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Subcategories from this category: Health: Breast Cancer

Almost 40% of the public appears to think that cancer can be cured without conventional, evidence-based treatments, according to American Society of Clinical Oncology. Those who follow through with this opinion have increased death rates and lower quality of life.

Misinformation about cancer care is a rampant and a growing problem.

Unfortunately, most oncologists aren't sufficiently educated on the topic either. Many know nothing about evidence-based complementary treatments that can help cancer patients, like acupuncture for neuropathy and fatigue. Even fewer use the growing knowledge of cancer biology to personalize patient treatments with the proper integration of conventional, complementary, and self-care approaches.

I believe, as the founder of the Create to Heal Program, that complementary care is just that: a complement to the care your oncologist, radiation oncologist or hematology oncologist provides you. Yes, it's true acupuncture helps with nausea from chemo, also helps with neuropathy and fatigue. There are studies that show cannabis also helps with the affects of chemotherapy. Do you replace the standard protocol with these? 

The answer is no.

Good diet, which includes juicing and green proteins, exercise, meditation and other forms of stress reduction and the arts help reduce the chances of getting cancer the first time or the second / third time. That's the rub with cancer - it often comes back.

“There’s no question that evidence-based cancer therapy is necessary to effectively treat the disease,” said ASCO Chief Medical Officer Richard L. Schilsky, MD, FACP, FASCO. “The vast majority of alternative therapies either haven’t been rigorously studied or haven’t been found to benefit patients. When patients are making critical decisions about which cancer treatments to undergo, it is always best to follow the evidence from well-designed research studies.”



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The Reimagine online symptom self-management curriculum may significantly improve some of the symptoms associated with chronic pain among breast cancer and other cancer survivors, according to a study published in Supportive Care in Cancer.

Chronic pain, a common adverse associated with cancer survivorship, has been associated with reduced physical functioning, quality of life, depression, and fatigue. Despite adherence to treatment guidelines for pain management with opioids and other pharmacologic options, treatment is often ineffective; coping skills and other mind-body therapies may improve outcomes among survivors.

For this randomized control trial, investigators enrolled 89 adult breast cancer survivors, either no evidence of disease or in remission, and assigned them to the Reimagine group or usual care. Patients also completed electronic surveys at baseline and 18-weeks after intervention that assessed outcomes such as pain severity/interference, depression, fatigue, and satisfaction.

The authors concluded that “Reimagine has an effect on depression and fatigue symptoms for breast cancer survivors. Online programs can be a feasible and effective alternative to in-person support. Additional research is recommended with larger and more diverse samples.”

For a copy of the complete study, please click here.



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I recently spoke at the Celebration church here in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Topic: What is healing? Is it the absence of disease? It it getting the stitches out? OR is it Wolverine, the character from X Men who could heal himself and others energetically? 

Everywhere I go, I ask the question what is healing to you? I have spoken to cancer and chronic pain patients, patients with heart disease, AIDS. I have spoken to family members, doctors, nurses, residents, interns, scientists and researchers. Healing means different things to different people and it comes in different forms.

 To listen to the short podcast, please click here.

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If you are a chronic sufferer, you know how miserable pain can be. Your initial reaction might be to take a pill or fight the experience with all you've got; however, the next time pain spikes, might want to try something different.

When the pain increases, stop what you're doing and take a deep breath. Feel your feet on the ground or your back against the backrest. Look around and find something right now, that you're grateful for. It may be as simple as "I'm grateful I can drink water," "I'm grateful I can hear," I'm grateful I can speak," "I'm grateful for the my friends and loved ones."

Another technique is to notice if you feel any resistance to the pain whether mental or emotional, and ask if that resistance is necessary. Ask yourself, "Can I let go of resisting this pain for this moment? Just for this moment," and notice what happens.

John Chitty, co-founder of the Colorado School of Energy Studies and Biodynamic Craniosacral therapist, uses the following method to calm the sympathetic nervous system, better known as the fight-or-flight response. When you feel a spike in your pain, focus on your body. Put away thoughts of the past or the future and bring yourself to the present moment. Can you you draw a border around your pain? Where are its limits? Direct your attention to the lowest border of pain. How would you describe the sensation that you're feeling at the lowest border of your pain?

Now, direct your attention to a place in your body that is not in pain and hold it there for one minute. Then direct your attention back to the area in pain. Repeat this process slowly. After doing this a few times, compare the pain you are feeling now tot he original pain, as you remember feeling it. Has it changed in any way?

