Healing your body, mind and soul

Breast cancer is more than a physical disease. It permeates a woman’s emotional, social and spiritual well-being. Here are Wellness Wednesday tips from City of Hope's Department of Supportive Care Medicine to help women regain a feeling of control.

Eat good-for-you food

  • Instead of avoiding carbohydrates, choose the right kind. Try whole wheat pasta and brown rice. These foods are packed with antioxidants. Studies have shown that the antioxidants found in these foods have cancer-fighting abilities.
  • Taste the rainbow. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables to get the most possible benefits. Most people know the benefit of green foods, but orange foods, such as carrots, pumpkins and apricots, are rich in carotene. Carotene has been linked to a decreased risk of lung and oral cancers.

Learn more at www.choosemyplate.gov or www.eatright.org.

Quiet the mind

  • Find a quiet place. Minimizing distractions is key to beginning your meditation practice so, if possible, find a place where you can have uninterrupted peace.
  • Let go of frustration. Your mind will wander, but that’s part of the process. Don’t be self-critical if you lose concentration, just return your focus to your meditation.
  • Make time. A meditation practice is most successful when it gets incorporated into your daily routine. Set aside time, even if it’s just five minutes, every day.


Monitor your health

  • Know what to expect. Your health care team can explain what side effects and changes you may experience after treatment and how to manage them. Preparation is key.
  • Keep an eye out. Your doctors will need to know about weight gain, bone health, fatigue, memory or thinking problems, menopausal symptoms, and pain or neuropathy.
  • Don’t neglect the other stuff. Get your flu shot and other regular check-ups. Cancer survivors do have a higher risk of getting cancer, so mammograms and other screening tests are important.


Find meaning

  • Pray or meditate. Allowing time to sit quietly will help you reflect on the impact of your cancer and how you have changed from the experience.
  • Express gratitude. Although cancer can turn your life upside down, take inventory of the things and people for which you are grateful.
  • Seek support. Talk to a trusted clergy member or join a support group. Human connection is essential to your healing.  


Manage your lymphedema

Lymphedema, or swelling and fluid retention, is a frequent concern for patients whose surgery included lymph nodes. Carefully controlled exercises can help move fluid out of the affected limb and decrease swelling. Here are two:
  • Butterfly: Lie on your back, clasp your hands behind your head with elbows pointing to the ceiling. Then slowly open your elbows wide until you feel tightness, then relax into that for 30 seconds.
  • Snow Angel: Also on your back, start with your arm flat at your side, palm up. Slide your arm along the floor, making an arc toward your ear. You should feel a pull, but not pain. Hold at that spot for 30 seconds.


Be prepared for long-term side effects.

  • Commit to a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise and a healthier diet can go a long way in reducing the long-term impact of treatment.
  • Track your symptoms. Keep a diary or a log and note your physical and emotional symptoms. Share this information with your health care team during follow-up appointments.


Reconnect with your body and your sexuality

  • Share your concerns about sex or intimacy with a doctor or nurse practitioner you trust. It may seem intimidating at first but they likely will have answers that will help you on your journey to recovery.
  • Tap into other support. A social worker, patient navigator or an information center can direct you to therapists, support groups or educational classes.
  • Be patient. You need time to heal both physically and emotionally from treatment. The healing process is unique to each person so do not get discouraged if you do not see the changes you were hoping for right away. It takes time.


Build your physical strength

  • Get the go-ahead. Ask for clearance from your doctor before commencing any exercise regimen, including yoga and strength training.
  • Watch your form. Work with a certified yoga instructor or a personal trainer to learn the right form and to reduce the risk of injury.
  • Dress the part. Comfortable, stretchy fabrics allow you flexibility to move.
  • Fuel up. A banana and a serving of almonds provides energy to sustain you through your workout without making you feel too full. Stay hydrated, too.