering Healthy Eating on a Budget by Chef Jessica Leibovich, posted on April 1st, 2016
Tapas Acupressure Technique by Chris Lewis, PA-C, posted on April 1st, 2016
Cancer Treatment, Cancer Survivors, and Lymphedema: the Truth About Your Risksby Dana Wylie, posted on March 2nd, 2016
QiGong for Cancer Treatment and Recovery by Fay McGrew, posted on February 1st, 2016
Contributing Writer’s Archive 2014-2015
Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy: Ideas for Managing Symptoms
by Cynthia Cooper, MFA, MA, OTR/L, CHT
Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) occurs as a consequence of damage to nerves that may be caused by chemotherapeutic agents. It usually presents as numbness or tingling, but it can also present as pain that tends to be aggravated by exposure to cold.
CIPN has a significant effect on quality of life. Simple daily tasks can be impacted, such as fastening buttons or managing clasps on jewelry. Additionally, balance may be affected, which can compromise a person’s safety.
Sometimes the symptoms may persist even after completing chemotherapy treatment. It is reported in the literature that CIPN affects 30-to-40 percent of people receiving chemotherapy, but this is probably a low estimate. Some authorities suggest the actual incidence is more like 70 percent and is expected to grow. It is known that CIPN tends to be worse in people who have had nerve problems prior to receiving chemotherapy.
Our peripheral nerves are comprised of a variety of different nerve fibers, some of which transmit signals regarding sensation (sensory nerves) and some of which transmit signals regarding movement (motor nerves). These fibers differ in their resistance to the potentially toxic effects of some chemotherapy drugs. Longer nerves are more vulnerable, which explains why symptoms may start in the toes before occurring in the fingers. Among the different nerve fibers, the sensory fibers are more vulnerable than the motor fibers. This explains why the symptoms that people describe are usually more likely to impact their sensory function rather than their muscle function.
Managing Symptoms: Easy and Pleasant Movement
In the field of sensory rehabilitation, there is high-quality research about ways to promote function of impaired nerves. The concepts studied have confirmed that sensory perception is a dynamic process that is affected by stimulation. Nerves need oxygen, blood flow, nourishment, movement, and stimulation in order to function well. Disuse (such as occurs with sensory impairment) contributes to the problem because sensory receptors need stimulation in order to continue functioning well. The phrase “use it or lose it” describes the dilemma well. When we do not move a lot, there is a pooling of fluid between cells that can impair sensory function. This is true even though we don’t look swollen. Deep breathing and movement help minimize this pooling of fluid.
Deep breathing is an excellent way to begin. Breathing that is coordinated with gentle exercise is beneficial to the nerves. Gentle, pain-free, pleasant movements of arms and legs provide healthy stimulation. Examples include reaching overhead, rolling the shoulders in circular motions backwards comfortably, rolling a ball on a table or wall, fluttering your fingers in the air, marching in place, and wiggling your ankles and toes. Even an activity such as shaking a bottle of salad dressing is good “exercise” and stimulates particular sensory receptors in a beneficial way.
There are many other ways for people to promote sensory rehabilitation. More ideas will be presented in future articles. For starters, begin to think about your sensation. Try to identify where it feels normal and where the change occurs. Even this mental awareness is shown to favorably affect our sensory function.
A loving reminder from SDCRI:
Take a deep breath and smile to yourself.
Even a half smile can brighten up your day.
Phoenix Rising Yoga for Cancer Recovery
by Alessandra Colfi, PhD
Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit, with a fragrant cup of tea or a glass of water next to you…let’s breathe and relax together for a moment… inhale…..exhale….; inhale, 2, 3, 4; exhale, 2, 3, 4; pause, 2, 3, 4… let’s repeat this relaxing breathing ‘triangle’: inhale, 2, 3, 4; exhale, 2, 3, 4; pause, 2, 3, 4…
We can describe ‘Yoga’ or ‘Meditation’ in great details, but the actual practice is what makes a difference; so join me in bringing this practice into everyday life…OM…
When I learned about a specific, focused Yoga training for cancer recovery by the local non-profit Be Well Therapy, I felt immediately drawn to it, as it would provide knowledge and awareness for me to be a better practitioner assisting cancer patients in my Expressive Arts Therapy program and engaging them with movement in my fun but gentler version of Zumba. Be Well is a very rigorous, comprehensive, and grounded Yoga for Cancer Recovery training, offered by Mary Baker and Heidi Borsch, extremely dedicated and experienced co-founders of Be Well Therapy. My work with cancer patients, combined with my own yoga experience, foundational anatomy & physiology, understanding key systems in the body, what is known about cancer, the interconnectedness of body/mind/spirit, breathwork, specific modifications of poses, use of supportive props, has resulted in an expansion of my practice to benefit our very special patients.
‘Because suffering is impermanent, that is why we can transform it. Because happiness is impermanent, that is why we have to nourish it.’ – Thich Nhat Hanh, 2014.
Several interrelated aspects of health and resiliency come into play during an individual’s cancer experience. Stress, inflammation, treatments with drugs and radiation, decreased energy, and inactivity create a complex cocktail with numerous unwelcomed side effects and complex ramifications.
Yoga as a union of body and mind facilitates relaxation, meditation, energy flow, and supports the immune system, thus enhancing mind-body health and resilience.
How Stress Affects our Health and Perception of Wellbeing
Stress is thought to affect immune function through emotional and/or behavioral manifestations such as anxiety, fear, tension, anger and sadness, as well as physiological changes such as heart rate, blood pressure, and sweating. Researchers have suggested that these changes are beneficial and necessary if they are of limited duration, but when stress persists and becomes chronic, the system is unable to maintain equilibrium or homeostasis, and the body becomes vulnerable.
Well-established research in psychoneuroimmunology has supported the relationship between emotions and health. ‘The term Psychoneuroimmunology was first introduced by Robert Ader during his presidential lecture to the American Psychosomatic Society in 1980. In that lecture he summarized research that demonstrates the fundamental unity of the bodily systems that function to maintain health, and he underscored the fact that the immune system is no exception to this general rule’ (Daruna, 2012).
“Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) is the study of the interaction between psychological processes and the nervous and immune systems of the human body” (Irwin and Vedhara, 2005). ‘PNI takes an interdisciplinary approach incorporating psychology, neuroscience, immunology, physiology, pharmacology, molecular biology, psychiatry, behavioral medicine, infectious diseases, endocrinology, and rheumatology’ (Pestonjee and Pandey, Eds., p. 270). D.M. Pestonjee and Satish Pandey offer a sharp overview in Stress and Work: Perspectives on Understanding and Managing Stress: ‘The main interests of PNI are the interactions between the nervous and immune systems and the relationships between mental processes and health. PNI also studies the physiological functioning of the neuroimmune system in health and disease; disorders of the neuroimmune system (auto-immune diseases; hypersensitivities; immune deficiency); and the physical, chemical and physiological characteristics of the components of the neuroimmune system in vitro, in situ, and in vivo’ (Pestonjee and Pandey, Eds., p. 270). ‘Contemporary researches on health issues have proved that health changes are the consequences of immune modulation by psychosocial stressors and interventions. The stress-and-illness link further supports the importance of immunological deregulation and increased risks with respect to diverse conditions and diseases. It is also evident that social, emotional, and psychological disorders are related to stress’ (Pestonjee and Pandey, Eds., p. 270). ‘PNI research is looking for the exact mechanisms through which specific brain-immunity effects are achieved. Evidence for nervous system–immune system interactions exists at several biological levels’ (Ross, 2013, p. 147). “The immune system and the brain talk to each other through signaling pathways” (Watkins, 1997).
‘The brain and the immune system are the two major adaptive systems of the body. … Two major pathways are involved in this cross-talk: the Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis) and the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS).
The body’s primary stress management system is the HPA axis, with the breath activating the Parasympathetic Nervous System. The HPA axis responds to physical and mental challenges to maintain homeostasis in part by controlling the body’s cortisol level. Dysregulation of the HPA axis is implicated in numerous stress-related diseases and is connected to increased inflammation.
Stressors can produce profound health consequences. Theorists propose that stressful events trigger cognitive and affective responses which, in turn, induce sympathetic nervous system and endocrine changes, and these ultimately impair immune function. Potential health consequences are broad, but include rates of infection, HIV progression and cancer incidence and progression.
Yoga works through breath, gentle movements and awareness, resulting in settling down the nervous system taking it from ‘fight or flight’ mode (Sympathetic Nervous System) to ‘rest and restore’ mode (Parasympathetic Nervous System), which helps reduce anxiety and pain.
A new research article published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience investigates the effects of yoga and meditation on people by looking at physiological and immunological markers of stress and inflammation. By studying the participants of an intensive three-month yoga and meditation retreat, the researchers found that the practices positively impacted physiological and immunological markers of stress and inflammation, and in addition improved subjective wellbeing and Quality of Life.
The researchers monitored psychometric measures, brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), circadian salivary cortisol levels, as well as pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines. They also collected data on psychometric variables including mindfulness, absorption, depression and anxiety, and investigated the relationship between psychological improvements and biological changes.
“Resilience is the capacity to deal successfully with the obstacles in the road that
confronts us while maintaining a straight and true path towards life’s goals”. – Robert Brooks and Sam Goldstein, 2003
Resilience in defined in psychology as the positive capacity of people to cope with stress and adversity. Coping may result in the individual bouncing back to a previous state of normal functioning or using the experience of exposure to adversity to produce a steeling effect and function better than expected (Masten, 2009). Resilience is most commonly understood as a process and not a trait of an individual (Rutter, 2008).
A very important aspect of resilience is the role of psychological energy and its redistribution: ‘…When an individual has to take on a burden such as a tragedy, what normally happens is that the person ceases participating in non-priorities and reallocates energy in order to handle the burden. The redistribution of psychic energy is important to the balance of the psyche’ (Furth, 2002).
Resilient patients differ from those who experience depression or more anxiety when they have been practicing relaxation and having ways to express themselves, cultivating their spirituality, supportive social networks, optimism and an attitude towards acceptance of adversities.
A recent study Psychosocial Adjustment Among Cancer Survivors: Findings from a National Survey of Health and Well-being examined whether cancer survivors showed impairment, resilience, or growth responses relative to a socio-demographically matched sample in four domains: mental health and mood, psychological well-being, social well-being, and spirituality. The impact of aging on psychosocial adjustment was also investigated. (Costanzo, Ryff, & Singer, 2009)
Findings indicated that cancer survivors demonstrated impairment relative to the comparison group in mental health, mood, and some aspects of psychological well-being. Longitudinal analyses spanning pre- and post-diagnosis clarified that while mental health declined after a cancer diagnosis, poorer functioning in other domains existed prior to diagnosis. However, survivors exhibited resilient social well-being, spirituality, and personal growth. Moreover, age appeared to confer resiliency; older survivors were more likely than younger adults to show psychosocial functioning equivalent to their peers.
The constant reminder though affects survivors’ psychological balance, confidence, Quality of Life, and resilience. Inflammation affects mood and increases likelihood of depression. More than ever survivors benefit from practices like Mindfulness, Yoga, Dance/Movement Therapy, Expressive Arts Therapy, nutrition, social connections, etc.
Resilience has more to do with self-transformation than with survival. It’s the combination of attentiveness, insight, and choice that lets some people tune in to the hidden energy lurking within a crisis and use it as a catalyst for spiritual growth. Though psychologists can list the qualities that resilient people have in common—insight, empathy, humor, creativity, flexibility, the ability to calm and focus the mind—this deeper resilience transcends personality traits.
Jungian psychologist and Buddhist meditator Polly Young-Eisenstadt discusses the matter elegantly in a book called The Resilient Spirit. She points out that we become truly resilient when we commit ourselves to dealing with pain—inevitable and unavoidable —without getting caught in suffering—the state in which our fear of pain and our desire to avoid it close us off to the possibilities inherent in every situation. This, of course, is the art that yoga is meant to teach us. …few of us know how to process the pain of loss or failure without getting hooked by our suffering.
PTSD can also develop from a cancer diagnosis and the emotional and physical pain of invasive procedures, frightening information and clinical environments. Yoga invites patients to be proactive in their own healing, connect with others in the local community, and leave each class with a renowned appreciation for their bodies and a sense of hope.
The YMCA reports that practicing yoga during cancer treatment can help reduce symptoms of fatigue and pain. Cancer patients who have participated in yoga exercises have reported less sensitivity to pain of symptoms from treatments compared to those who do not participate. Yoga can help strengthen core muscles and improve blood flow which can help lower blood pressure and heart rate. In addition to improving physical symptoms, yoga can help alleviate depression and anxiety associated with treatments.
Interstitium: the newly-discovered organ under the skin, also known as Fascia or Connective Tissue
A very important physiological aspect of Yoga practice for cancer recovery is the awareness and consideration for maintaining a healthy, supple fascia. The fascia is a thin lining of fibrous tissue covering the entire body under the skin, enclosing all muscles, tendons, organs.
One can imagine the body being wrapped entirely in plastic wrap. By giving a tug to one part of the wrap, it will tighten elsewhere. If tugged hard enough, the wrap could tear anywhere there is enough tension placed upon it. The body has a system like this in place — only it’s on the inside where we can’t see.
Fascia is internal connective tissue that wraps around organs, providing support and holding parts together. It has the appearance of a very thin spider web, connecting layers of muscle and surrounding all internal body tissues.
A normal, healthy fascia is somewhat relaxed and wavy; the elasticity of fascia is due to many interlocking collagen fibers, or strands of proteins that act like coiled springs: strong, but stretchy. This allows the fascia to be responsive and flexible.
Among the side effects of chemotherapy, hormone therapy, radiation, and surgeries on Fascia is decreased flexibility, challenged balance, scar tissue build-up, and Myofascial Pain Dysfunction Syndrome, characterized by trigger points in a muscle or at the junction of a muscle and fascia, which refers pain to other areas of the body, and which is associated with breast, abdomen, and head and neck surgery in cancer survivors. What is the antidote? Movement and hydration, for improved balance, coordination and overall functioning of the musculoskeletal system. In Yoga for example, one can isolate a specific muscle, then mindfully focus and contract that muscle; then slowly release the same muscle until back to neutral; practice and increase range of motion, in and out of stretch. Or use gravity in safe supported inversions and gentle twists to facilitate detoxification.
Dr. Helene Langevin explains the importance of connective tissue in the body and its link to the immune system. She shares about recent findings on the beneficial effects of stretching to reduce inflammation and fibrosis, and the relevance of these findings to understand chronic pain and cancer. A negative feedback loop occurs where pain stiffens the fascia and the patients tends to move less because of the pain and fear of further damage, thus increasing stiffness and decreasing mobility, lubrication, and increasing inflammation, which becomes chronic. Langevin observed that cancer cells live and reproduce when attached to an unhealthy Fascia, where inflammation is like a crisis response to keep feeding cancer cells; by stretching and lubricating the Fascia, besides muscles and joints, inflammation diminishes, and the fascia becomes a less desirable host of cancer cells.
The implications of the research are fascinating… pathologist Neil Theise suggests that the Interstitium could be a fundamental force in driving cancer metastasis and offers a biological explanation for the reported efficacy of techniques such as Acupuncture, Yoga and massage. This new information fits what we know about fascia and how connective tissue needs to be stretched to make it harder for tumors to embed themselves and grow (Theise, 2018).
Each patient is my exceptional teacher; during a group Expressive Arts session, the image of the Phoenix emerged, and its symbolism was explored and represented by several patients. The Phoenix is a mythological figure which symbolizes heroic rebirth, renewed strength, vitality, and power – present in each person and supported by the community – to rise through and above traumatic and extremely challenging circumstances.
Yoga for Cancer Recovery supports individuals’ wholeness and resilience to be re-born and soar through a life-altering journey like cancer diagnosis, treatments, surgeries, with their physical, mental, and emotional toll, and offers practical tools and gentle guidance to meet the unique needs of people affected by cancer. Yoga is known to reduce fatigue and stress (cortisol levels), calm the mind, ease pain, alleviate depression, and improve overall Quality of Life.
My gratitude to my Be Well teachers and my fellow graduates for each one is making a difference in patients’ lives; to all patients, families, clinicians I have the honor to walk along.
Join me in an invigorating breathing ‘triangle’:
Together… inhale, 2, 3, 4; pause, 2, 3, 4… exhale 2, 3, 4;
again: inhale, 2, 3, 4; pause, 2, 3, 4… exhale, 2, 3, 4;
inhale….exhale vocalizing OM…
‘May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.’
Costanzo, E. S., Ryff, C. D., and Singer, B. H. (2009). Psychosocial Adjustment Among Cancer Survivors: Findings From a National Survey of Health and Well-Being. Health Psychol. 2009 Mar; 28(2): 147–156. Retrieved in https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2668871/
B. Rael Cahn, Matthew S. Goodman, Christine T. Peterson, Raj Maturi, Paul J. Mills. (2017). Yoga and meditation improve mind-body health and stress resilience: New research finds that practicing yoga and meditation has positive effects on mind-body health and stress resilience. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2017; 11. Retrieved in www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170822104855.htm
Langevin, H. (2016). Stretching, Connective Tissue, Chronic Pain, and Cancer – 2016 Kanbar Lecture on Innovations in Integrative Medicine. Retrieved in https://www.ucsd.tv/search-details.aspx?showID=30714
Theise, N. (2018). Retrieved in https://nyulangone.org/press-releases/researchers-find-new-organ-missed-by-gold-standard-methods-for-visualizing-anatomy-disease
A note about Be Well Yoga for Cancer Recovery Program
This program was developed to assist those living with cancer – from the first moment of diagnosis continuing throughout the entire recovery process.