You may have to repeat these techniques 10, 20, maybe 100 times a day. That's fine. Slowly a new road is being paved. A new thought process is being created, which will help you cope with your pain.

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I just read an update in Oncology Nurse Advisor on the incidence of cancer in children. Cancer in children is rare, yet it is the leading cause of death by disease past infancy in the United States. The most common types of cancers in children ages 0 - 14 years are leukemias, brain and other central nervous system tumors, lymphomas, soft tissue sarcomas, neuroblastoma and kidney tumors. For more on the updated facts, please click here.

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According to Dr. Mauro Zappaterra, pain management specialist, every living creature experiences pain. It is described in the leading textbook Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation as "a subjective and entirely individual personal experience influenced by learning, context and multiple psychosocial variables." If pain is an experience, totally unique to you, can you change your pain and how you feel?


Because pain is an experience, many factors influence that experience: emotions, sleep, attention, genetics. As technology has improved, we have learned more about the areas of the brain that are activated when a person experiences a painful stimulus. Surprisingly, many of those areas of the brain are important in processing emotions and attention. Therefore, the pain experience can be modulated—turned up or turned down, as if you were adjusting the volume dial on the radio—by working with your emotions and your attention.

For more on how to work with your emotions and attention to diminish your pain, and to read all of Dr. Zappaterra's foreword to our new book Create to Heal for Pain, please click here.

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Meditation is a journey from activity to silence ... a quieting of the mind. We are all out there in the world moving quickly. Meditation helps you to reconnect with yourself and your internal world, what I call the divine within. It is as simple as following your breath. Breath is magic - it's your life force. Your breath gives you a sense of peace, of being centered, being here, now. For me, meditation is catching a breath and letting it go. Meditation can be simple and effortless; it helps you tune into you.

Mindfulness is a result of meditating and a way of thinking and being that comes from paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, body sensations and surrounding environment without judgment, as an impartial observer. When you pay attention in this way, you slow down and take note of what is really happening to you and around you. You begin to see things as they are, not as they used to be. Mindfulness allows you to get out of the past and create from the present.

Benefits: When you remain present, you are able to notice your thoughts and emotions without being triggered by them. This provides relief and perspective when dealing with chronic pain and disease. In essence, you are breaking the fear and pain cycle and replacing it with the positive. You get to choose your thoughts and how to react to circumstances.

An example for me is my migraine headaches. I've experienced these since age 10; they are excruciating and debilitating, and always begin with a visual "aura." My vision is so disturbed that I can't see. This visual disturbance lasts 20 minutes or more and once it subsides, I know the worst is coming. Pain so violent I vomit, pain that can only be interrupted by banging my head against the wall.

Over time, I came to realize that the visual aura set me up for the pain -  I automatically expected the worst. Now, I am mindful of the flashing lights and disturbance, but don't immediately hit the panic button - PAIN IS COMING! I am able to get through the aura without fear and when the pain starts, I am mindful of it, but not overwhelmed by it ... it is much easier to bear.

Imaging studies show that mindfulness soothes the brain patterns underlying pain and over time, these changes take root and alter the structure of the brain itself. Result? You no longer feel pain with the same intensity. In fact, clinical trials show that meditation reduces chronic pain by 57% and in accomplished meditators, can reduce it by over 90%.













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I often hear from patients and women in crisis that sharing what they've created is the best part of our Create to Heal class. Sharing and listening are both acts of compassion, and compassion is healing. Healing, on any level, begins with hope and one's imagination.

Sharing is also inspiring! It takes the focus off of you, your pain, your challenges. Opening up, getting to the heart of what matters, touches people in a way that encourages them to communicate from the heart. Before you know it, patients are providing compassionate care for themselves and others ... in class, we learn, we listen, we reflect back all that is good.

Dr. Wayne Dyer once said that "sharing is thinking of others before ourselves and offering the love we feel for all of life, first in our thoughts and then in our actions ... and that's how we make a connection to inspiration."

What is sharing to you?



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What is healing? Healing occurs on many levels. Part of it is being seen, being listened to, attended to, respected and honored. It is also taking time for self to be quiet and still, to connect with the Divine, to really listen to your body. Whatever we are not aware of, can not be healed. 

