What Is PTSD And How Can A Cancer Survivor Survive From This?

cancer voice in asia
A hand screaming for help. Photo by Bryan Minear on Unsplash

Hello dear readers!

So this time, I would like to discuss about this topic (if you are keen on “talking it over” after you read this article) about PTSD. But before I will continue, I want to be clear to everyone that this topic is about psychiatry/neurology and I don’t have any medical background to put into words this point at issue but I will share to you an experience which is very common to every cancer survivor and try to let you understand in a language that we all could make sense of.

Some experts in this field wanted to accentuate that the word “disorder” in Post-traumatic stress should actually not to be referred to as a disorder. In fact, from a neurological standpoint, it is a reordering of the brain’s neural networks and pathways and sensory pathways in order to survive a dangerous situation.

Okay, so I just mentioned PTSD. What is that?

It is not just a simple everyday stress.

By definition, PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder) is a mental health problem that some people developed after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, sexual assault, or even cancer.

PTSD is real for most cancer survivors. Dealing with anxiety after surviving cancer battle is actually another battle that a survivor needs to survive once more.

And for most cancer survivors who experience anxiety after the successful treatment always believe that they are really experiencing PTSD as it has always been identified since then. And the label “PTSD” seems like a “domino effect” that the latter cancer survivors believe that they are too experiencing the same.

Whether we mark this experience as PTSD or not, how sad to realize that a cancer survivor has almost no rest from surviving, but it’s true, it’s real. Most of us have to deal with the anxiety what cancer has brought to us.

Even myself, I thought that after my radiation therapy treatment, I will be okay and finally free from fighting about my life and how to stay alive. But the fact is, I continue to fight after my treatment. A fight from the feeling that I’m about to die or I’m gonna lose my mind, but actually I’m not.

After my radiation therapy treatment sessions, I have to take care of my completely burned skin every day, and with that, I feel like I have to hide from everyone because I didn’t like the fact to be asked about my wound and illness every time I meet a friend.

Well, it actually happened. I hide from everyone and I thought of running away and hiding from people who I used to know can help me. But the results are opposite. These are the signs I observed during the 5 months I was very anxious:

  • Nightmares & flashbacks
    What did I do?
    All the negative events happened to me before I had cancer keep coming back as if it always haunts me each day.

  • Avoiding places, events, people, or things that bring back any memories from the past
    What did I do?
    I preferred to stay in the corner in the room after work and avoided all messages from friends who are near me.

  • Strong feelings of guilt, hopelessness, or shame
    What did I do?
    I sent all negative and toxic messages to myself that makes my self gradually deteriorating especially my self-esteem.

  • Trouble sleeping or concentrating
    What did I do?
    I tried to manage to sleep early but I just couldn’t.

  • Continuous feelings of fear, irritability or anger
    What did I do?
    I easily got angry and irritable to few persons who are close to me and in return, they never understand me. Instead of letting them know the exact feeling I feel inside I rant and unfortunately, the result is, one of the people close to me deliberately cut our connection.

  • Loss of interest in activities (or relationships) that used to be enjoyable
    What did I do?
    I lost interest to socialize even to go back hosting an English Club event which I used to do it for more than a year already.

  • Unwanted thoughts
    What did I do?
    Kept thinking of negative thoughts.

  • Difficulty feeling emotions
    What did I do?
    I thought I could keep up with being positive at that moment, but that was difficult in that bleak, unguarded moment.

Funny thing is, after listing down the signs of PTSD, which I got from Cancer.net, I almost got all the signs & symptoms except self-destructive behavior, such as drug or alcohol abuse.

Therefore I can say that having these signs or one of these signs should not be taken for granted and should be given attention as soon as possible before this anxiety disorder will turn into deeper depression or the worst clinical depression.

How to know who to help, who needs help?

Whether that person is your friend, neighbor, colleague or a family member, by simply looking at them without questioning what he/she has gone through with his/her life, you cannot tell that they experience some traumatic event at some point of their life. You will never know that he/she needs help until such then, you will see that precious loved one already drowning in a very deep ocean of depression.

The sad thing is, you cannot see it, hear it or feel it.

The worst thing is they’re not going to talk about it – only them can see the dark wallowing shadow of distress, hear the echoes of anxiety and feel the torturing flashbacks of a life-threatening event that happened in their life, such as cancer.