Be Well Yoga for Cancer Recovery Program is a specialized yoga methodology that is tailored to address the specific physical and emotional needs left by cancer and its treatments. This is not just another “gentle” or “restorative” yoga class. Our classes help students regain strength and mobility after surgery, support a healthy immune system, protect and strengthen bones and joint that may be weak from treatments, and reduce stress. We also take into account the many possible limitations and side effects that cancer, surgeries, and cancer treatment can cause, and the practice is modified based on the individual needs of the student with safety being our number one priority. Be Well Yoga for Cancer Recovery Program includes Yoga poses linked together in a mindful, safe format; Breathing techniques; Guided imagery; Meditation practice; Deep relaxation; Group support.
* Free Group Yoga for Cancer Recovery Classes starts Tuesday, May 15, 2018 and subsequent Thursdays, 5.30 pm to 6.30 pm with North County Cancer Fitness – NCCF in Encinitas. Pre-registration/intake required at www.NorthCountyCancerFitness.org
* Individual sessions available. Call Alessandra at 858 735 5708 to ask questions, to schedule an appointment and for rates.
Young Women Can and Do Get Breast Cancer
by Amanda Nixon
Young Survival Coalition (YSC) is the premier organization dedicated to the critical issues unique to young women who are diagnosed with breast cancer. YSC offers resources, connections and outreach so women feel supported, empowered and hopeful.
Celebrating 20 years, YSC was founded in 1998 by three women who were under the age of 35 when diagnosed. They were discouraged by the lack of resources available and the under- representation of young women in breast cancer research.
Today, we provide information and resources for young women during every phase of treatment and survivorship through our comprehensive Navigator guidebooks and audio/video library. Navigators and ResourceLink guidebooks can be downloaded electronically; or, hard-copy versions can be ordered and shipped free of charge to healthcare practitioners and patients at any time.
The Newly Diagnosed Navigator (also available in Spanish) helps young women learn to navigate their journey with information about breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, an easy-to-understand breast cancer glossary, questions to ask their healthcare team and inspiring messages from young women who have been down this road.
The Metastatic Navigator helps young women understand the complexities of living with stage IV breast cancer and educates about treatment options. This navigator provides advice on working with healthcare teams, and includes forms and tools to help young women stay organized.
The Post-Treatment Navigator tackles the post-treatment phase with a survivorship care plan to use with a healthcare team. This navigator provides practical tips for addressing sex and intimacy concerns, family planning options and long-term side effects like “chemo brain” and lymphedema.
The Long-Term Navigator addresses how to manage long-term side effects and move forward with life after diagnosis and treatment.
We offer support and education programs created just for young women with metastatic breast cancer to help them make informed decisions, live well and build a supportive community.
Additionally, our local Face 2 Face (F2F) meetups, one-on-one peer support program, vibrant Discussions Boards and online video support groups help young women connect no matter where they are. F2F networks are grassroots support and social networks that bring together young women at all stages of a breast cancer diagnosis, treatment or recovery to support, empower and learn from each other. San Diego has a robust F2F network, hosting support groups and events near La Jolla, Carlsbad, South Bay, East County and a co-survivor meetup in Temecula.
Locate the nearest F2F: https://www.youngsurvival.org/meet-in-person
YSC also offers peer matching. Our trained SurvivorLink peer mentors are young women from all backgrounds and volunteer as empathetic listeners. We have mentors who:
- were diagnosed in their early 20s
- are partnered with other women
- have had chemotherapy while pregnant
- live with metastatic disease
- are estrogen receptor +/- or HER2+
- have had a double mastectomy or an oophorectomy
- are triple negative
If telephone or email support is desired: https://www.youngsurvival.org/talk-one-on-one
Another option might be our facilitated online video support groups. They are a safe place to share feelings, experiences, information and resources, all from the comfort of your home. Three different groups allow young women to join one that meets their needs:
- Women in treatment
- Women under 30
- Women with metastatic breast cancer
To participate by video you need to have a computer, tablet or phone with a webcam and internet/data connection. There is a separate phone line provided for the audio portion. If you are not able to connect with video, you can join in by phone only.
YSC’s annual national Summit and Regional Symposia are the only conferences dedicated to the unique needs of young women with breast cancer. Attendees get cutting-edge medical information and leave with lifelong friends. Healthcare professionals can earn CEU’s and are invited to learn more about young women with breast cancer.
Young women can and do get breast cancer. Please share Young Survival Coalition with your colleagues, patients, and friends to ensure no young woman faces this disease alone. For more information or questions about YSC email firstname.lastname@example.org
West Regional Outreach Manager
Young Survival Coalition
The V.I.P. of SDCC
by Julie Shelton
On December 7th, 2017 a very important person was honored at the UC San Diego Cancer Center in Encinitas. After a few weeks of preparation and a lot of coordination, a merry “ambush” was set for the target.
Dr. Paul Brenner came in for his usual visit and was surprised by the nurses and staff with a big basket full of sweets and a gaggle of cards from all of his admirers. Each card was a personally created “love note” from staff members that have been privileged to work with Dr. Brenner the in past. Well wishes, expressions of gratitude and adoration, and recollections of fond memories were handwritten and bundled up in the basket for Dr. Brenner’s viewing pleasure.
The sweets selection included -but was not limited to- a wide variety of chocolates (his favorite type of sweet). Two boxes of chocolates even had images of blueberry muffins and Nike shoes attached to them as exclusive inside jokes, meant just for Dr. Brenner. Both of those will be explained later in this article.
While I personally missed the event of the presentation, I did get the chance to interview Dr. Brenner about the experience and his feelings about it. “It was very emotional.” He told me quietly, while sitting in the waiting room, “First of all, it was all sadness when I got up here, because I missed this place so much. And then getting home and looking at each letter, just brought tears. It was the most loving thing ever. It was just really special.”
I spoke to Dr. Brenner’s previous Medical Assistant, Karen, who was a co-instigator and the presenter of this distinct award (dubbed the “V.I.P. Award”). I wanted to get an idea of what inspired this beautiful plan.
“My husband said it best when he called him Doc Adams from Gun Smoke,” Karen explained further. “In other words, Doc Adams would see anybody, treat anybody.”
Karen related the story of an episode of Gun Smoke in which Doc Adams is kidnapped by fugitives, and even though his own life is threatened, Doc Adams does not hesitate to save an injured member of the gang.
“That’s how Dr. Brenner was. He didn’t care what your insurance was, what your background was, what was going on in your life. He was always there to help you. He would do that with staff, he did that with family members of staff, he did it with patients, with patients’ family members,” Karen said with admiration. “He treated everybody equally.”
I asked Karen Lee about what lead to the V.I.P. award. “Lory and I were talking and I wanted to give [Dr. Brenner] an award like he was royalty. We’re supposed to treat all our patients the same, but I wanted him to know he was special. Because of what he had done in the past, and for who he is.” Karen explained, “Lory and I start brainstorming and she came up with the idea of ‘V.I.P.’”
Karen felt it was important that Dr. Brenner understood that the staff didn’t just see him as his diagnosis or his patient number. “I wanted him to know that he will always be a VIP. It was just kind of a way of acknowledging him for his past and what he is going through.”
Dr. Brenner’s has received other honors from various institutes, which include the Life Devotion Award received in Taiwan, The San Diego Enlightenment Award, and The University of California San Diego School of Medicine Physicians Teaching Award. He has also written multiple books, given a talk on TEDxWomen, and presented a series of interviews on KPBS called “Healing Through Communication”. With all of that, you would think that Dr. Brenner would be used to accolades, but he was as surprised and embarrassed as could be by the love.
Lory, the other conspirator in the creation of the V.I.P. award, shared her favorite memory of Dr. Brenner, “I like the fact that his is really blunt and honest.” Lory told the story about Dr. Brenner coming in to the office with a pillow and a newspaper. Lory had asked him if he was coming in to sleep, he told her that he’d fallen down and had ‘literally busted his ass’. She laugh at this, “He tells it like it is!”
Lory also recalled Dr. Brenner’s favorite pair of shoes, which were black Nike Cortez. She’d even attached a little image of those shoes on a box of chocolates which she had placed in the gift basket. You can hear Karen mention that and the muffins in the video below.
When I asked Dr. Brenner if he’d already eaten all of the chocolate, at first he told me he had eaten “very little of the chocolate” and was going through it slowly. After a short moment, he then confided with a delightful laugh, “All the little pieces are gone… and half the big pieces.”
Many members of the UCSD Cancer Center staff had been members of the original San Diego Cancer Center (SDCC) and the San Diego Cancer Research Institute (SDCRI), back when they were the primary tenants of the second floor in the Garden View Road location. As such, those staff members had the pleasure of getting to know Dr. Brenner, and watching him working with, and caring for his patients first hand. As he touched the lives of so many patients, he also inspired and supported the peers and employees that surrounded him.
I spent a few weeks rounding up as many testimonies as I could, regarding the opinions these staff members have about Dr. Brenner.
When asked what she loved most about Dr. Brenner as a doctor, Mary, SDCRI’s RN and Nutrition Guru, replied: “He says what he thinks, does not judge his patients, includes them in all decisions, encourages them to be the best they can be & does all this with integrity.” Mary had worked with Dr. Brenner through the San Diego Cancer Research institute for several years before she retired. “He really does love everyone unconditionally.”
I also asked Mary about her favorite aspect of Dr. Brenner as a person. Among several response she gave, she mention: “His wonderful sense of humor.”
I asked another Medical Assistant, Val, what she thought was Dr. Brenner’s strongest aspect as a person and as a doctor and she said: “He listens to you and understands what you’re trying to say even when you can’t form the correct words to explain it.”
This sentiment was shared by many more office members that had worked with him, as well as the mention of the Blueberry Muffins that he would often bring to the Vista office staff.
Apparently the muffins were a routine gift that he brought roughly twice a month, and each time he would give the muffins to a different group of people than had last received it. (i.e. the front desk, then billing, then the chemo bay nurses).
Monique, one of the Front Desk Coordinators, even commented that Dr. Brenner is “sweet as a blueberry muffin”, as a tribute to those cherished treats and the man who gifted them to everyone.
For over 50 years, Dr. Brenner has worked in the medical field. His titles have ranged through multiple specialties, including Obstetrics and Gynecology, Surgical Oncology, and Counseling Psychology, not to mention Director of Psychosocial Oncology and Support Group Coordinator at the San Diego Cancer Research Institute. As a Medical Doctor (M.D.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Dr. Brenner has spent a good deal of time just researching “what makes an individual chronically ill or well.” As a cancer patient, himself, Dr. Brenner has gained more insight and understanding of what patients go through and is able to relate in ways that many doctors just cannot duplicate.
Jenn, a Front Desk Coordinator, didn’t hesitate when asked what word she thought of when she heard Dr. Brenner’s name: “Cool!” I asked if she wanted to elaborate on her choice and she was unwavering. “Nope!” She responded with her beautiful smile, “That is the first word that came to mind.”
With his charismatic, inviting personality, his calm demeanor, and his infectious passion for life, that one word can be applied to Dr. Brenner in multiple ways.
There were several words that kept coming up in the interviews with all of the people that had worked with Dr. Brenner. “Empathy.” “Kindness.” “Love.” “Honesty.” With those references resounding from all around the Cancer Center, it’s hard to ignore the fact that he is indeed a Very Important Person, not just to staff, but to his patients as well!
Dr. Daniel Vicario, a long time peer and close friend of Dr. Brenner’s, was of the same mind as most everyone else. “He is always totally present. He deeply cares about others.” Dr. Vicario went on to say, “[Dr. Brenner is] devoted to be of service to those in need. He wants to help patients get to the root cause of their ailments and pain.”
My own experience with Dr. Brenner has been a great blessing. His guidance and caring through a difficult time have been so very important to me, and I am truly grateful for his loving friendship.
Even after the San Diego Cancer Center merged with UC San Diego, and after the San Diego Cancer Research Institute had to close its doors, Dr. Brenner has continued to offer his support, advice and boundless love to anyone that asks.
A great friend, a great doctor and a great man. Dr. Brenner encompasses the building blocks of a beautiful new world. May he be an example that is followed by incoming generations of doctors and people in general, so that our futures may be filled with compassion, acceptance and love.
Now, here is the brief, but sweet video of Dr. Brenner receiving his V.I.P. Award!
Living with Cancer: Eight Things You Need to Know
An article on the book by Kris Carr
This month we have a link to a special article about planning for and understanding your cancer. There so much more to cancer than just a diagnosis and medical treatments. Going along the lines of the old saying “Know your enemy”, it is important to learn as much as you can and check all of your options. Getting multiple opinions, ask the right questions, and living your life the way you want to are just some of the suggestions given by writer and “foot soldier” in the fight against cancer, Kris Carr. Explore more about Kris’ system and her personal experience, right now, on the Scientific American website:
Cannabis as Medicine: Using medical marijuana in the oncology setting.
By Teri Polley-Michea
As a cannabis nurse navigator it is my honor and privilege to help guide patients in making educated choices when selecting and using medical marijuana as part of their healing journey.
Early on in my life, I knew there were benefits to using cannabis to help curb the side effects of cancer treatment but was not sure why it was illegal.
My mother had breast cancer in the 1970’s. She had a radical mastectomy, all her lymph nodes removed on one side, she had chemotherapy and radiation. We lived in a small town in Iowa so she had to travel to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota for her care. It was grueling. She had all the common side effects, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, loss of appetite, diarrhea/constipation. It grew to be too much for her. At that time, her MD encouraged her to smoke pot. Even if it was illegal, he told her it would help get her through treatment by easing the side effects from her chemo that made her feel so bad.
Unfortunately she did not take his advice and she discontinued her treatment. She passed away at a very young age. Would she have survived? That we will never know but it left me wondering why was cannabis not readily available to patients who were suffering? People have used marijuana /cannabis for at least 3000 years or more for medical conditions. If cannabis has so many beneficial qualities why was it outlawed? How could the government keep this from us? How could one plant that is easily grown and has so many compounds that can address so many symptoms be illegal? It seems so inhumane! Was it all about money?
Did the lobbyist mis-inform the government on purpose to keep it from being used?
Why the change now? Just like Integrative Medicine, the public, including oncology patients and people with chronic diseases are contacting their legislators requesting changes in state and federal regulations. While cannabis remains a Schedule 1 drug federally, here in California and in many states across the US, Canada, and other countries, cannabis is legal for medical use and soon will be legal for recreational use. What does it mean to be classified as a Schedule 1 drug? In order for the government to limit the use of cannabis it was placed in the same category as heroin, LSD, Ecstasy, peyote and psychedelic mushrooms. Schedule 1 drugs are said to have a high potential for abuse, have no current acceptable medical use in the US, and lack accepted safety under medical supervision. OxyContin is not even listed as a Schedule 1 drug and look at the crisis that is occurring in today’s society. To date, no one has died from using medical cannabis correctly. There is less risk of becoming addicted than many of the medications prescribed by your MD but even they can not prescribe cannabis. There are doctors who have a special designation to give you a recommendation to get medical cannabis.
The medical cannabis that is being manufactured today is not your average ditch weed from the 1960’s. Medical grade cannabis is lab tested, most generally by a third party lab, to ensure it is free from molds and other contaminants. They do thorough testing and quality control.
The lab certifies its components.
Cannabis is a medication that can reduce pain and suffering, reduce nausea, decrease inflammation, decrease anxiety and depression, is a neuroprotectant, can improve neuropathy, just to name a few of the benefits. Cannabis, when dosed appropriately, can provide relief without the side effects of narcotics or other medications. It is possible to enhance healing without getting the high.
What about research you say? It is limited, as was the research using Integrative medicine modalities when first introduced to mainstream medicine. The difficulty lies within the system.
Since Cannabis is illegal federally there is limited funding available and there is still fear of loss of license or future funding if researching a federally illegal product. But I’m happy to report there is scientific research happening right now, and medical training programs for nurses, healthcare providers, and MD’s.
A study in J.Pain, 2013 Feb., 14,(2):136-148 by Wilsey, B., and all, looked at the use of low dose vaporized cannabis and how it improved neuropathic pain. Another study done in 1982 found on line at researchgate.net compared the use of oral THC and Compazine on chemo induced nausea and vomiting found that both medications had equally beneficial outcomes.
Online library.wiley.com published a review article written by Joan Kramer, originally published 12/10/2014, titled Medical marijuana for cancer. It discusses the use of cannabis in the oncology setting and reviews some of the current research done. Outcomes on pain, weight loss, poor appetite, nausea and vomiting were reviewed. The article pointed out there were benefits and encouraged more research to be done.
So, if you decide this is something you want to investigate, how do you go about doing it?
The process can be overwhelming if you are not feeling well. Don’t let the process get you down. There are educated professionals out there that can guide you.
First you have to get a recommendation from a Cannabis MD. (Remember, previously I wrote you can not get a prescription from your MD). After you had gotten your recommendation you can go to a dispensary. They are few and far between because most cities have either limited the number of dispensaries able to operate in the city or denied their request for a business license to operate. This forces patients to go on line and order based on what they read on a website or what family or friends recommend. Most dispensary staff are well trained on products and can help you make selections but they can not counsel you on your medications or health challenges unless they are medically trained because it would be out of their scope of practice. That’s where the nurse navigator comes in. We meet with you, look at your goals for treatment, look at your current health status and medications, we take a holistic approach, including lifestyle changes. Together we look at products and you decide what is right for you.
Product selection can be confusing. There are edibles, teas, tinctures, sprays, vaporization cartridges, flower buds for smoking, pre-rolls, waxes and topical preparations.