Is healing absence of disease? Getting the stitches out? Healing doesn't always equate to a cure. In the oncology world, there is no cure for cancer ... yet. No evidence of disease is all they can say. Many patients report that healing also occurs on an emotional and spiritual level. Healing can be experiencing the grace of God or an inner state of peace.

Healing is a state of being. 

As many cancer and chronic patients know, part of the healing process can be an agitated and worried state of being. But once you tune in to you, you can shift your perspective with your disease. Befriend cancer and chronic pain? Yes! Instead of doing battle, patients learn to live with their disease ... quietly co-exist achieving a more centered place of being. A more peaceful place of being. 

An optimum attitude and place of healing? Many say absolutely, yes. Disease and pain have much to tell us ... about ourselves, our families, our faith, courage and compassion. They are a chance to learn what is truly important.

What is healing to you?





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I just read an article on Art and Palliative Care that was recently published in Oncology Nurse Advisor. Many palliative care programs utilize all forms of art to help cancer patients with their pain, fear and anxiety. This particular study conducted at The Mayo Clinic states that patients reported significantly lower pain levels after an "art intervention." For the full article, please go to:

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What is a conversation with your heart?

A knowing deep inside you. A feeling of trust, wisdom and insight. The result can be a poem of love, a word of encouragement, a gem of joy from one person to another. It's a kindness, a smile of knowing - knowing what it is like to live with pain, discomfort or disease. 

I recently taught a Create to Heal class in Taos, NM and the participants wrote beautifully after experiencing the Conversation with your Heart visualization. Here are some inspirational gems from class:

Physical and mental, emotional pain cease as my heart is enshrouded with love, peace and the acceptance of reality.

My heart is filled with gratitude! despite the challenges of accepting my disease. This gratitude keeps away my fears and impatience.

I AM healing and believe in the power of my visualization - that I am not a victim, but embrace the daily lessons of practicing Patience, Compassion and Loving Kindness.

Time keeps coming up - how much time it takes to be here, to complete a life. How much time is there for me to love and look and see all the beauty around me? I am creating in the space of happiness and love, fulfillment - space with myself and my heart.

What does your heart have to tell you?


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and, with it comes renewal, limitless possibilities, and the unknown, where everything is created.

"If you want to control the future, the unknown, (our egos want to control!) be present in each moment and string these moments together ...  as you would a necklace of pearls ... pearls of your innate wisdom, the wisdom of being present and still."

Patricia Varga




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I just read a parting thought from the July/August 2016 issue of Holistic Nursing Practice. We've all heard of random acts of kindness, how about kindness as a therapeutic intervention? Fascinating to me that kindness and compassion are something we must teach health care providers to use. However, as I read the article, I was reminded of how hard nurses, doctors, interns, and residents work. 

"Fatigue and irritability are often associated with intense work environments - these emotions are counterproductive to consistently providing doses of kindness to those who need it most. Remedy: compassionate care.

What is compassionate care? A way of caring for yourself, colleagues, patients and others that is kind and nurturing. Self-compassion is simply compassion directed inward and consists of three elements: kindness, a sense of common humanity and mindfulness. These components combine and mutually interact to create a self-compassionate frame of mind. Self-compassion is relevant when considering personal inadequacies, mistakes, and failures, as well as when confronting painful life situations that are outside our control. Self-kindness entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than flagellating ourselves with self-criticism. 

How to achieve? Through meditation or simple breathing techniques, taking time for a cup of tea or sip of water, taking time to listen to a colleague or patient. One of the greatest gifts you can give another is the silence of just listening. Patients, particularly the elderly, are painfully lonely. Loneliness in health relations is associated with a lack of being heard and recognized as a unique individual. When you listen with attention, you are honoring the person before you. Listening in this way is what I call "enlightened listening."

What does it mean to listen with all of your senses, every fiber of your being, every molecule that ensures seeing the person before you? It means giving over to Greater Hands that guide you. You surrender your ego and listen from deep within. Enlightened listening is a knowing that your humanity is touching another’s humanity. People in pain, people with discomfort and disease, fear, anxiety and anticipation of the worst, simply want to be heard. Comforted. Attended to. Grounded in grace and someone else’s presence. Your presence is a gift, which is reflected back to you as another gift.

Presence: the state of being present.