However, within those 5 months of detaching myself from other people, isolating myself from my loved ones and anxiety grows more each day, I notice that my brain and my body are gradually exhausted.

But I thought I have to do something.

In the middle of my fight against anxiety, I could probably help myself by doing something that helps my body and mind restore to an energetic and a positive person.

I realize that I cannot control whatever circumstances that may show up in my life even after my treatment from cancer but I can always control how I react to it.

I honestly and sensibly decide if I wanted to stay anxious or be drowned in the abyss of anxiety. These negative emotions that I felt after my treatment and those negative emotions I got from other people who heedlessly know that they did will never let me go unless I am willing to let this toxics go.

Letting it go was not easy but it is rewarding at the same time when you finally get back in a condition where you have inner peace, calm, and untriggered.

I start working on my physical body first. I did whatever my body pleasures to have to, like massage and as well as guided imagery (such as prayer or meditation). It was during that time also, my first time I did meditation because I want to look for solutions myself without asking anyone yet. And with meditation, what I (or anyone) could benefit is to reset our breathing back to normal. And by doing this regularly, it will actually increase our ability to focus, decreased mind wandering, improved arousal levels, more positive emotions, decreased emotional reactivity, along with many others.

I don’t know what works for you, but my only clear motive is to know where are you now after you finally finish your cancer treatment. It may not easy to say this, but I will be glad if you are now in the full range of positive emotions with your loved ones. But if not, do what’s the best for your body, listen to your body and feel what it sends to your brain.

Do it now, not later.

Are keen on talking this topic over? Just leave your comments below.

We Never Truly Know Another’s Pain They Carry

cancer voice in asia
A man shouting for freedom from pain. Photo courtesy by Tony Rojas on Unsplash

We all fall down.

Whether we are healthy or not, rich or poor, young or old.

There are times that we have to fall lower than we have ever been, to stand up taller than we ever were.

There are times we need to rise up by ourselves and live the reality that there is no back up coming along the way.

Sometimes,

We have to fall down,

Alone.

And realize that…

Falling down is a part of someone’s life, to rise up is life.

Life can be explained in many ways.

It’s definition is vague.

Yet, one thing that it is clear — in life we need to go through some pain.

You think that killing yourself would be a permanent solution to a temporary problem?

Stop giving up hope.

And start giving in to life’s biggest risk.

It is enriching our life.

It is in fact much more rewarding.

Will you choose to take the risk?

We all make choices.

You have a choice each and every single day.

And everything we do in life is done by the choices we make.

Whatever happened in our life is the by-product of the choices we’ve made.

Some consequences bring sheer bliss.

Some pain.

Pain…

You have cancer.

You are hoping for the best while planning for the worst.

Sometimes this too much pain we don’t even want to tell everyone, even our loved ones, friends, or doctors.

It steals our happiness.

It steals our hair, money, family, pleasure in life that puts us up to anxiety, depression, hopelessness, our ability to do well and accomplish our task or unable to make a good decision.

Please, try to understand the pain we feel.

You may never fathom how intense and agonizing we may feel.

Just be there.

Whether you can’t utter any words from your mouth. You will perfectly express the right words at the right time.

Your silence is enough.

Your presence is enough.

Your actions can have a huge impact on a mundane life I am now going through.

Know that this pain not only hurts physically, it also leads to depression, isolation, or anxiety.

But…

There’s hope.

We know.

We need time.

We need time to reduce this pain and rebuild ourselves.

We also want to live a normal life like you.

We know we have hope despite of pain.

Hope is something we desire and expect with.

Like you, we want to have a chance to be normal like you

We were once a normal person with a job.

We were once a normal person who loves to watch TV, go out and meet some friends.

We were once a normal person who thinks life is perfectly fine.

Until one day,

We started to learn new words such as metastatic or sarcoma.

We spend our time in the hospital or in our bedroom.

We still want to have a normal life despite all of this.

Raise our own kids, grow old and see our grandkids, too.

We want a chance to be just like you.

Who can still make more achievements like you do.

Sometimes, we wish to want back what cancer took away.

Like you, we want to feel our lives have a purpose

Having a purpose in life seems impossible for us who endures a chronic pain with a chronic illness.

Yet hope has given us to find our life’s purpose.

Having hope may endure the misery of our treatment.