The onset of action and duration of action varies with each product. The dose varies depending on what product you purchase. There are CBD/THC blends are in a variety of concentrations, 18:1, 8:1, 1:1, some products are rich in THC (the psychoactive compound in cannabis), some have very little. Some products are better to take in the evening because of their sedating properties. There is not a one size fits all dose for each disease process. We suggest you start low and go slow. It is important to take an active role in your dosing. We use a flow sheet so you can see what works for you and make adjustments depending on your response.
We also encourage you to let your MD know you have chosen to try cannabis. Cannabis can affect the metabolism of some medications that are processed in the liver so it is important for your MD to be aware of that. Most MD’s support their patients’ choices. Insurance does not cover the cost of cannabis, it is an out of pocket expense.
We work directly with you and if you choose, your MD, to help your journey to wellness be the best it can be.
If you have any questions or want to know more about the Cannabis nurse navigators you can reach us at holisticcaring.com
Your Are Not Your Cancer
By Dr. Paul Brenner, MD, PhD
“ The mind is both a healer and a slayer”
Kenneth R. Pelletier M.D., PhD.
I have been a Physician for over fifty years. Presently, I am a Psychosocial Oncologist at the UCSD Health Systems San Diego Cancer Center, where I sit with my “patient-teachers” who have taught me about the nobility of what it means to be human. I have learned from patients about the healing power of love. They have taught me to accept life with all its beauty and with all its thorns. They have instilled in me that fear is the enemy of love.
And perhaps most importantly, love is the absence of fear.
We can never allow cancer to dominate or define who we are. Fear is a product of our mind. The mind informs the brain and the brain responds to fear’s threat. In turn, the brain produces chemicals that prepare the body to react to each given stress. This is called the “fight or fight” response. This intermittent response to an immediate fear is life saving, but if stress and fear become chronic, it can diminish the expression of the immune system.
The field of Epigenetics potentially offers individuals medical and non- medical therapies for the treatment of illness. Epigenetics is the study of those environmental forces that affect the expression of genes. This new field can also empower individuals to become more actively involved in their own healthcare by learning skills to control the mind’s emotional patterns. The mind’s gift is creation; it’s curse, self-destruction.
You are NOT responsible for creating your illness but are responsible for responding to it. I do believe that individuals with chronic illness can co- create with their physicians and their various therapeutic modalities by resolving, as best they can, the stresses and fears within their lives.
At the Cancer Center, I advise patients to observe their thoughts and control those that are negative, fearful or anxiety provoking. These thoughts are most often, “When is my next blood marker?” “When is my next PET or MRI?” “ “Am I going to make the wedding or see my grandchild?” etc. The mind tends to be filled with the future, obscuring the present moment.
Therefore, in learning skills to observe and change our thoughts, our beliefs and familial psychological patterns, we have the potential to alter our immune system and perhaps, even our inherited biology.
I have been living with cancer for fifteen years and observed how many of my thoughts were either unhealthy or focused on the future or past. One day, I realized my mind could not hold two thoughts simultaneously. I found that it helped me to devise skills to control thoughts.
Now, I advise patients to observe their mind. When a negative or redundant thought is perceived and continues to fill their consciousness, I tell them to simply repeat to themselves a single word. I personally use the word “Delete” over and over again for about ten seconds. This simple process can cancel negative thoughts for a prolonged period of time. Or, I tell patients to just clap their hands as a distraction. And finally, the one I most recently use for myself, ”I am love. That can’t be my thought.” I found that if I use this healing phrase my thought patterns are cleansed and I’m filled with calm.
As an Obstetrician, I believed that the newborn is not only a miracle, but also love made visible. This truth about all of us tends to be lost over time. We must reclaim that knowing, this wholeness. Love has no fear. Love holds peace. Love is our true nature. Love is our essence. We cannot allow anything to diminish who we are, not cancer, nor life’s experiences.
Fahnen fürs Leben ~ Hope Made Visible ™ ~ Banderas de Esperanza
By Alessandra Colfi, PH.D. and Mary Hollander, RN/RMT
Gabriel Heyd & Alessandra Colfi, the founder of SDCRI’s Hope Made Visible™ project, met at the beach in Oceanside in 2013. Alessandra told Gabriel about her new project:
“Through social media and networking, we are starting to receive flags from all corners of the world. Every time we receive a box with magnificent, unique flags with their heartfelt messages, patients feel connected, moved, and hopeful.
“Prayer Flags have been used throughout history, in different cultures and traditions, as a symbolic means to promote peace, compassion, strength and wisdom. They are hung outdoors where the wind passes through the flags carrying the message and blessings to all people … words and symbols dissolving into the wind and being spread to all whom the wind touches. Our Prayer Flags are a living, breathing, kinetic journal of our hopes, dreams and concerns; wishes and good thoughts are blown by the wind, spreading good will and compassion, uplifting all beings. The silent prayers are blessings spoken on the breath of nature! Participants are invited to design several unique flags with fabric, paper, and other materials, as a reflection of their current hopes and dreams, giving a visual voice to your prayers, blessings, concerns, and thoughts… Imagination unleashed!” ~Alessandra Colfi
Gabriele loved the idea & decided to become a part of it in her country, Germany. When Gabriele returned home to Tübingen, she founded Fahnen fürs Leben, (this site can be translated into English). As Alessandra had done, Gabriele reached out to anyone touched by cancer, their friends & families. She also found like-minded Expressive Art Therapists to run the groups. When the program took hold in her community she held their first exhibition ~ see the list below. As news spread to other European countries through the efforts of both Alessandra & Gabriele, new groups were formed.
In a booklet that Gabriele has published, she states that her aim is to create small flags that are filled with hope & wishes. “This is about a worldwide network of people who are – directly or indirectly – affected by cancer. It‘s about courage, hope and solidarity. Everybody can join in. No matter whether she or he merely thinks of cancer as something unpleasant, whether he or she is a therapist, relative, friend, or affected by cancer.”
The preface: “Some flags are truly small master pieces, while others touch us with their simple design. With a flag it is possible to touch on the subject of cancer or to work on it in depth. It is good to know that Joseph Beuys (German artist 1921-1986) considered every single person to be an artist. What is important for “Fahnen fürs Leben” is the fact that making art, and the opportunity to contemplate the flags, which have been created with so much involvement, offer relief. We use personal and professional contacts to reach out to therapists and concerned individuals, creating a network that spans the globe. This remarkable network provides ongoing support for Gabriele Heyd with the project in multiple countries around the world. I am therefore enthusiastic about this project and I do hope that we can inspire many people to take part in it with this book.” The booklet is in both German & English with beautiful photos. You can download it here: Documentation Flags for Life 2016
A documentary about Fahnen fürs Leben was filmed. The documentary is in German but I don’t think words are needed to enjoy & understand this story.
4+ years of creating and sharing hope! In August 2017 Hope Made Visible™ reached El Salvador, thanks to Paulina Buonafina, an early contributor and partner in Guatemala. Many wonderful expressions of hope and support, and many lives touched. Love the installation created by Paulina Buonafina-Arteterapia in collaboration with Roxana Orellana de Perez of ‘Sendas para la Mujer’: a welcoming container of #Hope and creative expression to support cancer patients and at the same time raise awareness of violence against women and the efforts to heal and empower them and their families.
2017 Updated list of Exhibitions and Events
• August 19, 2017, exhibition at UC San Diego Centers for Integrative Health Launch & Celebration at Sanford Consortium, La Jolla, CA, USA
• August 11, 12 & 13, 2017, hosted by Roxana Orellana de Perez of ‘Sendas para la Mujer’ in San Salvador, El Salvador, doubled as a fundraiser to support cancer patients’ access to care.
• July 7th – 9th, 2017, Guatemala City, Restaurante Porcino Pollo, Coordinated by Paulina Buonafina, Guatemala
• June 17th – 18th, 2017, The first Relay for Life in Switzerland
• November 4th, 2016, Consciousness and Healing Initiative (CHI) Summit, Paradise Point Hotel, San Diego, CA – USA
• October 30th – November 3rd, 2016, Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine 2016 AIHM Annual Conference: People, Planet, Purpose, Paradise Point Hotel, San Diego, CA – USA
• July & August, 2016, Oceanside Public Library, Oceanside, CA – USA
• June 25th, 2016, On the railing of the Neckarmüllerei, during the anniversary action day “Ich zieh´ den Hut” in support of women after cancer, on the Neckar Bridge, Germany
• March 3rd – 5th, 2016, APOS Conference, Sheraton Hotel, San Diego, CA – USA
• May 2nd – June 30th, 2015, Le Néné, Seestrasse 63, Stuttgart, Germany
• April 23rd – 25th, 2015, Exhibition at REHAB Conference, Karlsruhe, Germany
• January 14th – March 25th, 2015, Front Porch Gallery, Carlsbad, CA – USA
• October 20 – November 21st, 2014, City of Hope, Los Angeles, CA – USA
• August 14th – September 17th, 2014, Heritage of the Americas Museum, El Cajon, CA – USA
Gabriele Heyd Engelfriedshalde 24 D-72076 Tübingen, Deutschland – email@example.com
Paulina Buonafina – Arteterapia, Guatemala City, Guatemala – firstname.lastname@example.org
The Role of Chinese Medicine in Integrative Oncology
By Kim Taylor, DAOM, L.Ac.
According to Global Cancer Statistics, 1.6 million people will be diagnosed with cancer in 2017. With improved detection and treatment, more and more people are now living longer with cancer. However patients are still affected by the distressing and debilitating side effects of conventional cancer therapies, such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Patients seeking a more integrative and holistic approach to their cancer treatment are encouraged to build a comprehensive healing team drawing from both conventional and ancient wisdoms, in order to manage the side effects of treatment. Ultimately this should be a collaborative effort between the oncologist, a practitioner of acupuncture and herbal medicine, nutritionist, support group, and perhaps an energy therapy, such as Reiki, Qi Gong, or oncology massage. The result is a more synergistic therapeutic effect.
Chinese Medicine is a medical system dating back more than 2,000 years and is practiced by about one-fifth of the world’s population. It consists of many therapeutic methods including acupuncture, herbs, diet therapy, massage and exercise. Conventional Western cancer therapies have been used in China since the 1960’s, and around the same time the Chinese government began to fund research into traditional herbal medicines. While acupuncture has gained the most recognition in the United States, in China, traditional herbal medicine plays a far greater role in the Chinese health care system. With centuries of empirical evidence, China’s huge pharmacopeia contains thousands of substances, many that have scientific basis for their reputed health claims. One result is the use of Fu Zhen therapy, which is a regimen of herbal therapy used as an adjunct to chemotherapy and radiation, to protect the immune system, manage side effects and increase survival rates. These herbs have been shown to increase immunity by increasing T-cell function.
A few cautions should be considered, however, before taking herbs and/or supplements during cancer treatment. Many oncologists in the United States will advise against this, for several reasons. 1) The potential for herb-drug interactions: Many chemotherapy drugs enter the liver and convert to an active form. Many herbs also enter the liver and convert to an active form. There is an undeniable risk of an herb-drug interaction in the liver that could either down regulate, or potentiate the chemotherapeutic effect. 2) Even without an herb-drug interaction, the liver may become overloaded, if it must process chemotherapy, opiates and other prescription drugs, as well as process herbs and supplements, possibly leading to elevated liver enzymes and inflammation that could limit treatment. 3) Hormone positive breast cancers: The most common type of breast cancers are hormone positive, meaning that exposure mainly to circulating estrogen triggers malignant cell growth. Treatment aims to limit exposure to circulating estrogens as much as possible. The research is unclear if phyto-estrogens, the “natural” estrogens found in herbs and supplements, offer a protective mechanism against malignancy, or if they cause the same proliferation as circulating estrogens. 4) Herbs and supplements are often considered “anti-oxidant”, meaning they allegedly protect the cells from harmful free radicals linked to cancers. However, several nutritional trials have shown no obvious effectiveness in preventing cancer or in lengthening survival, and some trials suggest they actually may interfere with chemotherapy and radiation, because some of these treatments actually rely on increasing oxidation within cancer cells. Noble laureate James Watson, PhD, has a new hypothesis on reactive oxygen that he describes as his “most important work since the double helix.” He proposes that antioxidant levels within cancer cells are a problem and are responsible for resistance to treatment, and that the un-treatability of late-stage cancer may be the result of it having too many antioxidants.
In this current setting of confusion and emerging research, it is recommended to be conservative and informed when navigating these choices and treatment options. Patients are advised to seek consult from a Chinese medicine practitioner who is experienced in both herbal medicine, and in their understanding of oncology, so that the patient is informed of all concerns and can then make an educated decision that resonates with their own healing. Chinese herbal formulas are sophisticated in their construction, consisting of many herbs working synergistically together. Patients should never self-prescribe single herbs. A practitioner that understands oncology and is willing to collaborate with an oncologist will be able to construct a complementary treatment plan that can be administered safely with concurrent cancer treatments.
Acupuncture is another Chinese therapeutic method for changing the flow, or quality, of the life force and balancing the body energies. The Chinese believe that life force or “chi” flows within fourteen major meridians or energy channels, that traverse the body from the top of the head to the tips of the fingers and toes. Each meridian is connected to an internal organ, and specific points on each invisible channel, when stimulated, affect the flow of chi in the channels or in the associated organs. By stimulating these points with extremely fine needles, acupuncture unblocks energy or adjusts its flow. These concepts can be hard to grasp for Western thinkers, but with current understanding of the nervous system and neuroplasticity, we now know that the layout of the meridians mirrors the central and peripheral nervous system, and many common points are located very near to prominent nerve beds. The brain is signaled when the needle is positioned and responds by increasing blood cell counts and various other immune system elements, and by activating neurotransmitters. These messenger molecules are responsible for sending information to all cells of the body. Endorphins and enkephalins are well known neurotransmitters that stop pain and increase a feeling of well-being. Researchers are continually exploring exactly how acupuncture aids the immune system, but we now know that certain blood counts and immune enhancing chemicals stay elevated for at least 3 days following an acupuncture treatment. Acupuncture is a relatively well accepted adjunctive cancer treatment in the United States, because it has no risk of interfering biologically with chemotherapy and radiation, and it has very few side effects. Most comprehensive cancer centers in the United States have an acupuncturist on staff. Acupuncture can be used in the following areas during cancer treatment, to manage symptoms, promote relaxation, and increase survival and quality of life:
Pain Management: Acupuncture can be very effective for managing pain related to tumors, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and inflammation. Cancer itself can be painful and the treatments for cancer can cause pain, swelling and inflammation. Pain medications have a host of side effects, including constipation, nausea, and mental confusion. Patients who receive acupuncture may be able to use lower doses of pain medications.
Immune System Support: It is widely accepted that stress lowers immune function. Many cancers and cancer treatment also lower immune function, by suppressing bone marrow, the source of blood cells that make up the immune system. Acupuncture has been shown to increase blood cell production and enhance Natural Killer (NK) cells and lymphocytes, thus promoting increased immune response and decreased risk of infection.
Reducing Inflammation: Increased inflammation is part of cancer physiology. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation also cause painful inflammation. Acupuncture reduces pain and swelling related to inflammation.
Nausea and Vomiting: Chemotherapy kills both cancer cells and healthy cells alike. Nausea and vomiting is a common side effect of chemotherapy, as healthy cells of the digestive tract become patchy and raw. Acupuncture has been shown to reduce the intensity and frequency of nausea and vomiting in patients receiving chemotherapy.
Dry, Painful Mouth and Throat: Cancer patients receiving radiation to the head and neck may experience pain and swelling in the mouth and throat, making it very difficult to swallow. Additionally they may suffer dry mouth and throat and dental problems from damage to the saliva glands. Acupuncture has been shown to increase saliva production, and decrease pain and swelling, allowing the patient to be able to swallow, eat and drink normally, protect the health of the teeth and gums, and reduce the incidence of infections.
Sleep: Cancer patients often have difficulty sleeping from medications, post-surgical discomfort, anxiety and depression, and physical pain. Acupuncture promotes healthy sleep and relaxation, allowing the patient to get the deep sleep and rest required for recovery and healing.
Hot Flashes: Many women undergoing hormonal treatment for breast cancer experience hot flashes and dryness that disrupts sleep and daily activities. Acupuncture has been shown to decrease the frequency and intensity of hot flashes. Although most of these studies were conducted on women breast cancer patients, men with prostate cancer also experience hot flashes during hormonal treatment, and also benefit from acupuncture.
Quality of Life: By managing the side effects of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and hormonal therapies, reducing pain and inflammation, improving sleep, supporting normal digestive function and reducing stress, acupuncture treatment can improve the quality of life of cancer patients.
Got chemo brain?
By Teri Polley-Michea MA, RN, CMT, HHP, RMT
New hope for patients with cognitive dysfunction related to chemotherapy treatment.
Do you feel like your brain is not firing on all cylinders? That you are functioning in a brain fog? Your thought process cloudy making you unsure of yourself and your abilities? The exact mechanism of how chemo brain develops is unknown, but it is felt that there is some type of disruption of communication within the brain. There are few if any treatments available for patients who have chemo brain. Medications have been tried without much success.
A new treatment for chemo brain is being investigated at the Medical Synchrony Center in San Diego called PrTMS. PrTMS stands for Personalized Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. It is non-invasive, painless, and well tolerated.
PrTMS is a brain stimulation technique that uses MRI technology. The machine that houses the magnet is small, portable, and quiet–unlike the MRI machine that most people are familiar with. Each treatment lasts approximately 20 minutes depending on what your doctor has prescribed. The treatment is based on the results of an electroencephalogram (EEG) which is done in the office, first as a baseline, during the course of the entire treatment and at the end to chart your progress. The EEG is painless, It consists of a cap like device that is placed on the head and connected to a computer to read your brain waves. No gels or electrodes needed!
