June 2024: Healing from Within-Celebrating Cancer Survivorship Month

by | Jun 28, 2024 | Survivorship

Every year in June we celebrate Cancer Survivorship Month. Having worked in Acute Care Oncology as a Nurse, Clinical Nurse Specialist and/ or Nurse Practitioner for over 41 years, I find it is a Special Month to Celebrate the life of all those 18+ million brave and courageous people who live each day knowing that they have not only survived cancer, but they have a second chance!!

This month, as part of our Spring Workshop Series, I interviewed Christine, a Clinical Social Worker from the Healing Garden in Harvard, MA. Christine had significant health challenges when she first presented to the Oncology floor with a new diagnosis of Lymphoma. She went through the gold standard six cycles of chemotherapy. It was a very intense regimen, and she was determined to avoid any complications. She was able to do this without the need to be admitted for severe neutropenia or infection because she was so motivated to do whatever she could to keep herself healthy and strong. She even avoided a blood transfusion during her chemo regimen-unheard of for her type of chemotherapy. She took inventory of her health habits which were actually quite good from the start but also her environment but added all of the healthful practices and eliminated anything that might impact on her health going forward. Five years later, Christine would learn that she could consider herself cured. BRAVO to Christine because, as I told her, she did the work to make that happen and not everyone has the motivation or the energy to do that, but she did and it made all the difference in her outcome.

With that said, I would love to share some of the lessons that I have learned from my many patients over the years, for which I am most grateful. I will try my best to share the wisdom that my many patients have shared with me through their example of perseverance and resilience and survived. I hope it is helpful to you!!

For many, cancer has motivated them to reset their priorities and redefine what is important to them in their life. They often have a greater attitude of gratitude for the chance to wake up each day and enjoy another chance to have their health, to be able to get up out of bed, to enjoy their family as well as their friends. Many have told me that beyond these three elements, little else matters in this lifetime! It is a whole new perspective on this one life that we experience for the brief time we are here on this earth.

Most of my patients have taught me significant life lessons about what this life is all about. It is about growing our soul, finding our purpose, appreciating each day, living our best self, finding our purpose, and being kind, compassionate, forgiving and doing our best to live with an intention of Unconditional Love. It is never easy but with practice we get better and better. Practice, Practice, Practice in the school of life!!

They have also shared that coming to peace with cancer is a process that takes time to feel comfortable. Initially, most people are in a state of shock wondering if they will live and what other uncertainties await them. For some it is feeling betrayed by their bodies or at least less confident about their bodies and their health. It seems that it takes about 1-3 years, on average, to develop a sense of peace that having cancer has actually been a positive experience in their life because it helped to redefine what is really important and to let go of all those things which no longer serve them or are unimportant.

For those that have overcome all odds in their cancer journey, these people have taught me the most about the significant difference that honoring our bodies by nurturing good health habits can have for a positive outcome. One of the most impactful I have seen with my patients over the years who have had Remarkable Recoveries are those who have radically changed their diets to incorporate natural and/ or organic, mostly Plant-Based diets. For those that enjoy meats, eating high quality meats from grass fed cows or pasture-raised chickens, about 4-5 times per month seems to help. Beyond nutrition, walking or exercising each day, building a stress management practice into each day, getting adequate sleep, finding one’s purpose and, most importantly, having a community of dear friends and positive loving relationships in one’s life. I used to believe that healthy eating and aerobic exercise were the key ingredients to a long-lived life. However, I was actually shocked to learn that being in a Community of Support, one that is not just any community but one that is positive and loving is the most important ingredient to a long and healthful life! Now that has been a key takeaway that I am glad to have learned. I hope that is helpful to you too.

Along those lines, hope that you will consider finding time to nurture that for yourself. Often that is hard to do on our own and is best done in a Community of Support, with Believing eyes and with those that want to offer support to you. As I have found in my life, that with every good intention, it is hard to continue for the long run on our own trying to make changes; it is so much easier in a Community of Support. That extra caring nudge that keeps us accountable to our goals and dreams. If that would be helpful to you, I hope that you will contact me as one of my services is to help coach those with a personal or family history of cancer to help build the muscle for health habits that you have set as a goal for yourself. You deserve to be surrounded by people that honor and cherish you! So this June, Celebrating Cancer Survivorship Month, whether you have cancer, know someone with cancer or are at risk of cancer, especially if you are pregnant or have young children, I hope that you will take some time to honor your life and your health and dreams. Making your dreams a priority in your life. Building habits towards what you would most love for your life today and everyday going forward! Truly! If you want that support do not hesitate to contact me or contact Christine Zinke LICSW at the Healing Garden in Harvard, MA. We would be happy to help you live your dreams!

To your good health through Wellness. Working Every Living day through Love, Nutrition, Exercise, Serenity and Spirituality!