That we many able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

You can give us your definitions of hope.

We always expect of good things that are yet to be — to achieve our desired goal.

And find meaning in our family, friends and even in my cancer experience.

We never truly know another’s pain carry, until then…

We find a new level of value to life itself.

By simply making a choice to stop and smell the plumeria we see along the road.

By looking up to see the color of the sky when the sun is setting.

By listening to the sound of raindrops.

By admiring someone’s kindness.

By feeding stray animals.

By appreciating someone’s unexpected help.

In doing this, we find more meaning in life…

We try to understand the greater purpose or reason behind this illness and what it means to our life now.

We try to explore more feelings about cancer and how I react to every pain I feel daily.

We try to identify that cancer should, in fact, a life-changing experience that makes us wanted to understand more about the effect of this illness in my life.

Suddenly a gradual change in our interest and priorities that used to be not important before our cancer.

It brings means to understand our life and to find a way of healing — within.

Until such time,

We allow ourselves to feel the pain instead of hiding it.

We embrace pain and burden to fuel our journey to a new normal life.

We accept this experience that will help us find and go through to the detoxifying vitality of life — that lead us to one of the rightful things that can occur to us in our life, if…

…we let it in.

“We hide the pain in the weirdest places
Broken souls with smiling faces
Fighting for surrender
For now and the after, yeah
Just look around and you’ll see that people
Are scared to say how they really feel
Oh, we all need a little honesty”

Disclaimer:

Chronic pain is one of the hardest battles of any person that endures chronic illness. Having a positive life for most people who experience excruciating pain every day — seems impossible, but this may take time to reverse what we expect the least. Some may be able to win this battle against chronic pain, some may give up. The author somehow wanted to extend a great hope for everyone, especially for those who are now experiencing a great pain. And to let everyone knows that killing oneself is not the option of a hope offered in life.

Have you had any loved ones who now keep battling to beat the pain? They deserve to have a life brighten up — not to live with the dark.

If so, please share with us! Leave a comment below!

Human Contact Cannot Be Overestimated!

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Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

Human contact cannot be overestimated!

This was the exact sentence from another cancer survivor to me in one of the fora in the social media where we share experiences and victories.

I shared my latest blog, a letter to my friend whose cancer is back right after her second surgery with her recurrence tumor in the thyroid in the same forum I mentioned earlier and received very helpful comments afterward.

“Please take some time to go see her even if all you do is sit and hold her hand.”

“If you can, go and cry with her. Then talk, then cry some more, then encourage her that you will be there. In spirit if not always in body. If you can only text or write, that’s okay. Just tell her she is not alone and you will stay to whatever the end is, whenever it is. Then do it. It’ll make all the difference for her and you. Let her know, she can say anything. You won’t leave.”

These are the first two bits of advice I received from one of the most courageous people across the globe.

Their words are powerful to help another, to encourage another.

Similarly with what Karla Kay said during our previous interview,

“Until you hear those 3 words, you have no idea how you would handle anything!”

True! Even the three little word – CANCER – is powerful to devastate our world. However, this word will just be a trifle with the powerful words of those people surrounded by someone has cancer.

Someone that is ready to answer without making the understanding difficult.

People need people.

An approval, comfort, or encouragement from other people is vital to human health, both mentally and physically. With the help of social interaction, people can express their feelings and share their problems with other people.

Not just any social support, it must be a good social support that can help someone coping with stress, major life changes (like divorce, moving house, migrating, and so on…) or chronic illnesses.

It has been proved by many researchers and studies that the most lonely people more often are afflicted with health and mental problems such as cardiovascular problem, stress, anxiety, and depression.

“No man is an island.”

Just like what the famous proverb goes, “No man is an island”. Knowing that we are being thought of and valued by few people who are close to us is an essential psychological factor in helping us to ignore the negative aspects of our lives, and thinking more positively about our environment.

Friends and family are there to reduce the stress that we are enduring that can boost our confidence and gives us great motivation not to give up easily.

Having said that, in the reality of life, there are some circumstances that we cannot always expect a great encouragement from our friends and family.

Instead, these are the people we expect the least.

They are the ones who unselfishly keeping us the fight toward the victory.

They are once strangers in our life which turns into someone we can always run to.

However…

Not all of us have the toughness to open our hearts and share our feelings and problems.