PrTMS is a FDA approved therapy that has been used in the treatment of depression, PTSD, autism, stroke rehabilitation and post injury concussion syndrome. Only recently has its use been considered as an option for treatment of chemo brain. A literature search completed on Google scholar revealed the majority of research studies published reported the use of PrTMS for depression, psychiatric conditions, and post stroke therapy. Patients had varied responses but overall had improvement in overall quality of life, improvement in cognitive function, lessening of depression and improvement in physical abilities post stroke. Still in the infancy period of discovery of how this treatment can be used in other cognitive dysfunction related illnesses, there is need for future studies to examine this therapy in the patient population suffering from chemo brain.
On a personal note, I had the opportunity to experience this treatment for menopausal symptoms. Originally I wanted to try this treatment so I could share my experience with my oncology clients. I wasn’t aware how useful it would be in treating my menopause mental fog. I was amazed how I perceived the world and the clarity I experienced during my treatment. My vision was clearer and everything looked brighter. I was able to sleep better and felt an improvement in my overall quality of life. And I am not alone. In a small unpublished study done in San Diego with 16 women with chemo brain symptoms, demonstrated that they experienced similar changes. This has lead the Medical Synchrony Center in pursuing research, funding, and Institutional Review Board approval for a clinical trial.
If you would like more information on the benefits of this treatment, or are interested in finding out more about the clinical trial please contact the Medical Synchrony Center, 16918 Dove Canyon Road, STE 206, San Diego, CA 92127 directly at 858-924-1116.
Hacking Into Healing: The REAL Future of Medicine
By Dr. Shamini Jain
First appeared in the Huffington Post on 6/05/2015 | Updated Jun 05, 2016
Investigating the “Impossible”
About 40 years ago, a group of microbiologists, behavioral scientists, and medical doctors in laboratories from UCLA to Russia proposed, based on their carefully conducted, independent studies, a completely heretical idea: that the brain, immune, and hormonal systems were connected — and that emotions had a major influence on the body.
They were completely laughed at by the scientific and medical community. Some were denied tenure. They were sometimes shut out of university laboratories for their “psychological nonsense.”
Nevertheless, they persisted with the idea, and with their tenacity and vision, as well as years of careful research in the laboratory, founded the field that we now know as psychoneuroimmunology, or PNI.
Fortunately for us, these scientists persisted — and paved a path that has had tremendous impact on our understanding of health and medicine. Forty years later, the fact that the nervous system, the immune system, and the endocrine system are connected is now a given, and nearly every day we are reading about exciting developments in these fields, such as the contributions of the vagus nerve in immune and brain communication, and the recent paper in Nature reporting the existence of functional lymphatic vessels in the brain — something that again, was thought to be impossible. We’ve learned about the power of our own emotional states on our immunity — and how our mental state plays a role in certain disease risks — in some cases, even helping predict how long we live.
Hacking the Body Electric
In parallel with these advances in PNI, we are seeing a rise in bioelectromagnetic medicine — including brain stimulation. These new devices — based on the mapping of the body’s responses to magnetic and electrical stimulation — are being heralded as the “Future of Medicine“ — and some show tremendous promise in helping forward better treatment of certain diseases.
Unfortunately, the devices that could mitigate diseases, can also serve to disempower us, if used improperly. The fervor for these devices doesn’t just stop at finding new solutions for cancer or Alzheimer’s disease — corporate interests are pushing the development of devices down to “fixing” our mood and even our eating patterns. Feeling sad or out of sorts, or need to obliterate that hunger craving? No problem, a brain zap can fix that. There are plenty of folks ready to sell you such devices, whether or not they actually are based on sound scientific evidence. Some people are also creating DIY brain stimulation devices for home use to treat depression and enhance attention, which is not safe.
Is the “New Medicine” really based on Ancient Medicine?
While industry focuses on devices that can be sold as the next new medicine, some scientists have been uncovering the effects of ancient medicine — mind-body-spirit practices such as yoga, meditation, tai-chi and even energy healing on psychological, neural, immune, and endocrine outcomes for patients including those with PTSD, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
The interesting thing is that the health impact of these practices, which have been part of global cultures for thousands of years, were mapped out long ago by the sages that had discovered and shared them. The described “mechanism of action” circulated around the understanding that these are spiritual practices that have a strong influence on the subtle energy system (part of what we now call in the West the “Biofield”), and through refining ourselves spiritually, positive shifts occur in our emotional, mental and physical well-being.
Sadly, because of the emphasis on materialism in science and medicine, “spirit” is still considered a dirty word and is generally taboo for research and discussion. The study of “biofield” is not so far behind in the ridicule line, despite the basic science and clinical research demonstrating effects of the biofield on health, as is now being shown with bioelectronic medicine. In fact, industry is now in a race to begin mapping out the electromagnetic readouts of the body — one aspect of the biofield — but only to develop devices that can be bought and sold for mitigating disease symptoms.
The Future of Medicine is Up to Us
However, similar to the collaborations and dedication that resulted in the new field and advances of psychoneuroimmunology, a group of scientists as well as practitioners in diverse disciplines (including physics, biophysics, microbiology, psychology, endocrinology, technology, medicine, contemplative practice and the healing arts), are joining together to collectively advance the totality of understanding on the role of the consciousness in healing, including mapping the impact of mind-body-spirit practices on the biofield and health. This group of scientists, practitioners, and educators, who are part of the Consciousness and Healing Initiative, are ready to take the bold steps needed to rigorously ask and answer the harder questions — what is the role of our own consciousness in influencing our biology? How deeply can we guide and facilitate our own healing through our emotions, behavior, social, and spiritual connections, and how can we harness these effects to promote better health for ourselves, our communities and our planet? Scientific research that examines us as the agents of change for our own healing, would help to herald a true shift in the practice of medicine.
With these new advances in science, we have a choice to shape the new paradigm in health and medicine. We can choose to watch as industry dollars utilize scientific advances to advance the next wave of Big Pharma, or we can choose to support research that will irrefutably map the impact of our consciousness on our own health, so that we can better directly heal ourselves and prevent disease before it starts. We must choose not to lose the psyche in psychoneuroimmunology, and support the research and education that will truly empower our own health and healing, to usher in the real Future of Medicine.
Follow Dr. Shamini Jain on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ShaminiJain
GENTLE DANCE FITNESS / EXPRESSIVE MOVEMENT CLASS
FOR CANCER PATIENTS, SURVIVORS & CAREGIVERS
Ph.: 858.735.5708 Alessandra@AlessandraColfi.com
Zumba® is a very popular form of aerobic dance exercise using contemporary music from all over the world with emphasis on Latin, African, Middle-Eastern, Pop, Hip-Hop, and Bollywood. Zumba® is recognized by the American College of Sports Medicine and the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America.
Many beginners and older adults find market-based Zumba® classes intimidating; too fast, too strenuous and too difficult to follow. Specifically, Zumba® dance routines are not suitable for cancer patients and survivors who often experience pain, limited mobility, post-op & recovery issues, fatigue, treatment side effects, self-image issues, weight gain or loss, lack of motivation, and decreased mental and physical energy.
And yet exercise is critical to recovery and prevention: “Based on observational findings physical activity is the lifestyle factor most strongly and consistently associated with both cancer incidence and cancer recurrence.” ~ Robert J. Morgan, MD, FACP – City of Hope, Department of Medical Oncology and Therapeutics Research, Feb 15, 2016.
Since the joy of movement in a group is one of the highlights in Zumba® classes, participants are motivated to exercise playfully. Research shows that movement provides a wide range of benefits: it reduces physical and mental fatigue; increases blood flow and oxygen intake; awakens and enlivens body, mind and spirit; increases range of motion, balance, coordination and focus; facilitates sleep; increases body awareness, and might help individuals affected by depression and isolation – all assisting in lowering risk of recurrence and improving quality of life.
An important consideration goes to our lymphatic system, which needs to be aided through modalities like exercise, dance, massage: “A vital structure to the human body, the lymphatic system is a complex and important part of the immune system that helps maintain fluid balance within our tissues. Acting as a filter, it pushes lymph (fluid that contains white blood cells, oxygen, and other nutrients) throughout the smallest branches of blood vessels and washes the body’s cells. This destroys old or abnormal cells, such as cancer cells, and fights bacteria and infections.” Dana-Farber blog Insight, 2016 http://blog.dana-farber.org/insight/2016/09/what-is-the-lymphatic-system-infographic/
Another very important physiological aspect to be considered: studies show that inflammatory response to cancer treatments elevate levels of Cytokines which induce depressive symptoms. The American Cancer Society states that 25% or 1/4 of all cancer patients suffers from depression or distress, which has been found to decrease survival rates. (Candace Pert, PhD)
Studies show that dancing creates new pathways in the brain, improve depression symptoms, elevates mood, and fosters a positive outlook, while lessening the impact of ‘brain fog’ and decreasing risk of developing dementia later in life.
Dancing offers powerful symbolism for coping with the changes that a cancer diagnosis and treatments bring to a person’s life, to family and friends, and impact his or her quality of life – not to mention the beneficial effects of spontaneous laughter shared among your peers!
Zumba® Flash Mob ‘Uptown Funk’ at Oceanside Pier to celebrate a special birthday.
Why a special exercise class for cancer patients? Typically, participants in any Zumba® class are not given step-by-step instruction: rather they try to copy the instructor’s moves (which is difficult to do in large, crowded classes) and to follow the dance routines in a sort of “sink-or-swim” scenario. This might lead to injuries or it might be discouraging for someone with any kind of limitation. Zumba Gold® classes for older adults use slower-paced music, which doesn’t provide enough energy, engagement and the playful motivation that popular, high-energy dance tunes do.
A 2015 study conducted at the University of California found that while exercise is perceived by many as “boring, stressful, painful, [and] lonely,” Zumba is described as “fun, stress free, holistic, [and] socially supportive.”
Studies on Dance/Movement Therapy (DMT) effects on cancer recovery are still very limited; one recent study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management states:
“DMT showed significant effects on buffering the deterioration in perceived stress, pain severity, and pain interference…The DMT program can counter the anticipated worsening of stress and pain in women with breast cancer during radiotherapy.” (Ho RT, Fong TC, Cheung IK, Yip PS, Luk MY, 2016) “…findings reinforced the benefits of DMT while adding the new perspective that delivering DMT intervention throughout cancer treatment can have different and even additional benefits for patients.” (Ho RT, Lo PH, Luk MY, 2016)
Studies show that healthy weight, regular exercise, and less alcohol could cut incidence by one-third. “Exercise needs to be a lifestyle…” (Dana Farber Beyond Cancer Podcast, 2016)
I’ve been using dance/movement therapy with cancer patients and survivors for 5 years, since Expressive Arts Therapy is an integrated multi-arts approach in which all art modalities – dance/movement, visual art, music, writing, sound, and drama – are woven into the exploration and therapeutic process as appropriate to each individual’s situation. “Dance movement therapy (DMT) is premised on an interconnected body and mind. It has known benefits for cancer patients’ physical and psychological health and quality of life.” (Ho RT, Lo PH, Luk MY, 2016)
I design each Zumba® routine with our patients and survivors in mind and often incorporate their suggestions & preferences; simple dance movements to low, medium to high energy music that are conducive respectively to warm-up at the beginning and cool down at the end, balance, flexibility, muscle toning, and to practice focus and coordination through learning simple dance steps, addressing specific areas of the body and abilities – with the brain benefiting as well from focusing and learning new steps; high-energy music has the effect of stimulating participants to move; free-form dancing according to each individual’s preference, cultural background and style is encouraged as well. Zumba® is suitable for beginners at any age and is adapted to each participant’s ability and limitations, even while sitting on a chair.
Here is a link to some of our dance choreographies: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=alessandra+colfi+zumba
TESTIMONIALS FROM PATIENTS CURRENTLY ATTENDING ALESSANDRA’S ZUMBA®
We all know exercise is good for us, but can it be fun too? My name is Joyce, I am a cancer survivor and volunteer for NCCF. I have two left feet and coordination is not my strong suit. Never, never, never thought I’d find myself in a Zumba class but at the urging of others there I was last week @ Frog’s … in Zumba … right where I didn’t want to be. An hour later with a huge smile on my face, heart pumping, feet tapping, and endorphins at an all time high, I answered my own question, “Yes, most definitely exercise can be fun too!
So, if you are looking to move your body, increase your heart rate and smile for an entire hour, you’ll be at Alessandra’s Zumba class this week! ~ Joyce, Encinitas, CA
You want a fabulous instructor, great cardio, stamina builder, mood enhancer, and laughter? Alessandra’s Zumba class is where you go! ~ D.S., Encinitas, CA
I think the Zumba is so good for so many reasons! Just when I thought I had body awareness, this brings such a new challenge! The incorporation of so much right/brain left/brain movements is so great for the nerve myelination and the movement and shaking of the lymph is so valuable. Thank you for bringing it to us!!
~ Justine Shelton, E-RYT 500
AVI Certified Viniyoga Therapist
Co-Director, Yoga Vista Academy
You are a dynamite instructor, Alessandra.
We are ALL blessed to have you helping us attain physical and mental strengths.
Thank you ever so much. ~ C. M., Encinitas, CA
Thank you for today’s Zumba. It was not only fun but really good for me! ~ J.L., Vista, CA
How can you not smile after a class like that?! Thank you! ~ D.P., Carlsbad, CA
How can you possibly know just how much your dance & exercise class has changed my life?…All I can tell you is that your energy, your dancing joy, your music and your radiance has a been a gift to me. I feel like a different woman. My health is better now that it has been in decades. Thank you so much for opening your heart, sharing your gifts and your passions. You are an angel to me (and to others), and I am forever grateful and charmed by your magic
~ C.A., Encinitas
Our late Deb Snyder, visionary founder of North County Cancer Fitness with our great Zumba® group at Fitness Evolution, Encinitas.
Alessandra Colfi, PhD, ZIN®, Expressive Arts Therapist, Certified Zumba® Instructor, has been leading Dance/Movement Therapy sessions and Zumba® classes for cancer patients, survivors and caregivers through San Diego Cancer Research Institute at Yoga Vista and Fitness Evolution in Encinitas. Since SDCRI ended services to patients as of December 2014, she is offering weekly Zumba® classes through Yoga Branch Vista Village in Vista, North County Cancer Fitness at Fitness Evolution in Encinitas, and UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center.
She attended Master Classes with Dance/Movement Therapist Daria Halprin as well as Certified Zumba® Instructors. JourneyDance, Neuro-Muscular Integration Activity or NIA, 5Rythm and dancing regularly with a Cuban Salsa dance group make her embrace exercise/movement that is fun and encouraging as part of healthy lifestyle and one of the keys to self-care and social connections. Offering a modified version of Zumba® to encourage individuals affected by cancer to enjoy moving and reconnecting with their bodies, and to benefit from exercising in safety and with a group of peers is the highlight of her service.
More about Alessandra
A special note of gratitude to Sherry Zak-Morris owner of Yoga Vista until 2016, and Fitness Evolution Encinitas, for gifting the space to hold free classes for cancer recovery to the community.
UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center monthly calendar – free Zumba class on Wednesdays: https://health.ucsd.edu/specialties/cancer/about/Documents/PFSScurrentcalendar.pdf
North County Cancer Fitness: www.NorthCountyCancerFitness.org Zumba on Wednesdays. Fill out intake form to register before any class – free.
Yoga Branch Vista Village: https://clients.mindbodyonline.com/classic/mainclass drop-in Friday or Sunday Zumba® class $ 5.
Exercise and Cancer. Dana Farber Beyond Cancer Podcast, 2016
A Good Time to Dance? A Mixed-Methods Approach of the Effects of Dance Movement Therapy for Breast Cancer Patients During and After Radiotherapy. US National Library of Medicine @ NIH – PubMed.gov https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25730591
Exercise to prevent depression. Dr. Andrew Weil, Weekly Bulletin.
Exercise Shows Benefits for Metastatic Colorectal Cancer Patients, Dana-Farber blog, Insight, 2017
Study Confirms Dance Fitness Improves Quality of Life. Zumba® Zlife®, 2016
Research shows that women view Zumba workouts as better than exercise. Medical Express, 2015
Can ‘Prehabilitation’ Benefit Cancer Patients? Dana Farber, 2017
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Managing Side Effects of Stress, Cancer & Chronic Pain With the Innovative Mindful Yoga Works Program
By Kitty Blincoe
When diagnosed with cancer life is never the same for the person who is diagnosed, nor for the people around them. Cancer experts agree a cancer diagnosis effects people differently than other disease diagnosis. Post diagnosis, cancer patients must learn to cope with emotional distress, solve cancer-related problems, and gain control over cancer-related life events. Moments of crisis and challenge can include hearing the diagnosis, receiving treatment, completing treatment, hearing that the cancer is in remission, hearing that the cancer has come back, dealing with medical bills, and becoming a cancer survivor. “The National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS) pioneered the definition of survivor as being any person diagnosed with cancer, from the time of initial diagnosis until his or her death.” Managing the side effects of stress, cancer and chronic pain is a key mission for the survivor, as well as care givers, in order to find their “new normal” as quickly as possible so they may stay involved in activities and responsibilities that are meaningful and important to them and which affect their overall quality of life. Mindful Yoga Works combines yoga, meditation and group discussion and is an innovative, evidenced-based program developed at Duke University Medical Center for anyone wanting to learn useful tools for coping with stress amidst daily life.
As reported on CNN, USA Today and Business Week, the Mindful Yoga Works (formerly “Yoga of Awareness”) course has been through five clinical trials to date and participants in the program experienced a decrease in pain, improved sleep, vigor and relaxation. These five research studies have demonstrated important benefits of Mindful Yoga in medical populations in the form of an 8-week course “Yoga of Awareness”. The first two studies involved breast cancer patients at Duke University Medical Center, and three more recent trials focused on fibromyalgia patients at Oregon Health & Science University.