Enlightened listening takes practice and is at the core of compassionate care. When I first started working on the oncology unit floor at Glendale Adventist Medical Center, bringing my creative “ministry” in room to patients, I was mentored by a wonderful chaplain, Chaplain Mary. As we approached a patient’s room, after attending to the basics, washing hands and putting on mask and gown if needed, she told me to put my agenda and all hope for a specific outcome aside, and give myself over to God. Since I do believe in God, a higher power and intelligence, giving over to Greater Hands made sense to me.

If you do not believe in a God or a higher power, imagine putting your expectations in your pocket. Breathe and let go of agenda and outcome. In my Create to Heal class, someone may not want to participate or share, even though they are there, sitting quietly. Showing up is often the hardest thing for a patient or family member to do. But once there, soaking up the grace and presence of others is very healing - and in that moment, may be all they need.





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I just read John Smith's blog on living with cancer entitled "Back to the Future." As with most poetics written by cancer patients or patients challenged with disease, this one is about life and love, compassion and a granddaughter "marching confidently into the future." 

John has lived with multiple myeloma for eight years since diagnosis, and shares his trials and tribulations with the latest wonder drugs: the effects of neurotoxins, the "blunt club" of alkylating chemo and the brain scrambling that comes with steroids. 

John also shares his beautiful poetry and the wise words of others, including Lao Tzu, the Eastern Philosopher and father of Taoism. Just remain in the center, watching. And then forget that you are there. 

In a time when everyone seems to be using the word "mindful," this quote from Tzu is particularly brilliant, since he lived during the sixth century B.C. 

I have met John Smith and read his blog to find out how he is doing, as well as to be inspired. For more information on living with multiple myeloma and living a "mindful" life, please visit John's blog


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What does it mean to listen with all of your senses, every fiber of your being, every molecule that ensures seeing the person before you? It means giving over to Greater Hands that guide you. You surrender your Ego and listen from deep within. Enlightened listening is a knowing that your humanity is touching another’s humanity. People in pain, people with discomfort and di.sease, fear, anxiety and anticipation of the worst, simply want to be heard. Comforted. Attended to. Grounded in grace and someone else’s presence. Your presence is a gift, which is reflected back to you as another gift.

Presence: the state of being present.

I just returned from Los Angeles where I taught a Create to Heal class to residents at the Geffen School (UCLA) of Medicine's Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation program. A more creative and attentive group I could not find! Compassionate care begins with self care and interns, residents and doctors are not necessarily tuned in to self care. The burnout and depression rate among med school students and doctors is very high, higher than it's been, for the demands of doctors has never been higher. 

HOWEVER, more medical schools are taking meditation, mindfulness, art and awareness seriously - for their students and also their patients. The residents I worked with are exceptionally talented. I share with you a piece that Marissa Darling, Resident Physician, PM&R created during a "conversation with your heart" meditation. Note the intricate detail and overall beauty:







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So what is awe?

Researchers at UC Berkeley tell us that "awe happens when you encounter something so vast that you don't feel like you can wrap your mind around it completely." Awe involves the magic of life, like birth, or something in nature so beautiful you can't fully describe it or, even feeling connected and completely understood by another human being. That, to many, is awesome.

To researcher Craig Anderson "awe  is  a  response  to  things  that  are  perceptually  vast,  that  we  don’t  fully  understand  at  the moment.  This  makes  it  a very  unique  emotion.  We  find  behaviors  associated  with  awe  that  are adaptive  in  situations  that  are  super  novel,  like  trying  to  connect  with  other people  or  just being  curious.  When  faced  with  something  that  blows  your  mind,  you  want  to  find  out  more information."

The benefits of feeling being awe inspired? For one thing, this powerful emotion takes you out of your head and into your heart where you see and feel things differently. To veterans suffering from PTSD, awe can alleviate symptoms of stress and feeling overwhelmed. Being in nature camping or hiking or river rafting, mentally and emotionally take you to another place where you plain old feel better.

Taking the awe of nature one step further, a study published in Environmental Health Perspectives shows that living closer to nature is better for your health, and may even extend your life. "Exposure to Greenness and Mortality in a Nationwide Prospective Cohort Study of Women" by Peter James, Jaime E. Hart, Rachel F. Banay, and Francine Laden, indicates that people living in the greenest places — that is, people who had the most vegetation within 800 feet of their homes — had a 12 percent lower rate of mortality from any non-accidental cause than people living in the least green places. Specifically, they found that the relationship was strongest for deaths related to respiratory disease, cancer and kidney disease. These results were the same regardless of the participants’ income, weight or smoking status and also did not significantly change between urban and suburban locations.