Not all of us have the courage to be upfront to share our raw feelings.

There are people who find it difficult to process their feelings and communicate to others, yet they are still misunderstood.

More so, the lack of interaction of these kinds of people can negatively lead to first signs of depression and anxiety.

Don’t waste your time.

Whenever you know someone who is suffering from life-threatening conditions such as cancer, a strong human connection can help the recovery and even enhance the quality of their life, which is very important for a seriously ill or mentally unhealthy person.

If you know one, go and make them feel that they should not be alone carrying all the burdens they are bearing.

You’ll never tell how you can improve their well-being that affects their immune system as well.

Your words and actions can be a great moment of truth for them.

It is never too late to do anything if you start doing it now. Especially, helping someone in the core of deep sadness.

Have you made yourself a great influence and positive impact on someone’s life? Have you been part of someone else’s turning point in life? Have you brightened up their dark days? Have you snatched them out from the abyss of loneliness?

If so, please share with us! Leave a comment below!

 

This Is What I Learned From Practicing Guided Imagery

Photo by Lua Valentia on Unsplash

Back from those days where I was afraid to deal with anything real until I’ve got to face a painful reality that I could not really imagine how to deal with.

What’s the painful reality? That I — am sick, alone, and dying — anytime soon!

Hearing those three little words, “You have cancer” makes me confused and scared that I could not bear to tell anyone.

Back from those days where I — was — a person who cannot tame my brain’s emotional response. Where in every positive or negative pitch life has given, I usually tend to react where I tend to judge either myself or other people and make a comparison from everyone that surrounds me or even to myself.

Now, that I had come to realize that I needed to claim this. This was very hard. For how many times I need to deal with myself, I have to claim my cancer. I have to accept this painful reality.

Accepting this painful reality of having cancer, another painful reality arises. Where anxiety, depression, sadness, hopelessness, or worthlessness are limitless and uncontrollable.

Being diagnosed with cancer and a crisis management in dealing emotions and stress are both closely associated with each other.

Six months of treatment, from my surgical removal to acupuncture (6 sessions) and the last was radiation therapy (35 sessions).

Of all these treatments I had gone through, the surgery — it did not only cut my skin and left a scar but also cut me off from certain friends or even family members. The acupuncture — it did not only stabbed my body with needles and left blood in certain areas of my body but also stabbed my heart for this is not the life I was expecting. The radiation therapy — it did not only burn my skin but also burned my soul. I feel like I was already doomed to death — but, I have to suffer first!

Now, treatment was done, and everyone thought, “I’m okay”! Everyone thought that I was so fortunate that I was able to beat cancer!

Yes — my battle with cancer was done. But, the battle with depression has continued.

Well, even I — I thought I was okay, too. Until then, I went back to Vietnam after my treatment in the Philippines. I felt so sorry and embarrassed whenever friends and colleagues tell me each time they meet me that I lose weight. You know what’s more annoying? When they did not tell me those the same words, once — in fact, twice, thrice or umpteenth times! No matter how I convince them I was okay and I am just coping, there are still those people who get on my nerves.

So there you see, my reaction after those people keep telling me how I lose weight, or worse is I still look “sick”.

I was even confused how to act being tough whenever I was pounded with negative questions people were asking me for being mentally strong.

Until I realized that I have to stay away from these people, try to manage my emotions and learn how to understand, accept, and manage my feelings first.

For 5 months, after I was able to go back to Vietnam, I tried to cut off some people from my circle. Though things did not go well as I wish to happen, with perseverance, I was able to deal the rollercoaster ride and started being mindful and managed my emotions especially when it is in crisis.

For 5 months, I learned deeper about guided imagery. It is a mental imagery process where sometimes it is commonly called as guided meditation, visualization, mental rehearsal, and guided-hypnosis. Where it follows the usual process: the correct posture (vertical position, either sitting on a chair or a floor or lying down on a bed), eyes closed and breathing.

I have been doing this for almost 5 months — quietly. I started doing this after I did some research and I decided to make this practice a part of coping with my cancer journey.

As I continue doing the practice of guided imagery, it taught me about being mindful and non-reactive to every situation I might put up with.

Mindfulness — knowing what is going on at the moment. Being present with the “now” instead of looking back to the past or being anxious to the present.