Mindful Yoga Works is a pioneering program focused on the journey of how we live with stress – from noticing how it physiologically impacts our body, our mind and even those around us, to learning to skillfully work through it. This course conveys essential elements of the ancient tradition of yoga – including meditation, breath work, postures, self-study and group sharing – in a context that is informed by modern, evidence-based medicine. The result is a powerful and transformative healing experience for an individual that reflects both the heart of yoga and the understanding of integrative medicine. Mindful Yoga Works has been shown in research studies at Duke Medical Center to help cancer patients at early stages as well as advanced stages of the cancer experience.
Clinical trials of this program demonstrated in the participant:
• significant decreases in pain, fatigue, insomnia, negative mood and hot flashes
• as well as increases in vigor, acceptance and relaxation
Important topics such as mind/body stress reactivity, and the value of awareness and skillful action in the midst of one’s daily life are covered. During the course participants are encouraged to practice yoga at home guided by audio and video recordings and illustrated handouts. Mindful Yoga Works is appropriate for anyone who is mobile and who wants to learn tools for coping with stress amidst daily life – whether managing chronic pain, “Type A personality”, sleep apnea, insomnia, illness such as cancer or fibromyalgia, or any other possible life challenge that may be difficult to accept and embrace.
Mindful Yoga Works combines yoga, meditation and group discussion; no prior yoga or meditation experience necessary. The founders of Mindful Yoga Works write,
Living skillfully in this way depends on mindful awareness. Mindfulness is the key to doing anything well in life, whether it be working, playing, talking, or eating.
In Mindful Yoga we learn to connect more fully with our inner resources – our deep down goodness and wholeness – as well as our daily life circumstances, so that we can experience greater well being and less suffering.
As a complement to ongoing medical treatments, Mindful Yoga may help with a variety of symptoms by promoting a sense of soothing bodily relaxation, refreshed vitality, and a greater ability to tolerate symptoms. For people who are feeling well physically but otherwise facing challenges, Mindful Yoga can assist in relieving general stress, and for dealing with issues such as how to maintain healthy relationships
This course incorporates experience gained by teachers with extensive training in traditional schools of yoga. Each class includes instruction and practice of:
gentle physical stretching exercises
Teachers adapt the yoga exercises and instructions during the course to individual needs and limitations.
In order to be a certified Mindful Yoga Works teacher, one must attend the training which is intermittently offered at Duke Integrative Medicine Center and Oregon Health & Science University. The Mindful Yoga Works teacher training explores:
• Evidence-based modules for cancer-related symptoms
• Tailoring asana and pranayama to specific symptoms
• Principles of Mindful Yoga
• Contexting yogic principles for people from various faith traditions
• Effective and clear ways of presenting models of stress
• Appropriate guidance for working with the mind
• Partnering with the medical community
• Group facilitation skills
Additionally, the founders write “For this course to have meaning and vitality, the leaders delivering it must do their best to embody the practice of Mindful Yoga in their daily lives. This will allow for them to lead from their personal experience and wisdom, rather than in a cookbook fashion. A person may be certified as a Mindful Yoga teacher if she or he: (a) has an established meditation practice, as defined by Criterion 1 – Meditation Practicum; (b) has demonstrable group facilitation skills and experience, including (but not limited to) completion of Criterion 2 – Presentation Skills Practicum; (c) is a registered hatha yoga teacher with ample experience working with special populations, as defined by Criteria 3-4 – Registered Yoga Teacher who has experience teaching yoga postures including specialized populations; and (d) Mindful Yoga Teacher Training Level 1 (formerly Yoga of Awareness Teacher Training Level I) course, and in most cases a Mindful Yoga Teacher Training Level 2 course; and (e) after fulfilling all the above requirements, has offered an initial Mindful Yoga course free-of-charge to a group of individuals, and recordings of the course sessions have been reviewed by Jim and/or Kimberly Carson. The Mindful Yoga course must be based on the 8-session Yoga of Awareness Program.”
The 8-week mind/body program was developed by Jim Carson, PhD and Kimberly Carson, MPH, ERYT at Duke University Medical Center. Here in San Diego, the Mindful Yoga Works course is led by Kitty Blincoe. Kitty Blincoe is currently the only certified Mindful Yoga Works teacher in Southern California, one of eight certified Mindful Yoga Works teachers nationwide and is the founder of Sanctuary Z – a recently opened private and semi private sleep, stretch and stress management treatment space near Carlsbad Village. http://www.sanctuaryz.com/
The VITA Program
By Jennifer Dawes Moore
It is tax time, not a favorite thing for most people, except those geeks that love to prepare them. I am defiantly one of those geeks. Last year I had the enjoyable experience of working with the Encinitas Community Resource Center (CRC) to prepare taxes for free. Why would they do that? Well the CRC is one of thousands of sites across the country that do this every year. This IRS sponsored program called VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) prepared more than 3.7 million returns at nearly 12,000 sites last year, and all free of charge.
This program is set up to assist low to moderate-income families and individuals. All Volunteers receive training and pass an IRS certification test. Some volunteers are accounting students or retired tax preparer and some are just people looking for another way to help their communities. Most volunteer return year after year, like me!
Who is eligible to get tax assistance? Anyone with low to moderate income who did not have rental income from properties you own, did not file for bankruptcy last year, and did not have self-employment expenses above $10,000.
Where can you find a VITA site? The Community Resources Center has appointments at its main office 650 Second St, Encinitas on Wednesday from 1-6 and Saturday from 9-5. They also offer preparation at sites in Oceanside, Vista and San Marcos though out the week. Appointments can be made by calling the CRC at 760-753-8300, calling 211 or online at myfreetaxes.org.
What to bring with you to the appointment.
• Photo ID for you and your spouse
• Social security card or ITIN for you and any dependents
• Income documents (W2 or 1099)
• Bank Account information for direct deposit (voided check)
• School tuition or student loan interest statements
• Mortgage interest statements
• Dependent care
And what if you are a tax geek like me, and would like to help out. I would love to hear from you. You can serve in a variety of roles, greeters, translators and tax preparers. No experience is needed, you will receive free training and materials.
For more information or question about filing or volunteering email Jmoore@crcncc.org
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SDCRI Review 2016
By Dan Vicario, M.D.
As a medical oncologist, I’ve had the privilege of working with a large number of cancer patients since 1987. I’ve been on an inspirational journey where I’ve learned so much from my patients and their loved ones that I feel the need to share some of that knowledge from now on. Having been medical director of two cancer centers for almost two decades and being part of a community that created an integrative oncology program back in 1995, I am now able to take some time off to reflect on the many things I’ve learned. This learning came from many teachers: cancer patients and their caregivers, nurses, colleagues, cancer center staff and practitioners of the many different healing arts.
Our San Diego Cancer Research Institute (SDCRI) is a nonprofit organization created in the year 2000 with two divisions: Genomic Oncology, directed by my business partner and dear friend Dr. Mark J. Adler, and Integrative Oncology which will be discussed here.
The integrative program started offering free complementary services in 1995 at the San Diego Cancer Center thanks to the generosity of several successful practitioners of the different healing arts who offered their time and skills as volunteers servicing the community of cancer patients. This program started at the San Diego Cancer Center in Vista and Encinitas with the intention of offering cancer patients the option of experiencing complementary healing modalities that were proven to improve their quality of life. It was open to all cancer patients in the San Diego community. This program was extremely successful, offering services to over 150 cancer patients every month with an average of 100 visits per week. At one point there were 50 active volunteers enrolled in the program. During its last ten years, the program’s coordinator was Mary Hollander, RN. Without Mary’s support and guidance we could not have reached everything the program was able to accomplish. Unfortunately, for the several reasons mentioned in previous news articles on this web site, the SDCRI’s free integrative services facility in Encinitas had to close in December 2014.
The good news is that the San Diego Cancer Research Institute remains active in its mission of education, collaboration and research. Since the closing of the free integrative services facility in Encinitas, SDCRI has continued its education and research collaborative efforts with several other institutions and has remained an active web-based resource. The Integrative program team will continue to update the webpage with news, Integrative and Genomic Research updates, Nutrition and Oncology updates, Dr. Paul Brenner’s videos, the latest info on the Hope Made Visible Project directed by Dr. Alessandra Colfi, educational programs and more. Mary Hollander and Juli Shelton continue to help with SDCRI’s Integrative program and update the website on a regular basis. SDCRI will continue to expand in 2017, continuing its online nutrition program: Reality Based Nutrition by Mary Hollander RN, Dr. Paul Brenner’s Blog, SDCRI’s integrative oncology projects, collaborative research and educational videos.
SDCRI’s Integrative Oncology program continues to collaborate in various broad based Integrative Research projects. We are working to continue to expand research on the importance of embracing proven integrative healing modalities to support cancer patients. Research projects include the fields of nutrition, exercise, yoga, mind body practices, massage, psychoneuroimmunology, acupuncture, bio-field therapies, art therapy, aromatherapy, and others.
We also have the pleasure of collaborating with practitioners, professionals and researchers in naturopathic medicine, homeopathic medicine, and ancient healing traditions like Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, and Indigenous medicine.
Current SDCRI’s collaborations include:
-U.C. San Diego Cancer Services Encinitas and Vista
-UCSD Center for Integrative Medicine (CIM): http://cim.ucsd.edu/
-UCSD Center of Excellence for Research and Training in Integrative Health (CERTIH)
-Chopra Center and Chopra Foundation: https://www.choprafoundation.org/
-Consciousness and Healing Initiative (CHI): http://www.chi.is/
-Guarneri Integrative Health: http://pacificpearllajolla.com/guarneri-integrative-health/
-Miraglo Foundation: http://www.miraglofoundation.org/
-Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine
-University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
-University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)
-Institute Of Noetic Sciences (IONS): http://www.noetic.org/
-Resolution Care: Dr. Michael Fratkin and Team: http://www.resolutioncare.com
-Dr. Bob Uslander: http://www.drbobuslander.com/
- At a recent SDCRI board meeting, the following updates were discussed:
Research protocol collaboration between SDCRI, UCSD, Chopra Foundation, UCSF: “I-CAN”: Initiative for Cancer Survivorship Approached Naturally. For this research project, patients who are breast cancer survivors will attend the “Perfect Health” healing program at the Chopra Center, La Costa resort. Several markers of healing and quality of life will be measured before and after the 6 day retreat. This research protocol has been approved by the UCSD Investigational Review Board (IRB).
- The San Diego Cancer Research Institute, Dr. Dan Vicario and SDCRI’s Integrative Program have partnered with the “Consciousness and Healing Initiative (CHI)” to support its purpose, projects, research and service. CHI is an international collaborative accelerator of scientists, health practitioners, innovators, educators, researchers, professionals, artists, individuals and nonprofit institutions who share CHI’s vision. For details on the “Consciousness and Healing Initiative (CHI)” please go to this link: http://www.chi.is
At this time, SDCRI offers CHI administrative support and is also its fiscal sponsor until CHI becomes its own separate nonprofit entity.
- SDCRI continues collaborating with UCSD Center of Excellence for Research and Training in Integrative Health (CERTIH) and Center for Integrative Medicine.
- Paul Brenner, M.D., Ph.D. continues with his educational videos and working on research in Epigenetics and his “Family Triangles” method.
- Mary Hollander R.N. continues with her outstanding online nutrition program: “Reality Based Nutrition”, filled with inspiration and wisdom.
- Alessandra Colfi, Ph.D., continues to expand the International Hope Made Visible™ (HMV) project: creating and sharing artful flags among cancer patients, survivors, families/friends, and caregivers. This project has created over 1,200 flags, from all over the USA, Canada, Colombia, Argentina, Guatemala, Ghana, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, and Australia. These flags have been sent for exhibitions in Europe and throughout our communities for display in several venues. Hope Made Visible™ has also collaborated with Habitat for Humanity’s Veterans Program.
- The SDCRI Integrative Volunteers will meet again for its annual “SDCRI Integrative Medicine Volunteer Appreciation Dinner”. They will again be thanked and reminded of how grateful SDCRI and the community are for their outstanding care and service. The volunteers continue to express their gratitude for the experience they had working with cancer patients over the last 15 years.
- Dr. Vicario continues to be a Faculty speaker at the Chopra center educational program “Journey into Healing”, which takes place twice a year.
- SDCRI has organized collaborative meetings between Dr. Ralph Greenspan, co-creator of the “Brain Initiative”, Dr. Paul Mills from UCSD CERTIH and Dr. Paul Brenner.
- SDCRI has obtained three trademarks: “San Diego Cancer Research Institute”, “Hope Made Visible” and “The Promise of Research, The Science of Healing”.
The Integrative program volunteers and the San Diego community continued to be an integral part of SDCRI’s growth in 2016. The SDCRI board remains deeply grateful for all this support and looks forward to its continued growth in 2017.
Daniel Vicario, M.D.
Our international, educational initiative started 4 years ago, inspired by the Nepalese and Tibetan flags, which symbolically bring healing blessings across lands, mountains, and reach out to distant communities.
It’s been very inspiring and rewarding to follow the developments of this initiative, with many opportunities to share and build a virtual community based on local and non-local healing, aimed at fostering empathy and resilience among cancer patients.
Local workshops have been periodically offered through our Expressive Arts Therapist Alessandra Colfi and her programs. Sharp Healthcare was one of the first local group to join in. Currently a new series is being offered at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, followed by a series at UC San Diego Cancer Center in Encinitas in 2017.
Cancer patients have been engaged in guided relaxation, visualization, hands-on art making processes to create personal flags made mostly with fabric, paint, trims, quotes or personal messages.
Data have been collected in the form of narratives, patients’ feedback, and self-assessment / self-reporting tools, which Alessandra administers as surveys at the beginning and at the end of each 8-week segment for local groups; the principal tool is the Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale of 25 items (CD-RISC), created by Jonathan R. T. Davidson, M.D. and Kathryn M. Connor, M.D of Duke University, to assess depression and distress symptoms, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and patients’ resilience.
CD-RISC surveys show improvements of 6 to 20 points over 100, showing reduction in various pain and anxiety symptoms, in patients’ confidence in coping with the disease and in managing stress.
Participants’ feedback shows improvements in fostering empathy and their resilience by making and sharing flags. Expressions of patients’ feelings and emotions onto flags become catalysts for symbolic understanding and transformation.
The call to join in and sharing their cancer journeys through art flags has been answered by groups, individuals, and families; for example, MACMA, a Breast Cancer Support Group in Buenos Aires, Argentina, dedicated several sessions to create flags together and sent them all to us.
It was very meaningful and exciting when in February 2015 Alicia Galdeano, who runs MACMA, visited our Hope Made Visible™ exhibition at Front Porch Gallery in Carlsbad.
In Guatemala, Art Therapist Paulina Buonafina engaged patients at INCAN, oncology hospital in Guatemala City, making a long string of flags to add to our collection very early on. This year she embraced Hope Made Visible™ on her own, offering several workshops in the community to create flags; she plans to host a public installation with all the flags in March 2017. Another exciting development to look forward to! www.arteterapiaguatemala.com
In 2014, San Diego Cancer Research Institute received the invitation to exhibit Hope Made Visible™ and all artwork made by patients, at the Heritage of the Americas Museum, at Cuyamaca College in San Diego. The whole community of patients, families and practitioners came together to celebrate the healing spirit and the dedication of all the artists, and to remember those who live on in our hearts.
City of Hope requested a presentation and a training for some of their Social Workers, Chaplains, and Nurses so that they could engage their patients in creating flags; at the same time, all the flags were featured in the Atrium at the Outpatient Clinic during Spiritual Care Week in October 2014. The impact was so remarkable that City of Hope then requested to keep the flags on display for the whole month.
At the same time, in Germany, Gabriele Heyd combined flag-making workshops with outreach, marketing, and PR to share “Fahnen furs Leben” (Flags for Life) across the Country, exhibiting at a variety of venues, including a Rehab Conference in Karlsruhe in April 2015.
In March 2016 Hope Made Visible™ flags have been displayed at the American Psychosocial Oncology Society Conference – www.APOS-Society.org , and featured as an exhibition booth and as research poster. The only art program at the conference!
In July and August 2016, the full display of flags provided a symbolic canopy at Oceanside Public Library, adding another layer of patients’ satisfaction, pride, and feeling connected beyond cancer. It’s been especially meaningful and timely for the library staff who lost 2 of their own members to cancer this year.
Last September Alessandra presented Hope Made Visible™ to medical school students from Dokkyo University (Japan), on a week-long visit at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center. Together they took the opportunity to learn about mind-body-spirit modalities available to support oncology patients and their families, and to make their own flags to take back to Japan to inspire colleagues and other clinicians to join in the global initiative.
Hope Made Visible™ poster was also entered in a competition at the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine Conference “People, Planet, Purpose” – www.AIHM.org – this past October in San Diego. On November 4th, the last day of the conference, Alessandra shared about her Expressive Arts Therapy program including Hope Made Visible™ at the Consciousness and Healing Initiative Summit: The Healing (R)Evolution – www.CHI.is.
Alessandra has just completed a 2-year program at Habitat for Humanity; Hope Made Visible was well received by Veterans experiencing homelessness, addictions, PTSD. “Thank you so much Alessandra! Your work with our veterans has been magnificent and deeply appreciated. “ (Donna Deutchman, CEO, Habitat for Humanity SF/SCV).
The invitation to create and gather flags is always open and encouraged, as well as considerations for exhibitions locally and internationally. More than 1,000 have been collected so far, all unique in their symbolic expressions of hope, healing, challenges, sorrows, joy, and resilience.