For more information on the study Nature and Mortality, please click here.

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Every Day Is A Gift

“I didn’t expect to recover from my second operation but since I did, I consider that I’m living on borrowed time. Every day that dawns is a gift to me and I take it in that way. I accept it gratefully without looking beyond it. I completely forget my physical suffering and all the unpleasantness of my present condition and I think only of the joy of seeing the sun rise once more and of being able to work a little bit, even under difficult conditions.”

Henri Matisse

MatisseHenri-Émile-Benoît Matisse (1869–1954) is known as one of the leading figures of modern art. He is also proof that art heals and that age has no limitations. In 1941, at the age of 71, he was diagnosed with cancer. Although he lost the physical strength to paint and sculpt as he once had, Matisse continued to create and innovate. During this stage of life, he began his “cut-out” works of art which are recognized as some of his most important, treasured pieces.

"I have needed all that time to reach the stage where I can say what I want to say. Only what I created after the illness constitutes my real self: free, liberated.”

Matisse’s life and his artistic expression remind us to remain creative and carry on!


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I just came across a wonderful article entitled Creativity and Spirituality in Nursing: Implementing Art in Healing by Mary Rockwood Lane, PhD, RN, published in Holistic Nursing Practice journal. Studies show that creativity and spirituality can heal by changing a person’s physiology and attitude from one of stress to one of deep relaxation. Creative modalities offer nurses and other caregivers a new perspective on how to care for patients.

Lane refers to journaling, dance, music, poetry and other healing arts as tools nurses can use to help their patients heal on many levels. 

For the full article and list of references, please click here



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I recently attended a conference at The Chopra Center. While Deepak enlightened us about Super Genes and Healing Beyond Biology, others taught primordial sound meditation and the basics of Ayurvedic healing.

Because I use meditation and guided imagery in my Create to Heal classes, I found the primordial sound meditation very interesting. Here's the download: According to the Vedic (from the oldest holy texts of the Hindu religion) tradition, ancient sages were able to hear the vibrations of nature and the original sounds of the universe. Om, for example, is the most elemental sound representing infinite universal consciousness.

Meditation does not stop your thoughts, it quiets them and changes their intention. During primordial sound meditation, you concentrate on your mantra, like Om, returning to it every time your mind wanders. Mantra means "mind vehicle" or "mind instrument" - a useful tool to help you with stress and anxiety, and ultimately, disease and healing.

As you quiet your breath and still your mind by using your mantra, you are able to watch your thoughts as they go by; you are not engaging, but realizing they are like cars driving by.  Deepak says: "You are not your thoughts." So if anxiety and the surface chatter of your mind kick into high gear, use your primordial sound mantra to get below the surface to deeper waters where your energy is steady and calm. 

The simple sound of Om reverberates throughout your body, changing the discomfort to a peaceful feeling of warmth. That is the best way I can describe it. OHHMMMM. Say it aloud, feel it resonate. Research now indicates that meditation, regardless of type, awakens your creativity and helps you to heal spiritually, emotionally and physically.



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As I welcomed patients into last night's Create to Heal class, music was playing.

"You are listening to one of the great oratorios," I told them. "Handel's Messiah."

"Whenever I am tired or overwhelmed, feeling off" I continued, "I listen to "Hallelujah" from The Messiah composed in 1741. Why? Because it is so uplifting ... I literally have a change of heart - a change in perspective, a change in biology."

Scientists tell us when you listen to music, your brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain linked to reward and motivation. Listening to music can be so pleasurable that even the anticipation of listening to music can cause a release of dopamine. No wonder I feel better!

Scientists and research also tell us that healing from the Heart is real. The Heart is our center of intelligence, a source of wisdom, that informs all parts of our body, including the Brain. In fact, the communication from the Heart to the Brain is constant. The heart is a high-speed, intuitive, discriminating organ that is the command post for everything in the body, including healing. The neurological system that goes from the heart to the brain is extensive.

The Heart is also an electrical organ, producing the most bio-electricity in our bodies, up to 40 - 60 times stronger than our second most powerful source, the Brain. This energy permeates every single cell ... so when you have a change of heart, you are truly changing your perspective, outlook, and ability to make decisions. Next time you need a boost, listen to Handel or any other piece of music that inspires you. It will lift your Heart, the rest will follow.





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