Non-reaction where it helps me to deepen the connection I have with myself especially to my emotions. Whatever may happen in my surroundings it is up to me if I will react or not. Whether it could be positive or negative.

Well, I don’t mean that if I am very grateful for someone’s good deed towards me, I will not show a euphoric feeling at that very moment. Of course, I must show my appreciation in order to continue a good relationship with anyone I am connected with.

It is necessary to remember as well to make everything in balanced whether it could be a good or bad experience. Our life is constantly changing. And if we are not able to control how we react, an attachment is connected to our emotions and without being aware of, we already place expectations to the other person.

And when we seeded expectations, that someone who used to make you happy at some point will make you upset and disappointed.  Eventually, it will create a negative impact and the separation from others who you used to be closed with begins. Either they will stop talking, create a space in between and keep a distance from you or worse get into an argument. And these are not healthy and helpful for someone who is coping with cancer treatment.

Each one of us is responsible for the way we react to different life’s circumstances, so instead of reacting, we may shift this into a response that is able for you or me to create a more balanced state of conscious and non-reactive mind.

That is why we meditate. We breathe in as we feel the tension, and breathe out to release that tension.

Likewise, if there is any negative pitch had thrown to me, I choose to stay positive and move forward.

Now, when I am being asked randomly, why I am so calm now to any circumstances I am facing. Well, I am doing this for myself first because I respect and honor my body and second to take care each relationship I am involved to anyone around me, whether it could be a colleague, friend or family.

I am just a human being, sometimes I missed to remind myself to be mindful and non-reactive.

Although I had already learned enough from practicing this guided imagery and benefitted positive result from it, there are also times that I get anxious, sad or hopeless.

But the only good thing is, with enough information how guided imagery has helped me cope with my cancer journey, it is always there to remind me to pause or stop whenever I was in the state of negativity or toxicity.

Disclaimer:
This article is only a testimony how guided imagery works (especially guided meditation) for the author while she was coping with her cancer journey. According to one of her research results, one of the articles from cancer.net, had indicated that as many as 15-25% of people with cancer experience depression and it is more common for people with cancer who often struggle with uncertainty, challenges and fear that a cancer diagnosis can bring. And she is hoping that this article might give some convincing impression that can convey them that this practice can help identify and manage their emotions while facing cancer treatment and will not add to the burden of battling cancer.

There are other ways to treat and manage the rising crisis of emotions. Stay tuned, for this will be the next article soon.

Any thoughts you want to add from your own experience regarding with the practice of guided imagery?

Just leave your comments below.

How Can A Distraction Manage A Chronic Pain For A Cancer Survivor?

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Tien has shown a fervent strength despite the extreme pain she felt right after her 2nd surgery.

This is a personal story of one of the people who are close to me and just recently had her 2nd surgery. Her recovery is still in progress but we had noticed a remarkable progression from her.

You don’t know how strong this lady is. I salute her braveness despite the agonizing pain she felt for months. As I remember, after her 2nd surgery, she decided not to stay in her house and rest; instead, she jumped into the bus and traveled with us to one of the towns not really far from Saigon. That was not easy though, she felt dizzy, vomited and caught with a fever the day after. But, hey! That was just for days! Even that experience was not really nice if you try to imagine, but now she is gradually recovering, and the most noticeable recovery is – she did not feel the same pain anymore.

I am not talking that there is a miracle happened behind that sudden disappearance of her pain. There’s none. The pain that she felt during those days is actually normal and will eventually get better as the wound inside heals. Unfortunately, this pain sometimes last for months and for some people, it lasts a year. The pain she felt during those times is different from the pain I felt during the course of my treatment 2 years ago. And I could not really give an accurate personal judgment and compare her pain to mine even we were on the same journey.

The pain that I am actually talking is a severe pain where she can hardly breathe and keep losing weight every day. Afraid that her cancer is metastasized, so we decided to make a new appointment to a new doctor and one of the doctors we met ordered a blood test and assured us that there is no metastatic sign seen in her blood. We are not contented with this result as Tien still felt the same pain and it even gets worst and even us could not understand her anymore. Even herself could not understand why she feels that kind of pain. Sometimes, I don’t want to keep asking her the same question, how she is doing, because she still gives the same answer, “I feel pain”.