Hope Made Visible™ – Part II: Research Studies
The use of Art for healing is well documented and supported by positive impact on the health and quality of life of oncology and other patients. Besides the data already collected, there could be interesting opportunities for further research; studies would be desirable on multiple fronts:
1-Simple, low-cost tests to evaluate distress and anxiety in patients and their caregivers are necessary to identify and implement early intervention. Distress Screening has become mandatory in cancer care since 2015.
Biofeedback screening such as BioWell http://www.bio-well.com/ could be used in a study to identify, monitor, and evaluate patients’ energy, stress, and vitals.
2- Is ‘a sense of coherence’ what makes the difference in boosting patients’ resilience?
Often patients seek complementary modalities on their own and after several months of their initial diagnosis. In an integrated model of care patients can safely access complimentary modalities.
Clinicians often note higher cooperation by patients who are engaged in supportive complementary modalities like Expressive Arts Therapy.
Clinicians often report fewer pain medications prescribed and fewer visits to those same patients, thus reducing costs and increasing capacity.
3- Is art making a catalyst for lower inflammatory response in the body?
The effect of mindfulness on inflammatory health was shown in a study by David Creswell, PhD, published in February this year. This research showed changes in brain circuitry and reduced inflammation after three days of mindfulness training, while three days of relaxation did not have the same effect. Creswell explains the difference in impact between mindfulness meditation and relaxation:
“We show that mindfulness meditation impacts measurable brain circuits more so than helpful relaxation practices, and that these brain circuit changes help us understand how mindfulness meditation improves health. Mindfulness teaches participants how to be more open and attentive to their experiences, even difficult ones. By contrast, relaxation approaches are good in the moment for making the body feel relaxed, but… harder to translate when you’re dealing with difficult stressors in your life. This new work sheds light into what mindfulness training is doing to the brain to produce these inflammatory health benefits.” (Creswell, 2016, Carnegie Mellon University)
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There is No Magic Pill for Burnout
by Jimena Galfaso, MD
Introduction to article:
When this article, There is No Magic Pill for Burnout, was shared with me by Dr. Vicario, I realized how the subject is not unique to just one group. The burnout that Dr. Jimena Galfaso so beautifully describes also effects volunteers, healers, therapists, caregivers & patients.
Read the article to find out how to “make deposits in our wellbeing bank account, nourish our bodies, minds and souls”.
As we all know, there is no magic pill to prevent or treat burnout. If there were, many in the healthcare professions, including most physicians and nurses would be taking them. Unfortunately, the current setup of the medical system leads many practitioners to suffer from burnout for years, which is frequently associated with alcoholism and drug abuse, and can result in them leaving their profession or even committing suicide. We are all aware of this paradox, where we take care of patients’ health, but are not as good at taking care of our own. As a physician myself, I suffered from burnout for many years before I realized there was something I could do about it.
Not only is there no magic pill, but there is no formula either. There are, however, ways to start paying attention to our own health in order to prevent burnout or treat it if we’re already suffering from it. Most practitioners in healthcare are deeply committed to offering high quality service to their patients. Yet we all know that when we’re exhausted, depressed, irritable or numb we cannot provide the best
care to those who we have pledged to serve.
Burnout is caused by an imbalance between what “comes in” and what “goes out”. As healthcare practitioners we give, give and then give some more. Most of us work long hours in environments that are stressful, and where we are faced with others’ suffering almost constantly. Often, our tendency is simply to go numb and keep going, until one day we collapse, or we quit, or our partner leaves us, or we get sick. That is often what it takes for us to start paying attention. But what if we can prevent this from happening and create a practice that is fulfilling, satisfying, meaningful and that makes us feel recharged and enlivened?
I am not going to lie to you: it’s not going to happen overnight. But it can be done, if you are committed to your own wellbeing, and that of those around you. It’s important to remember that burnout not only affects us. It also affects our loved ones, our patients and our colleagues. We’re social animals and we are constantly attuning to each other. Research shows that when two people (or more) are emotionally attuned, they have the similar brain waves in an EEG. So if we’re burned out, we cannot help but pass this on to those around us, like ripples in a pond.
In order to address this imbalance between the “giving and receiving”, we need to look at the different dimensions of our humanity: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and social. An important question is: what nourishes us, in each of these dimensions? We need to fill the “wellbeing bank account” before we keep withdrawing funds, and most of us have been in red for quite a while already.
What nourishes you at the physical level? What foods, what kind of exercise? Do you get enough touch and physical contact? Do you get enough sleep? Enough rest during the day? What are your recharging and restoring routines?
At the emotional level: are you in touch with your emotions? Do you know how to process them so they can move through your system and not get stuck so that you have to numb yourself or repress them in order to function? Emotions are powerful information about what is happening and they are crucial when it comes to making decisions. Instead of fearing “being emotional”, we can learn to feel our emotions without allowing them to control us. They allow us to be more connected with ourselves and with others, to create more meaningful relationships – with loved ones, colleagues and patients, which in turn nourishes us and recharges us.
At the mental level, are you having significant and meaningful conversations, so that you feel inspired and are open to learning? Do you take the time to read what interests you?
Do you have relationships that nourish your heart and soul? Do you have a support system that you can rely on when you need it? Do you make time to spend with your loved ones and to make meaningful connections? Do you have the skills and tools to manage the relationships that are challenging?
Do you have a spiritual connection or practice that nourishes your soul? Do you feel aligned with a higher purpose, call it God, Mystery, Universe, or whatever you like to call It? Do you feel held by the unknowable, or do you feel alone and isolated, wondering what this is all about?
These are some of the questions that we can consider, to start making deposits in our wellbeing bank account, nourishing our bodies, minds and souls. It might feel overwhelming to consider all these questions at once. My invitation is to pick one or two, and start taking baby steps in the right direction. One of my favorite practices that has helped me tremendously in my own healing process is appreciation and gratitude. Research has shown that focusing on gratitude not only increases people’s personal wellbeing but it also improves their health.
Just like when one of your patients has terrible habits, you can’t ask them to change their diet, exercise daily and get a less stressful job all in one month, you probably can’t do that either. But if they were to eat just one more vegetable every day, imagine how different they might feel in 2 months. It might give them the extra energy to walk up their office stairs each morning instead of taking the elevator. After a few months of that, they may even feel up to walking a mile on the weekend. And then their sleep would improve. And then their cortisol levels would drop a bit. And they wouldn’t crave as much sugar. Imagine how this might continue to unfold over 12 months… and the only thing they needed to think about was adding one vegetable per day.
Similarly, what (seemingly small) action step can you take today? Maybe adding that extra vegetable, or going to bed 15 minutes earlier, instead of checking your email or Facebook right before you go to bed. Or maybe you can take a few minutes each night to think what you feel grateful for. Or tell your partner, child, colleague or friend something you appreciate about them. Again, start small. Start with changing one habit at a time, and allow that to build over time. After a while, it gets easier.
When we sacrifice our health for our calling, everyone loses. The best way to help others is to help yourself first, so that you can keep serving in a way that is sustainable and even joyful. Everyone that you touch will benefit from your investment.
What is Yoga Therapy
and 3 important ways it helps cancer patients heal.
By Monique Lonner, Yoga Therapist
Yoga Therapy is a 4,000 year old complimentary healing modality that uses gentle body movement, breathing techniques and progressive relaxation practices to bring all the body systems into a synchronistic bio-rhythm that has been proven to engender healing.
Science has recently taken a good hard look at the healing properties of yoga in regard to many different conditions. Back pain, anxiety, depression heart disease and cancer are all areas in which therapeutic yoga has been proven to be healing and curative.
In medically published studies cancer patients who participated in therapeutic yoga practice on an on-going basis reported less anxiety and depression, lessened fatigue, improved sleep, improved physical strength, decreased treatment side effects, a favorable immune response, decreased DNA damage at the end of radiotherapy, more favorable post operative outcomes, physical and mental invigoration, empowerment and improved coping skills.
If this kind of complimentary medicine came in a pill form we’d probably line up to take it!
Why is yoga so helpful on the path of cancer recovery? There are a myriad of reasons, some known, some are still not completely understood. Let’s take a look at 3 top reasons why yoga therapy is a wonderful complimentary modality to cancer treatment and recovery.
1. Stress reduction
Stress has been scientifically proven to decrease immunity and increase inflammation.
Immunity cells help control malignant cells as they form in the body. Prolonged stress can diminish the immune system response to cancer cells because when we are stressed our immune system is busy looking outward for the imminent danger – like a tiger – rather than looking inside for a cancer or virus. It’s as if immune system prioritizes to help us escape and recover from the tiger attack first, then tend to the inner terrain second.
In preparation for the tiger attack the body is sending more blood flow to the arms and legs to prepare to run or fight and shunting it off from the organs and other non immediately necessary systems, including hormones, digestion and reproduction.
It also is readying the body with global inflammation which will help to heal cuts and tears should we be bitten and scratched.
This is great – if we’re being attacked by a tiger. But generally our everyday stress has little to do with a life-threatening animal attack. Because many of us are under constant stress this imbalance of our immune, circulatory, digestive, reproductive and hormonal systems has become chronic and can be fertile ground for cancer to form and flourish.
In recent years inflammation has come under medical scrutiny for its unique role in supporting the growth of cancerous tumors. One of the most important things that therapeutic yoga practice offers cancer patients is the “Relaxation Response”. This physiological state of harmony reverses the stress response. It stops the production of hormones and chemicals in the body that produce inflammation, reduces muscular tension and pain levels, returns blood flow to the organs and balances the body systems. Importantly it also bolsters the right kind of immune response helping the body to better fight the cancer cells.
2. Increased circulation
The heart pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood a day through 60,000 miles of blood vessels which weave throughout muscle tissue, organs and bones. The blood is the body’s delivery system of oxygen and nutrients to all the cells. When fatigue makes us more sedentary and the muscles get painful and stiff the tightness can make it harder for the heart to pump blood to all the areas that need nourishment.
The lack of oxygen and nutrients increases the fatigue and pain levels and the body gets even stiffer in a vicious circle.
Therapeutic yoga practice moves every joint with gentle motion. This helps to engender greater blood flow to the bodily tissues which in turn provides greater oxygenation and nourishment to the cells. When the cells are nourished they feel better and heal better. Adding even the gentlest amount of movement, like wiggling fingers and rotating wrists and ankles helps increase circulation.
Movement also provides relief for the heart muscle. Skeletal muscular movement acts as second pump for the circulatory system and takes pressure off the heart; this can reduce the incidence of heart disease and reduce fatigue. When movement is coordinated with breathing, as it is in yoga practice, the body finds a more harmonious bio-rhythm heightening these results.
Both the yogic and Chinese forms for complimentary medicine ascribe to the theory that stuck and stagnant life force in the body (Prana and Qi respectively) can contribute to disease and moving that life force, through yoga, qi gong and acupuncture, can facilitate healing on a very deep and profound level.
3. Lymph drainage
If the circulatory system is the main food delivery system for the cells, the lymphatic system is largely the clean up crew. The body has a large system of lymphatic vessels and lymph nodes. Within the system flows a clear watery fluid called lymph. These are all part of the body’s immune system and play a big role in fighting invaders, filtering out unwanted cells and riding the body of toxins. Since cancer treatment involves ingesting a large amount of necessary toxins a healthy lymphatic system is very beneficial to the healing process.
Unlike the circulatory system the lymphatic system has no pump of its own. Muscular movement is necessary for the movement of the lymph fluid. Stuck lymph fluid means stuck toxins in the body and can create swelling of the lymph nodes and ultimately a condition called lymphodema.
Yoga practice offers specific movements and poses which help move the lymph fluid and support a healthy immune system.
According to yogic philosophy moving toxins out of the body is even more important than bringing nutrients in. The belief is that if the body is filled with toxins then the life force becomes blocked and stagnant allowing disease to ensue. Yoga movements help remove the toxins so the life force can move freely. Then there is room for nutrients to enter and healing can occur.
These are only three of the great benefits that yoga therapy can provide someone going through cancer treatment and recovery. New studies examining how yoga therapy can aid the body in healing and preventing disease are regularly conducted and published.
As a Yoga Therapist I am always encouraged by these new studies but I am never surprised by their positive findings. Yoga wouldn’t have lasted 4,000 years if it didn’t work!
The Life of a Therapy Dog
by Isabella with a little help from my handler mom, Teri
I’m Isabella. I am a Love on a Leash therapy dog. My mom says I am love and joy all tangled up on one leash.
Pet therapy is not new, it has been around for quite some time. Even Florence Nightingale wrote about the animal human relationship, and our ability to heal each other. Like you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.
It’s a tough job being a therapy dog but someone has to do it.
You would think it would be easy to be cute, to attract attention, to make people smile and feel better. Well, it’s not THAT easy. It was a commitment and challenge that I was up for!
We have to follow some rules!
First we have to be potty trained. Make no mistake, they do not want us marking up the clinic!
Then we go to school. It’s called Canine Good Citizen Training. We learn to SIT, LAY DOWN, SHAKE, STAY–I almost flunked right there. We have to sit and stay for 2 whole minutes, I felt 1 minute 45 seconds was sufficient. We couldn’t even move if there was a lot of commotion, not even to check things out. We had to learn LEAVE IT, just in case there was a pill or something on the floor we may pick up and eat. I’m pretty close to the floor so LEAVE IT was an important command for me to learn.
I had to learn that I couldn’t jump up on you and absolutely no kissing.
What I say, I’m a Frenchie, and they named French kissing after me! How can I earn your love and affection without a kiss?
Not only do we have to be well behaved we have to take weekly baths and get shots! That’s tough! We don’t want to bring you any germs that might make you sick.
There is real science that supports the use of therapy dogs like me in the clinical setting. You and I know it’s just more fun hanging out with a dog but now there is scientific proof!
A nurse at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine heads up the research on Animal and Human interaction, they have found that hanging out with animals can increase one of the humans hormone levels called oxytocin. She says oxytocin is a feel good hormone and when we feel good we are more trusting. 1
I love people and people love me! I love the patients, staff, even the other therapy dogs.
Did you know people who have dogs heal faster? No kidding! There is research that proves that too! Research shows that pet therapy programs help patients heal faster, and decrease anxiety and stress. No surprise to me, remember I’m a therapy dog.
According to NPR, (National Public Radio) If you pet me your blood pressure can go down. I can help you live longer by taking you out for a walk. By just interacting with me, your body heals itself. 2
Researchers have found that patients have reported decreased pain and measured decreased catecholamines which are released during the body’s stress response, along with a increase in the endorphins—that’s the feel good hormones after a visit by a therapy dog. 3
The National Institute of Health has done studies on therapy dogs and their people. We MUST be an important part of the healthcare team if the government is interested in researching things about us.
I can reduce your stress and anxiety and help you never feel alone. 2 You don’t have to limit yourself to visits with me, cats are pretty good too but don’t tell the other dogs I said that. All pets give unconditional love. We love you, you feel better and you get better fast.
Now where are the cookies?
1. Pet Therapy: How Animals And Humans Heal Each Other, Email, March 5, 20123:44 AM ET, Heard on Morning Edition, JULIE ROVNER NPR
2. Hajar, R. (2015). Animal-Assisted Therapy. Heart Views : The Official Journal of the Gulf Heart Association, 16(2), 70–71
3. Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2013 Apr;17(4) The science behind animal-assisted therapy. Marcus DA1.
Teri Polley-Michea is a RN/Massage Therapist, Energy worker, a volunteer for Love on a Leash, Girl Friends Care, and North County Cancer Fitness. As a nurse massage therapist she specializes in oncology massage and massage for clients with complicated medical histories. She incorporates Reiki, and Healing touch into her healing sessions. Teri teaches oncology massage and medical massage courses at several local massage schools and privately. Teri has worked with UCSD’s Center for Integrative Medicine as a Massage Therapist, Director of Massage, and Massage Program Manager. Teri is in private practice full time in Carlsbad, Ca. Isabella meets and greets all of her massage clients.
More about Isabella mom, Teri Polley
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FUSION OF INTEGRATIVE METHODS OF HEALING
CRANIO SACRAL – HEALING STONES -SOUND – COLORS AND FLOWERS
by Blanca Noel
As human beings gifted with the powers of assimilation, we travel in and out of dimensions interwoven in a present of activity and stillness, sound and silence, light and darkness, participation and stagnation, desire and indifference, connection and disconnection, ability an inability, joy and sadness, health and unhealthiness, freedom and oppression, relaxation and stress and many more steps in the staircase of life.
Due to natural conflicts and disruptions of daily living, a deterioration in the human alignment begins to take place, causing a variety of malfunctions of the self that will eventually be manifested in a woven web of energetic entanglements, that will create unhealthy situations requiring intervention.
It is precisely at this point, when skilled integrative methods of healing become essential in the process of regeneration or reintegration.
CranioSacral therapy with its subtle management of the spinal fluid, promotes thru the pathways of nerves, vessels, muscles, bones, organs and lymphatic regions a dramatic embodiment of optimum well-being. Forming a bridge of energy between patient/client that clears and cleanses the impurities that have produced cell changes and dysfunctions.
When the use of Semiprecious Healing Stones is added to CST ( CranioSacral Therapy ), the process of well-being moves a step higher, healing stones are the flowers of the center of the earth, that thru millions of years have encapsulated the planetary energy that can be transmitted during a therapeutic procedure.
The special stones are applied in different areas of the body in accordance to the needs of the individual, the stones different vibrational rates and ranges will accelerate the healing process. Not all stones are created equal, some have the ability to heal and others are objects of beauty.
The stone color, size, weight, brilliance, translucency and opaqueness, have much to do in the effectiveness of treatment. The therapist, the stones and the client/patient become interconnected in waves of multidimensional healing.
The birthing places of the stones leave an electromagnetic imprint that ameliorates the physical, mental or emotional difficulties exhibited by the client/patient, such is the value of their proper use, they are perfect gifts from mother nature to alleviate human disorders.
Healing stones are not only place on the individual seeking comfort, but are also placed under the therapy table and in different areas of the therapy room.
Stone essences may also be made to promote further improvement.
Tibetan Healing bowls, bells, gongs, chimes and rain sticks, may be implemented as part of the healing method. As with the stones the bowls can be on or around the person, and may be played to soothe the soul by following the inner dialogue between the client/patient and the therapist.
Flower essence sprays may be used to unify all the techniques used during therapy, they are the dancing drops of joy and peace that wrap the session, allowing the person seeking assistance to go deeper into the dimension of optimum wellness.
Blanca Noel uses all the methods described above, and has been able to make of her practice a daily meditation, she communes with the celestial assistance and flows with the energy that surrounds us all. As an instrument, her hands assist in repairing energetic disruptions in the filaments of the aura. She enters into a silent soul dialogue with her clients, that has allowed her to develop the “Art of Soul Dialoguing”, taught by her in Encinitas and in Colombia.
Blanca’s web site is: www.blancanoel.com
by Kim Taylor, DAOM, L.Ac.
Bone broth is by no means a recent trend. It is an ancient super food that is simple, delicious, and effective, and has been a mainstay among traditional cultures worldwide for thousands of years. If you have ever been satisfied by a comforting bowl of chicken soup when you have a cold, then you have already experienced this ancient wisdom. Science and tradition tell us that bone broth is very nourishing, but how nourishing will vary depending on the diet and lifestyle of the animal, how it is processed, and what other vegetables, herbs and spices are added to the broth (Fallon, 2014).
Cooking with bones is akin to cooking with the “roots” of the animal. Bones should be from locally sourced, grass-fed animals, and wild caught fish. Broth is then slow simmered with a touch of apple cider vinegar for many hours to maximize the extraction of amino acids and minerals. Because these parts of the animal often go to waste, this becomes a sustainable practice from an ethical and economical perspective. Bones are often less expensive than muscle and organ meats, and practically any vegetable scraps may be added to the broth for flavor and nutrients (Chen and Mojica, 2016). Medicinal herbs and spices may also be added to target specific health concerns. The savory, umami taste is derived from glutamates released during the simmering process, in similar concentrations to those found in breast milk, making a tasty bone broth the ultimate comfort food (Agostini, et al., 2000 as cited in Chen and Mojica, 2016).
In today’s world of growing epidemics of mental and physical illness, where people are regularly taking antibiotics and other pharmaceutical drugs, and where food is laced with chemicals unrecognizable to our bodies, an increasing number of people have damaged, abnormal gut flora dominated by pathogenic microbes (Boynton and Brackett, 2014). This results in the inability to nourish the body properly, and may produce toxins that absorb into the bloodstream and cause inflammation and disease (Chen and Mojica, 2016). Inflammation is linked to many types of diseases, including cancer, arthritis and other autoimmune conditions. Patients receiving chemotherapy are exceptionally vulnerable to stomach damage and leaky gut issues, loss of appetite and taste. Eating can feel like more of a chore than a pleasure, which may compromise nutrition and quality of life. In addition, with aging and poor health, the body loses some of its ability to repair connective tissue such as bone, tendon, ligament, cartilage, skin, hair and nails.
Bone broth is rich in collagen, cartilage, bone, and marrow, which are the building blocks needed to rebuild and rejuvenate. The highest concentration of iron is found in the marrow, and is responsible for the transport of oxygen and production of red blood cells. Marrow is prized as a sacred, energizing and regenerative food by native cultures around the world, and is the first part to be eaten, instinctively, by animals after a kill (Fallon, 2014). Marrow is the site of hematopoiesis, or the process by which stem cells produce the cellular components of all of the different blood cell types and tissues critical for survival. These include but are not limited to the erythrocytes (red blood cells) for oxygen transport and lymphocytes (white blood cells), including the natural killer (NK) cells, T cells, and B cells needed for a strong immune system. Today’s research on stem cells places marrow at the center of some of the most far reaching work of modern science, as well as to the center of the table in many of today’s fine restaurants. According to Anthony Bourdain, “If God made butter, it would taste exactly like bone marrow.”
Bone broth contains four key amino acids: Glutamine, glycine, proline and alanine. Glutamine is fundamental for rebuilding a gastrointestinal tract damaged by stress or illness. When combined with glycine, the body synthesizes glutathione, which is the body’s primary detoxifying antioxidant, so bone broth not only nourishes, but also detoxifies the body. Glycine facilitates the production of other amino acids involved in many bodily functions, such as building blood, aiding in the production of glucose, enhancing gastric acid secretion, assisting in wound healing, and detoxification of the liver (Chen and Mojica, 2016). Healthy people should not be deficient in glycine, but during stress, illness or exposure to toxins, the body may not synthesize sufficient amounts. Proline and glycine are the building blocks of cartilage and collagen, responsible for healthy joints and skin. Proline is found in virtually all animal and plant proteins, so deficiency should be rare. However individuals not eating enough protein, either from a high carbohydrate, low protein, low fat or vegan diet may be lacking. Common sense tells us that millions of people suffering from stiff joints, skin diseases and other diseases related to cartilage and connective tissue, may not be healthy enough to manufacture sufficient amounts of proline and glycine (Fallon, 2014). Alanine assists in liver function and glucose metabolism. Bone matrix also provides other trace minerals such as boron, phosphorus, calcium and magnesium, necessary for nerve transmission, gland function, and healthy bones and muscles.
The wonderful thing about preparing bone broth is that it leads to so many delicious dishes, and with a bit of practice, anyone can have broth on hand at all times. The goal to making a good broth is to make sure it sets up as a solid gel when you put it in the refrigerator. The gelatin content is what makes the broth the most nutrient dense. For a gelatinous broth, use bones that have plenty of cartilage. Meat contains only about 1% by weight of collagen while bones contain 20% collagen. Pig and chicken skin contain approximately 30% cartilage, and veal knuckles and pig’s feet contain a whopping 40%. This means that for chicken stock, include backs, wings, necks and feet, and for beef stock, use knuckles or tailbones (sold as oxtail) and feet, along with more meaty bones like shanks or ribs (Fallon, 2014). You can easily make chicken or turkey stock by boiling up a left over carcass, then adding in feet, wings or backs to your stock pot to make broth. Broth is traditionally made in a large, stainless steel stock pot and cooked on a gentle simmer, 4-6 hours, (6-10 hours for beef broth) or longer, if desired. Some people advocate cooking broth for a full 24 hours, for maximum extraction of nutrients. People new to broth should use shorter cooking times at first, because some people have a slightly allergic reaction to the higher levels of glutamine found in longer cooked broth. Broth can also be made in a slow cooker, ladling off what you eat each day and replacing with water. Discard bones after 5-7 days.
Basic Chicken Broth Recipe (Fallon, 2014):
1 whole chicken (pasture raised), or 3-4 pounds bony chicken parts such as necks, backs, breastbones,
2 chicken feet or chicken head, or one split pig’s foot (optional)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
4 quarts filtered water, or just enough to cover the bones
2 large onions, coarsely chopped, skin may be left on
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
2 celery sticks
1 bunch parsley sprigs, thyme sprigs and bay leaf, tied together with kitchen string
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns, crushed
Remove innards for other uses. Place chicken in a large stockpot. Add vinegar and enough filtered water to cover the bones. Let stand for 30-60 minutes. Place over medium heat, uncovered and bring to a simmer. Remove any scum that rises to the top. Add the vegetables and return to a simmer, then lower heat to low. Cook at a simmer with lid off or askew for 4-6 hours, occasionally skimming scum as needed. Check that the water always covers the top of the bones. Remove chicken bones with a slotted spoon and reserve the meat for other dishes. Strain the broth through a mesh strainer into 2 quart Pyrex containers or mason jars. If not using right away, cool to room temperature and freeze. Bone broth can also be purchased in the frozen food section of many markets, such as Jimbo’s and Whole foods, or ordered online and delivered frozen. Broth and bouillon found on supermarket shelves and not frozen contain none of the nutrition of real bone broth, are usually full of sodium and other preservatives, and should be avoided.
Bone broth belongs to the current trend toward sustainable, farm to table, organic cooking and farming, and the traditional foods movement, oftentimes called “the return to grandmother’s kitchen.” This way of eating is based in the foods of gardens and farms, and represents a system of balance, that emphasizes the value of meat, grain, beans, vegetables and fruits. While other diets and eating philosophies restrict animal products, such as vegan and vegetarian diets, or restrict grains and dairy such as the Paleo diet, the traditional foods movement encourages all of these foods as well as the purchase of locally produced meats, milks, cheeses and fats from grass-fed and pasture-raised animals. While the raw foods movement restricts cooked foods, the traditional foods movement embraces them, honoring the place of cooking as one of balance and partnership with raw foods, and fermented foods as well (McGruther, 2014). Bone broth has also gained media attention lately as a sipping broth, for a satisfying coffee alternative. Sipping bars are cropping up around the country and broth is being combined with many different flavor pallets and ingredients for a healthy snack on the go. A cup of broth is packed with essential nutrition, heals the gut, and calms the soul.
1. Fallon, S. (2014). Nourishing broth, an old-fashioned remedy for the modern world. New York, NY. Grand Central Life and Style.
2. McGruther, J. (2014). The nourished kitchen. New York, NY. Ten Speed Press.
3. Chen, T. & Mojica, L. (2016). Bone deep broth: healing recipes with bone broth. New York, NY. Sterling Epicure.
From Tennis Player to Caregiver
by Suzi Martel
The sandwich generation, that’s us; baby boomers who find themselves sandwiched between careers and caring for our parents or other family members who can no longer care for them-selves. Caregiving is a full time job in and of itself; one which we take on with gusto and a full heart.
Taking on the role of caregiver usually means putting your own life aside for a season. Time once spent on the court, is now time spent sitting in doctor’s office waiting rooms, multiple trips to the pharmacy or ER, or learning to cook and shop for specialized meals.
Keep Your Sanity ~ Get Organized
Caregiving also takes an incredible amount of organization and attention to detail, especially if the one you are caring for requires multiple medications and has multiple medical specialists.
In my seven years of caring for my brother, who had up to nine simultaneous medications, some requiring daily dosage changes; four doctors – specialists in their respective fields – visited monthly; regular lab visits; two pieces of medical equipment to maintain; weight, liquid, and sodium intake charts to update daily; weekly reports and daily phone calls to one of his specialists; and a specialized diet to prepare – organization was as important as were his medications.
My saving grace was a 3-ring binder with color coded tabs. Each specialist was assigned a color, which correlated with the color of ink used to document each doctor’s appointment dates and times on my month-at-a-glance calendar – yes the good old hardcopy variety!
Since each doctor was associated with a different medical group, exchanging information from my brother’s appointments with each other didn’t always happen, and having the left hand know what the right hand was doing was essential. Given today’s technology, every doctor’s office receptionist has the ability to print out the doctor’s notes from that visit before you leave the office. Conveniently enough, they also all have 3-hole punches! My notebook was always with me and updated immediately with each doctor’s notes. Not only did this help me keep my brother’s medical issues organized in my overloaded brain, the doctors loved my notebook! I took it to every visit we had with every doctor. The cardiologist always knew what was happening with the pulmonologist and the oncologist, including the individual lab reports each one of them had ordered; which gave them the ability to adjust their recommendations accordingly.
My, not so little, notebook also helped me in other ways. I had a tab for meal plans that kept with-in my brother’s dietary restrictions, and recipes that were nutritious and palatable for everyone. I had a section for contacts that were easy to access in an emergency, people and organizations that offered help when needed, insurance documents, and notes of the nurses and doctors favorite things, said in passing, to reference for gift ideas at Christmas time.
Employing Your Tennis Racquet Bag off the Court
As you can imagine, this was a lot to haul around! Not wanting to carry a very large purse or high school style backpack, it was time for my, very fashionable, tennis racquet bag to come out of the closet. It was perfect, stylish, and held everything I needed while sitting in a waiting room for hours on end. Did I mention it was stylish?
I kept my bag packed and ready to go at a moment’s notice, which made trips to the ER less frantic. Aside from my notebook, I always had new bottles of water, my Kindle, an extra pair of reading glasses, money for parking, my favorite tea bags, some chocolate (always a blessing during long nights in the ER), a sweater and a pair of warm socks – as hospitals are often cold – and an extra house key – don’t ask.
There’s an App for That!
Since the days of caring for my brother I have discovered an app called CareZone Mobile – https://carezone.com/home . Since an android version of the app wasn’t available during the time I cared for my brother I have not used it personally (the app is now available for android and apple products). However it looks like it will store all the information the binder did and then some – and it’s free!
Whether you use the binder system or an app to keep yourself organized, I still recommend having a bag packed with ER trip essentials; just in case.
As caregivers, we may not be serving up victories on the tennis court, but we are serving up a lot of love!
Suzi Martel is a freelance lifestyle writer who was a caregiver for her brother for over seven years. She has a heart for helping others and has made it her quest to write informative, entertaining copy on a variety of topics.
Your Complete Guide to Mastering Healthy Eating on a Budget:
by Chef Jessica Leibovich
Many families spend up to half of the money they earn monthly on meals making it one of the largest expenses. It doesn’t have to be, though, there are ways to keep the food costs down and still eat healthy delicious meals. Healthy eating isn’t rocket science, but our stressful and busy lives make convenience items and restaurants seem more appealing than a healthy and budgeted home prepared meal. If you make healthy eating convenient and affordable at the same time, you’ll have no problem switching to better food. It will just become a regular habit.
Healthy doesn’t always mean expensive, but it always means real. Real food is healthy. Eating whole is eating healthy. If it is in a box or a bag, just because it does not have a lot of calories, does not mean it is healthy. Make your own food! Eat fresh, eat whole.
If you are not used to cooking your own food, there will be a bit of an initial investment in stocking the kitchen but you will quickly see it pay off as you eat from home more and more often.
I also strongly suggest you get a good kitchen knife. This will make cooking more enjoyable. You do not need to buy an expensive set. Having just one chef’s knife and a good paring knife, is really all you need.
Here are two great knives that will literally last a lifetime (if you treat them well).
Chef’s Knife: http://amzn.to/1Z65wgf
Paring Knife: http://amzn.to/1Z65m8F
Chef Jessica’s Top Ten Tips to Healthy Eating on a Budget:
- Do your own grocery shopping and cooking for as many meals as you can: I recommend all breakfasts (breakfast out is almost never healthy), 5 lunches, and 5 dinners all be made from home. That gives you 4 meals a week to eat out. This is the most I would suggest. To me, this is a lot! Does this sound challenging to you? If so, you are probably spending too much on food and not eating as healthy as you could.
- Shop from the circular: Before you even head into the grocery store, you should read the circular or weekly ad and find out which items on sale you would like to buy. You can view it online or grab one in the store before you start to shop. I will often plan my meals from the circular. This alone will save you a ton of money!
- Go to more than one store to find the best price: Often different stores have different items on sale. Finding what stores or farmers market vendors have the best prices for your favorite item is the most cost efficient way to shop. Limiting this to two stores will minimize time constraints as running all over town will defeat the purpose. In my community of Carlsbad, I love Sprouts for meat and produce, Costco for a few staples, and Farmer’s markets for additional veggies
- Keep a rotation of favorites and plan your meals: Honey Chicken Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, Flank Steak Wednesdays, Dad’s Famous Chicken Sundays, etc. They don’t always have to be on the same day if something is not looking fresh at the store or another item is on sale but having a solid 5-7 meals that everyone loves on a weekly rotation will ensure you have many of the pantry items available which saves time and money. It also is less to think about when answering the big question “What’s for dinner?”.
- Shop seasonally: Asparagus is $1.97 a pound in the Spring but $4.99 in the Fall. Often shopping seasonally will naturally happen if you shop from the circular but by shopping in the season you are using nature’s bounty to your advantage.
- Be Mindful of your portions: When food goes into the trash that is just like throwing money away. Try shopping more often like two or three times a week, each trip just getting what you need for the next few days. If you have a stocked pantry, you will mostly be filling up on fresh items such as produce, meats, dairy, and nuts. Using smaller plates for meals, especially for dinner will not only help you keep your weight optimal, it will reduce waste of food. Take smaller portions and if you want seconds, go for it, but if not, use the leftovers as the lunch for the next day. This will save you money as well.
- Avoid Impulse Buying. The best way to avoid impulse buying is to prepare yourself before you do the grocery shopping. Make a list and stick to it and eat before you go shopping. Try not to shop when you are hungry! If you are in a big chain supermarket, sticking to the ends of the market and staying away from the middle will help with this objective.
- Keep an organized fridge and pantry. Leftovers and make ahead meals to freeze are always great, but it totally defeats the purpose if they get lost in the back of the fridge. Label leftovers and keep your fridge organized to help minimize food waste. Go through the fridge weekly and the freezer twice a month to utilize items before they go bad.
- Stock your kitchen with a variety of different items to make it easier to pull together meals on the fly. Keeping your kitchen stocked with staples and a variety of items you use every day.
Here is a sample list of some great things to keep on hand. Keep in mind, this is just a short list of suggestions and you can change this and customize it to your family’s preferences.