After many visits we did with different doctors in Saigon, different tests she has to take to understand the pain she felt inside, why she continuously losing weight – still, we have not acquired the answer we are demanding. Despite the daily suffering she felt, she was more than willing to live a new normal life.

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A meeting with Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor.
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A pulse diagnosis is like the “MRI” of traditional medical system.
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Another meeting with a Thyroid Oncologist.

Now here comes an “alternative therapy” which actually works for Tien during her recovery stage. Distraction draws a patient into a highly interesting activity to take his or her mind off pain or discomfort.* This is only effective for a patient who is experiencing pain but it does not cure cancer. When a patient is engaged in an interesting activity, it allows its mind being distracted by unpleasant thoughts or pain that can help the patient feel better.

The following are suggested activities and therapies can provide a distraction that might work well for every cancer patient:

  • Art therapy
  • Music therapy
  • Dance therapy
  • Imagery
  • Stories
  • Relaxation Therapy
  • Virtual reality and computer games
  • Doing needlework or puzzles
  • Building models or painting
  • Watching TV

So, what are the activities Tien did that provide a distraction?

  1. Talk with friends and family
  2. Read books or articles online
  3. Listen to uplifting music (sometimes we go Karaoke)
  4. Go outside (she usually does this by herself, take a walk in the park)
  5. Take care of animals (there are 2 cats living at home, so whenever she is alone at home she feed and pet the cats)
  6. Travel (she usually travels with is in one of the towns outside Saigon)

These activities Tien did, are done at a slow pace, we still do encourage her not to force herself as she is still recovering. But her spirit showed the willingness to live a new normal life and recover completely. At the moment, Tien is inspired to do her job again as a freelance graphic and web designer. And in the future, she aims to visit her oncology doctor again to have another test done to make sure that there is no another cancer cell growing inside her body.

**This blog is not intended to give a professional medical advice. It is best to always seek advice from a qualified medical practitioner whatever medical condition you may or your loved ones have at the moment. Some medical accounts mentioned in this article are made from a careful research of the author, personal experiences shared from those who have similar cases like Tien, and a doctor’s prior validation what cause this pain to inflict her every day.

*Source: Distraction, Health Encyclopedia, University of Rochester Medical Center.

Photo courtesy of the owner.

Why It Is Important To Give Healthy Foods To A Cancer Patient?

The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison. ~Ann Wigmore

Things we ought to know why appropriate diet is very important to anyone who has cancer before and after treatment. This is not only true because Google says so, it is true to give any cancer patient a right diet because I also went through the same process during my treatment.

I write this blog out from my observations as I visited one of the cancer hospitals in Saigon, Vietnam. And even during my surgical removal last February 2016, I noticed that there is no dietary department in the hospital where I was admitted. Two years after my treatment was done, I was able to get a chance to be connected with the children who have cancer, months later after I started my blog.

It is vital to know and learn especially to the family who is taking care of a loved one who is battling cancer the right nutrition in cancer care*. They must know these following details:

  • Good nutrition is important for cancer patients. We are all aware that good nutrition is important for good health. Sometimes, we are too careless and bragging while we still have good health until we acquire one serious illness that will make us consider to change our diet. How much more in people who have cancer?
    Consuming a proper diet before, during and after cancer can help them feel better and stay stronger. For instance, SUGAR; for an average person, too much consumption of sugar will actually make you tired. We all thought that if we give our body as much sugar as we need, it will give us enough strength throughout the day. Yes, this is very helpful to many athletes if they are into competitions, but, what I am talking is, excessive sugar consumption that is already part of the daily eating habit is likely to affect to our health badly. A proverb that remained the same until now, “too much of anything is bad”, and for those who take care a loved one or friend that has cancer, we just need them to feel better and remain strong as they keep winning this battle against cancer.
    Maybe, the next time we will give food to someone who has cancer, we can consider which food we are supposed to give. We can also ask professional practitioners who are expert in a dietary field or even a smart research on Google might give us ideas on which kind of healthy foods to give next time.
  • Healthy eating habits are important during and after cancer treatment. It’s never too late to change a habit. Much more to shape a habit of children especially in eating habit. For most cancer patients, it must be always remembered that they need to keep a healthy body weight, maintain their strength, keep their body tissue healthy, and decrease side effects both during and after treatment.
    My weight dropped drastically right after my radiation therapy treatment was completed. Before and after my surgical removal, I had started to follow some specific diet to help me feel better. I continue doing this until I was waiting for my treatment, but the effect of radiation therapy had resulted in a malnourished body which literally I lost much more weight than my normal body mass. But then, I completed my diet for 5 months after the radiation therapy treatment, until I regained my strength and was able to get back my normal body mass.
  • A registered dietitian is an important part of the healthcare team. As what I had mentioned above, it is not the first time I visited hospitals even before meeting children with cancer. Except for my admission for my tumor removal, every time I visited a friend in the hospital, my mind was always wondering if there a dietary department is existing around.
    I may have been mistaken with regards to this matter, missed this part or even mislook/misunderstood because of the language barrier, my point is, a role of a professional dietitian works with the patient, families, and even the rest of medical team to manage the patient’s diet during and after cancer treatment.
  • Cancer and cancer treatments may cause side effects that affect nutrition. Also mentioned earlier, how my weight drastically decreased right after my radiation therapy treatment. The effects of cancer and cancer treatments make it hard for a patient to eat well and hard to take in enough nutrients to stay healthy.
  • Cancer and cancer nutrition may cause malnutrition. Some cancer patients experience loss of taste, smell, appetite, and even the ability to eat enough food or absorb the nutrients from food because of cancer and its treatments. And this can cause malnutrition where the key nutrients are not enough for the body. When a patient is malnourished, it will easily get weak, tired, and unable to fight infection or finish cancer treatment. And the worst thing is, malnutrition may be made worse if cancer grows or spreads.

It is possible to return eating certain foods again that is used to be avoided if the body is readily consuming them. Better yet, it’s more advisable to talk to a doctor or another professional practitioner about how long a cancer patient should take food precautions.

**This blog is not intended to give a professional medical advice nor giving a list of food that prevents cancer. It is best to always seek advice from a qualified medical practitioner whatever medical condition you may or your loved ones have at the moment. And this is just an insight what nutrition cancer patients must receive during their treatment.

Photo courtesy of JuiceRecipes.

*Source: National Cancer Institute

6 Approaches To Embrace Your Inner Strength

Surviving cancer is like conquering high mountains, it is not the mountain or cancer we defeated, but ourselves.

September 2017, I hiked for 40 kilometers in Bình Thuận Province, Vietnam. After climbing one of the highest mountains of Vietnam, where I suddenly realize that there are many more mountains to climb. The hike I did can be equal to the experience taught by cancer I faced 2 years ago. It was my first hike with 700 meters high (2296.59 feet **500 meters low point and 1200 meters high point), I didn’t know what to look forward to, everything is uncertain, and so as cancer.

These are the lessons I learned from conquering mountains and cancer.

  1. Keep moving forward – like climbing mountains, we sometimes tend to give up when things are getting difficult. Yes, we could stop somewhere and take a rest, drop loads of burden, but we should continue moving forward.If I listened to my fear right after I learned that I have cancer, I will just give up my goals as well as my dream and wait for my death. In the midst uncertainties, I allowed myself to feel the fear (fear of facing my death and go through agonizing pain both physical and emotional) starting to grow inside.

    I allowed myself to be filled with pity, but after that, I shifted my focus to my short and long-term goals. Short-term goals such as my first trip to Hong Kong. I thought I could not make it, but I did it. I traveled to Hong Kong weeks after my surgery was done.

    If we keep moving forward, we will be led down to new paths. If we walk intentionally, in the long run, no matter how hard the trail is, we will be getting somewhere.

  2. Life is not always easy – cancer is the most challenging part of my life, and so as to climbing mountains. I had even already imagined my self I was inside a coffin. There I saw myself, a young lady died at a young age. Those are one of the negative thoughts that I pictured right after I found out I had cancer. And it was not easy to accept that I will be also facing that burden (alone).Climbing one of the mountains in Vietnam gave me blisters and cuts on my body. Whilst cancer inflicted me growing physical pain and sadness that never goes away.

    However, as I faced the uncertainties of climbing the mountains and cancer, it gave my body and mind a permission to fuel my inherent strength with the right and positive mindset.

    Life can never be easy, but the challenge of both taught me how to control an appropriate reaction to what is happening around me. Until then, I gained that power, to be in charge of everyday circumstances; because life is constantly changing, and we should find out how to master the transition.