Staples: pasta, lentils, rice, sweet potatoes, polenta, quinoa, bread, peas, potatoes
Vegetables: tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, broccoli, corn, fresh spinach, celery, and carrots
Dairy and eggs: cheese in bulk, Greek yogurt, eggs, organic cream and butter
Fruit: apples, bananas, oranges, seasonal fruits such as berries
Pantry: peanut butter, almond butter, tuna, beans, coconut milk, broth, canned tomatoes, tamari, honey and nuts
Meat: Chicken whole or butchered, ground turkey, grass fed ground beef, flank steak, lamb stew
Spices: salt, pepper, paprika, cumin, chili powder, lemon pepper, cinnamon
Cooking: olive oil, garlic, onions, Dijon mustard, Balsamic vinegar, rice wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, coconut sugar
(All of the food mentioned here also happens to be great for fitness and muscle building, boosting your immune system and aiding in post workout recovery.)
And my final rule for mastering healthy eating on a budget….
10. Grow Your Own Food. It’s cheaper than frozen and it tastes better and you control what chemicals are sprayed. Plant your own trees that grow berries, walnuts & apples. Buy chickens for free eggs & meat. Google Square Foot and Container Gardening for more ideas.
Tapas Acupressure Technique®: Did I just heal that?! Really??
Chris Lewis, P.A.-C.
It is pleasant to think that once the experience of a trauma finally ends for us, our reaction to it also ends. However, past traumas can and do intrude on our current life. For most of us, these intrusions—sometimes referred to as “re-experiencing” a trauma—are inevitable, usually unpleasant and definitely persistent.
Although recurring cycles of re-experiencing may be powerful and painful, they are also the very moments in which we may profoundly shift our lives. In those moments, we may permanently heal cycles of re-experiencing for the last time.
The relief and surprise associated with suddenly healing the pain of traumas, unwanted behaviors and emotions as well as dispelling related symptoms of physical stress are common with the use of Tapas Acupressure Technique® (TAT®). Although the notion seems illogical or even impossible, experiencing a prompt, sustained healing of issues is exactly what we see for many of our patients.
How do these transformations occur?
Why are they necessary?
Perhaps to reach the best perspective, it may be useful to begin at the beginning. Although it could happen at any age, let’s say there is a traumatic incident most likely at a young age—something that happens to us or to someone we love and care for, or even to someone we don’t know. Let’s also assume that in the moment of the incident, you become quite clear that you do not want to experience the physical, emotional and mental stress related to this event again—not ever. What can we do?
We may not be aware of it, but we create a response. We do it easily as if it were in our nature to do so. Well, it is in our nature, it is primitive, and we believe in the moment that it contributes to our survival. We are instinctively self-protective and will do our absolute best to create safety or at least the illusion of safety in the moment. Further, in the absence of any truly effective solution, the illusion of safety is one we will allow ourselves to accept. We will go so far as to defend it even if we suspect in some small way that in the end it may not really work to save us.
Are we aware of all this? Do we do any of this consciously? For instance, do we as young children readily respond to trauma logically and with sophisticated coping strategies? That sort of response points to higher levels of consciousness and situational awareness not normally demonstrated in children of younger age. If we are honest with ourselves, we as adults presumably with greater understanding of life’s situations, continue to respond to difficult circumstances in a fairly emotional way and not much beyond that. However, leaving aside the possible lack of specifics and logic in our response to trauma, what we do create is a personal, implicit or non-conscious knowing related to these events. It is a sensible, meaningful, well-defined construct or schema, which is emotional, perceptual, physical and nonverbal yet rarely shows up in our conscious experience; that is we don’t necessarily know we’re doing it. Nonetheless, we have our newly created protective response (or construct) tight in hand and we are prepared.
If a future event comes along that looks anything like the original traumatic event, we have a plan (our implicit personal construct or scheme); a mostly unconscious plan and, again, it is the best plan we could create in the moment of the event. Without realizing it, our plan or construct literally becomes a new reality for us: “Because of what happened, this is my reality now.” etc. We want to believe that if we live life through our new reality it will spare us the particular brand of discomfort we first experienced. In sounds reasonable, but there’s a catch. If we peer behind the curtain of our new protective response we may discover it is not much more than a symptom generator and in this case, it’s not the good kind.
As we’re going through life, things happen that may be similar to the original trauma event and suddenly, we are responding. We are reactivated and our protective construct is in full charge. Painful emotions, body sensations and thoughts are all happening just as before. Consciously or not, we experience the original event in all its glory and are seemingly unable to control what we feel. We begin to take action, say things or perhaps move physically in a way that is consistent with our protective response—run, cower, fight, etc. If anger is involved, we may find ourselves yelling at someone or perhaps simply fuming inside trying to control ourselves. What may appear to others as irrational, out-of-control symptoms are to us sensible, sound, orderly expressions of our existing response or construct—our perceived reality. Do we not believe our actions justified or compellingly necessary while we are in the throes of such an experience? Are we not, once again, doing the best we can for ourselves?
No matter how much we may wish it otherwise, our perceived realities tend to run our lives. A corollary belief is that we can do nothing about relieving the pain they generate with each recollection. They seem permanent. Besides, if we did not take care of ourselves in these situations, what else would we do? Do we return to being unprotected? Not likely. How do we deal with this?
Until you make the unconscious conscious it will direct your life and you will call it fate.
~ C.G. Jung.
Neuroscientists believe that our emotional learnings (e.g., trauma) drive the vast majority of unwanted behaviors, emotions, thoughts and physical symptoms. As many of us concluded through personal experience, they too believed these emotional learnings were permanent. However, in the late 1990’s researchers discovered that the brain provides a key for unlocking this permanence. Knowing the how to use that key makes it is possible for us to discontinue unwanted symptoms and behaviors permanently. That is to say, they are erased—not just changed, but erased, eliminated. The study of TAT and other evidence based energy psychology modalities (e.g. Thought Field Therapy, Emotional Freedom Technique) show that it is possible to activate the ability of the brain to unlock and erase unwanted emotional learnings.
So, in brief, the cycle is this: A negative or trauma event happens; an emotional learning occurs. In response, a protective construct is created that later becomes a generator of symptoms when a perceived set of environmental conditions are present—that is, when we suffer a re-experiencing. By design, this whole apparatus is locked or consolidated in certain parts of our brain and waits. As soon as our construct perceives certain reactivating environmental conditions, it generates a set of symptoms felt to be compellingly necessary. We cease producing these symptoms as soon as there no longer exists any construct of reality in which our symptoms are necessary to have.
In the hands of an experienced practitioner, this cycle may be broken with TAT. During a typical session, the goal might be to resolve a known trauma (perhaps the shock of receiving a diagnosis of cancer), the patient briefly focuses on the manifestation of the trauma, its origins, and the locations in which it has been stored in both the body and mind. Through the TAT process, the tension surrounding the event relaxes and allows energy to move freely through related physical, mental and emotional spaces once again. There is suddenly room around the issue, so to speak, and the part of you that has been dealing with all of this relaxes too. There is sense of relief as the issue moves toward resolution.
In neuroscience research, an issue is resolved or erased with TAT when it has adheres to three well defined criteria. The three criteria must be met for an emotional learning to be verified as erased or resolved:
1. Emotional non-reactivation.
If a set of conditions shows up in our life that would normally trigger our protective construct, we no longer react to it and there is no need to work at keeping ourselves from reacting. Instead, we just don’t react because there simply is no need to react nor is there resistance to reacting. It becomes more passive, an observation, a simple noticing that we didn’t react this time and we did nothing to make sure that happened.
2. Symptom cessation.
The symptom, originally part of the protective construct (symptom generator), simply no longer occurs in the presence of required environmental conditions.
3. Effortless permanence.
Our issue remains resolved with no effort on our part. In fact, the issue becomes historical, a simple uncharged memory of the issue. We remember it, but it there is no compelling need to deal with it.
One question we ask at the beginning remains open: Why is it necessary to do anything about the unwanted issues, the emotional learnings we find in our lives? The simple answer is we do it because they disturb our peace. On a deeper level, they disturb our ability to love.
One of my professors once told us, “We are Divine beings having a human experience.” Looking back on my own life at that moment and reflecting on a few events within it, I wasn’t so sure about the divine part, but I was clearly having a human experience. The scenario above is something we may use as an example of what can disturb our peace and our ability to love, but many things in our daily lives can upset us. Until recently, unwanted responses to those events were believed by science and us to be permanent. I am grateful for this technology and for the opportunity to heal my own barriers.
With Love and Respect,
Chris E. Lewis, PA-C
Senior Physician Assistant
UCSD Cancer Center
For more information about TAT: TATLife.com
To contact Chris Lewis, PA-C for an appointment or for more information about his private practice: email@example.com
Cancer Treatment, Cancer Survivors, and Lymphedema: the Truth About Your Risks
Dana Wylie, Certified Lymphatic Therapist
These days, when clients come to see me, many are coming in specifically to either reduce the effects of lymphedema or to mitigate their risk of developing lymphedema. Once I leave the office, however, the level of overall awareness in the community of cancer survivors drops dramatically. Outside of my office, roughly 1 in 4 cancer survivors that I talk to who are at risk of developing lymphedema are completely unaware that the condition exists, and that risk will last a lifetime. If I factored in the amount of misinformation that I hear, the numbers grow.
What is Lymphedema?
Lymphedema is a high protein accumulation of fluids in the interstitium (skin) causing swelling (edema). The swelling generally manifests in the limbs, but can occur anywhere in the body including the trunk, breasts, head and neck, or even genitals.
The lymphatic system is responsible for the removal of interstitial fluid from tissues. It also transports infection-fighting white blood cells to and from the lymph nodes. Lymphatic fluid is generally transported out of an area through the network of vessels and ‘cleaned’ by lymph nodes along the way. During surgery and/or radiation, the system becomes damaged. Lymphatic vessels are cut.
Often times, those vessels can re-route themselves but may also become obstructed by scar tissue. Lymph nodes are surgically removed. Radiation can alter the nature of tissue in its field rendering some vessels and/or lymph nodes unable to function properly. Unlike the lymphatic vessels, however, lymph nodes that are removed or irradiated are unable to regenerate.
It is the damage to the lymphatic system that can render an area of the body incapable of fully dealing with infection, trauma, and fluid accumulation in the tissues. Once the high-protein fluid begins accumulating, it attracts more fluid, and the result is lymphedema.
What is My Risk?
Among the possible causes of lymphedema, the number one cause in Western world is cancer treatment. Of those cases of lymphedema, 79% will result from breast cancer treatment, 3% will be from head and neck cancers, and the remaining 18% from treatment of other cancers.
There’s a lot of misinformation circulating out there, and while the numbers may vary between studies and certified lymphatic therapists, the basics remain the same.
You are at risk for developing lymphedema if:
– You have had at least one lymph node removed
– You have had radiation treatment, whether it was internal or external
In the oversimplified version of risk assessment, we may use a standard 4% per lymph node surgically removed as a guideline which is increased significantly with radiation. The truth is more of a matrix.
– By increasing numbers of lymph nodes removed
– Additionally by radiation treatment
– By the amount of time that has elapsed since the time of surgical or radiation intervention.
There is no such thing as ‘zero risk’ with only one or a few lymph nodes removed. I have had clients with one lymph node removed come out of surgery with lymphedema. The risk is simply lower over all.
There also isn’t a magic number of years when the risk is not present. I have met people who developed lymphedema 25 or more years after their cancer treatment. The risk simply decreases gradually over time.
The Good News: Knowledge is Power!
It’s so very important to understand if you are at risk of developing lymphedema so that you can consciously take precautions and do activities that improve the health of your immune system.
– Exercise/Deep breathing: Movement and breath are the ‘pumps’ of our lymphatic system. Regular exercise is key.
– Learn to properly perform Self Manual Lymphatic Drainage: manually guide lymphatic fluid from compromised regions to healthy regions of your lymphatic system
– Get monthly professional manual lymphatic drainage: while it may seem like a luxury, it’s a medical necessity to work with a professional on a regular basis. The quality of what a professional Certified Lymphatic Therapist or Certified Manual Lymphatic Drainage Therapist will do is generally different and much more thorough that what you can perform at home.
– Get compression garments and wear them during activities that can trigger or aggravate lymphedema such as air travel, long car rides where changes in elevation occur, and exercise.
– Avoid extreme hot and cold to the affected area: sun bathing, hot tubs, saunas, heating pads, etc. and frost bite.
– Avoid needle sticks, scratches, cuts, punctures to the affected area(s): these can include blood draws, pet scratches, and gardening injuries (wear gloves!), etc. that cause inflammation or give opportunity for bacteria to enter
– Avoid constriction on the affected areas: blood pressure cuffs, rubber bands, jewelry/watches/clothing that is too tight
– If possible, avoid trauma to the affected area
– Don’t overwork muscles in the affected area: avoid lifting heavy objects to the point of getting sore muscles
– Practice healthy skin care: use hypo-allergenic lotions to keep skin supple and moistened and to avoid cracking or other break down of tissue.
– Report any changes you experience to your health care provider: swelling, heaviness, achiness, and skin sensitivity should be evaluated by a professional
While it sounds like a lot to overcome, it can easily become second nature to take care of your lymphatic system to reduce your risks, and there are professionals and organizations that are around to help. One of my favorite resources is the National Lymphedema Network (www.lymphnet.org) for guidelines, research, and resources of professionals in your community.
Qigong for Cancer Treatment and Recovery
by Fay McGrew, M.A., Certified Qigong Teacher, Q.T.P. (Medical Qigong)
What is QiGong?
Qigong or Chi Kung [pronounced Chee–kong]’ “Qi” means life force or bio-field energy, “gong” means cultivation, practice, effort.
It is based on the ancient Yang Sheng [Nourishing Life] longevity practice that includes meditation, energizing breathing techniques, gentle invigorating movements, nutrition, and sleep patterns all in harmony with the rhythms of nature. When these aspects are integrated it strengthens the core and enhances natural healing abilities for the body, mind and spirit.
Today Qigong is regarded as a branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the self-care practice to support acupuncture and other healing modalities.
If you search “Qigong and Cancer” on the internet, the results are overwhelming with numeorus articles and evidence based studies on its benefits.
So, why is Qigong so effective?
It is because the jewel of the practice is how to use your mind to heal through cultivation of life force energy. This is why Dr. Vicario sites Qigong as a vehicle for epigenetics, how to change your DNA and body chemistry to heal from or prevent potential health challenges.
Qi is also strengthened by release of stagnated energy through gentle flowing easy to follow exercises and self massage of key acupuncture points, it’s like acupuncture without needles.
There are many different styles and approaches to Qigong. I learned classical Qigong, movement oriented practice, but fell in love with a modern therapeutic system called Zhineng “Intelligence-Wisdom” Qigong. It was developed in a clinical setting by Dr. Pang Ming, trained in Chinese and Western medicine as well as a Qigong master, proving very successful to the thousands of patients who resided at his Healing Center. I also teach several systems of Women’s Qigong supporting gynecological and breast health. These exercises are not only excellent for recovery but prevention and maintaining optimal women’s health .. see article I wrote Light Connection.
I was honored to teach Qigong at the San Diego Cancer Research Institute for 10 years when we offered those services. As much as the patients enjoyed the movements, they truly appreciated the guided imagery and healing intention portion of the class, and applied these techniques while waiting for an MRI, during chemotherapy treatments, or at home resting.
Fay teaching Qigong at the San Diego Cancer Research Institute while patients were receiving IV treatment.
Today I mostly teach active duty servicemen and women recovering from their mental and physical injuries. We ask them to report levels of pain, discomfort, anxiety and depression before and after each Qigong class. Most levels drop with “anxiety” significantly decreasing. There is so much stress in all aspect of one’s life when undergoing treatment for serious conditions, and this stress as Dr. Vicario points out is as damaging as the health challenge itself. Learning how to relax your body and mind builds resiliency which is life saving!
Why haven’t you heard about Qigong before? In the West, Qigong is conflated with Taiji Quan or T’ai Chi Chuan. Even the Western medical research community confuses these modalities as Qigong exercises are used as warm up and cool down during Taiji classes. Both arts share the same premise of how to move the body as a way to enhance energy and remove blockages. However, the specific techniques are different because Tai Chi is a martial art, and Qigong is exclusively for health.
But now you know about Qigong! Want to try it? Its really simple and can be for whatever amount of time you have. The key to get the most benefit from it is to do it everyday.
Qigong Healing Breathing Practice
Sit in a chair with back straight, support your lower back with pillow if needed.
Relax your entire body, especially your shoulders.
You may close your eyes; or keep them open with a soft focus gazing down at a 45 degree angle.
Bring awareness to your breath. Focus on your diaphragm (attached to the bottom of your lungs) moving down as you inhale and up as you exhale. Experience how this deep relaxed breathing is massaging and detoxifying your organs.
Notice how your body is responding, being nurtured by needed oxygen.
Observe how your brain, needing the most oxygen is responding to this deep relaxing breathing.
Feel each inhalation nourishing and healing every cell in your body.
Experience each exhalation releasing all that does not serve your body, mind and spirit.
Continue for as long as you have time for, suggested 15 minutes.
Open your eyes.
Grounding Exercises (modify to your physical ability)
Raise your leg and slowly move it from the knee up and down, then isolate turning ankles 3x in each direction; repeat the same on the other foot.
Slowly bend down from your waist as far as you can, relax your head forward resting on your chest or as close as possible.
Pause and notice how your spine is gently stretching as you relax more.
Slowly raise up opening each vertebrae keeping your chin as close to your chest as possible, the last to come up is your head.
Say or think “All is well, all is well, I am well”.
Where can I find out more about Qigong and find a local teacher?
There are 3 organizations where you can find more information about Qigong and locate certified teachers:
National Qigong Association www.nqa.org
Qigong Institute www.qigonginstitute.org
American Tai Chi Qigong Association www.americantaichi.org
Enjoy your Qigong journey of empowerment, optimum health, healing, and inner peace.
All is well, all is well, you are well.
Sending you loving healing Qi,