  3. Nothing worthwhile comes easy – before I was able to see the beautiful sunset and sunrise, after the climb, I have to fall on many slopes and slippery mountains many times over.Once cancer touch lives, things will never be the same. It’s never simple to embrace the new life after cancer. It’s a personal decision whether we should feel insecure or be excited anticipating our new life.

    Cancer survivor’s new life has a lot of stress and self-inflicting problem. We are often left depressed, exhausted and angry. It’s not because we are too weak, this is just the downside of beating cancer. Some took years before realizing their inner strength. Some didn’t make it and went to its last resting place.

    When our treatment ends, the new chapter of our life brings hope and happiness, but also worries and fears. Yet, after beating the disease, we also knock off the self-beating. No matter how uncertain life even after healing, we stop engaging in negative self-talk and thinking. Embracing strength is never easy to us, but we also love our self and every thought and life choice we make, transform our judgment.

    Moving generally towards positive life is a long road and I am patient for the full length. If I look back, 2 years ago, I am happy I made positive choices that allowed me now to have a pillar of strength, no matter how life throws at me.

  4. A positive attitude can create more miracles – I was worried by the time we were about to start our hike. What if the weather will not be sunny the whole day, what if I fall? However, I didn’t allow these thoughts to stay in my mind. Having a positive attitude combined with an admiration for nature’s beauty goes a great distance towards making a day victorious, and so I did.Staying positive is a key to any survival situation. Yet, in battling cancer or beyond our journey as cancer survivors, having a positive attitude seems impossible. It is a great struggle for cancer patients, survivors or even loved ones to simply say, “Stay positive”. No, we can’t.

    Although staying positive is quite difficult to attain, we gradually practice acceptance, gratitude and forgiving oneself. An acceptance of the idea that death is a natural part of life. A gratitude to the presence of cancer in our life despite all the bad and painful condition. And forgiveness to others, life and especially to oneself, to release the suffering over difficult situations. To let go despite cancer seems to be so unfair in our lives and focus on living at the moment.

    From there, we realize that we are never alone and nothing is out of place. It’s the acceptance that every one of us will reach our own death. Enjoying the good journey of life, both setbacks and breakthrough; while living in the present moment.

    No matter how complex situation we are living, it is still meant to appreciate the here and now. It’s quite challenging for our emotions especially; yet, in that way, we are using our inner strength to see various opportunities, no matter how hard it is.

  5. Problems are an opportunity to be solved – joining a group of enthusiastic and young hikers was never been thought I’d do it in my entire life. Despite that, I still choose to take a spontaneous adventure that cannot be redone once I won’t do it.The problem in solving the problem is we are afraid to take a risk. Taking risks is scary and uncomfortable. If the trouble is nearby, we won’t get any answer until we are willing to put ourselves out there and take a calculated gamble. No matter what the outcome is, whether it is what we expected or not, it is potentially worth it than without trying to face the risk.
  6. In gratitude, there is power – being grateful is where we can find peace of mind and happiness within. Despite challenges and troubles, there is something we could be thankful for.Throughout my long and exhausting climb, I was grateful for many small things that cannot be counted. Such as the good weather, fresh air, a ridge tent and feet (to walk, hike and climb mountains).

    For someone who is burdened with cancer, if being positive is difficult for us, how much more than being grateful for having cancer. That will infuriate most of us. But being grateful and staying positive is a choice. A victorious approach that perseveres and is more likely safe from misfortunes and successes that drifts in and out of our lives.

    We may struggle for finding reasons on how to be thankful for having cancer, but I see this helpful not only for our emotions but to our health both physical and mental. Thankful in such a way by celebrating small victories, shared significant moments with friends and loved ones and, of course, holidays. In finding reasons to be grateful, it will increase the quality of our life, makes us stronger, and change our perspective on life.

Reading my blogs about my cancer journey seem scary to you. You may start to imagine, what if it’s me someday or someone who I love will suffer from a terminal and deadly disease, and this is alarming.

Instead of being scared of yourself and see the same negative things might happen to you or to your loved one, choose to see the picture of the strength of people who suffer the most. They steer into and out of difficult situations on a momentous decision with grace and determination.

Problems cannot be avoided, whether it could be physical, mental, or emotional. With courage, we all possess strength inside us that is needed to embrace for tomorrow’s uncertainties.

Photo courtesy of Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash.