Confronting cancer

By Deb Dittner

A diagnosis of cancer can be devastating.  No one wants to hear those three words “you’ve got cancer”.  So if you or a loved one receives a cancer diagnosis, there are many steps you can take to make the going a bit easier.  Enlist the help of either a family member or close friend to be by your side and for the extra pair of ears, for support, for company during tough times.  Sure there are times you will want to be alone to think things through for yourself but that extra hug is so much needed.

Initially, you may feel that tests, treatment, and/or surgery need to be done “yesterday”.  Slow down.  Breathe.  Listen to what your heart and body is saying to you.  The breath will help to decrease stress and anxiety.  Sit comfortably with both feet flat on the floor and your hands either on both knees or placed in your lap.  Close your eyes and inhale to the count of 8…hold for the count of 8…release for the count of 8.  After a few rounds of this breathing method you will feel more in control and relaxed.

Once you receive a cancer diagnosis, begin to research the disease, oncologist(s) and other health care providers to be on your “team”.  Begin to understand what the current traditional options for treatment consist of and how to find those who may offer other or additional possibilities.  An integrative team will consist of practitioners in functional and integrative medicine.  Interview the providers you find and choose what best suits your needs.  The cancer is only a piece of what needs to be treated. A whole body approach needs to be considered consisting of energy therapy, supplements, whole nutrient-dense foods, and other possibilities to increase your immune system.

Eat whole nutrient-dense foods to help decrease inflammation.  Eliminate dairy and other animal products as these can consist of hormones.  Eliminate sugar as it feeds cancer.   Research shows the average American consumes approximately 152 pounds of sugar per year.  Choose low-glycemic fruits as a dessert.  Make at least half of your plate plant rich, and (if not vegan) one quarter of your plate a lean, clean protein.  Consider purchasing a juicer and juice…juice…and juice some more.  Use organic fruit and vegetables as much as possible.  Go to for information on the Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen to choose appropriately.  When juicing, use a 3:1 ratio of veggies to fruit.  Adding ginger (anti-inflammatory and gut healthy) and lemon (aids in alkalinity) will add to the flavor.

The type of body care and cleaning products need to be chosen with caution.  Many personal care products contain ingredients that have not been approved by the FDA.  Companies are not required to test their products and can leave off hazardous chemicals from the ingredient list.  Many of these chemicals may increase the risk of cancer, are hormone disruptors, cause infertility and even birth defects.  Cleaning products for the home falls into the same category.  The Environmental Working Group ( provides lists of harmful chemicals.

Get up and move. Physical movement is necessary to stay strong.  Exercise boosts immunity, increases endurance, builds muscle, reduces inflammation, and provides added energy.  With daily movement, you will be better able to handle cancer treatments and procedures, and recover more quickly.  It is very important to commit to some form of exercise (yoga, Pilates, weights, swimming, tai chi, dance, walking) on a regular basis beginning with 10 minutes and building to 30 minutes or more.

Reduce stress.  A diagnosis of cancer can be one of the most stressful events in your life.  You need to find the best way for you to manage stress so as not to weaken your immune system, alter your sleep habits, or create more illness.  As mentioned earlier, breathing exercise is a great way to reduce many stressful situations.  Other forms of stress reduction include yoga (the added benefit of movement), meditation (even as little as 5-10 minutes is helpful), getting out in nature (again more movement), and massage (so relaxing).  You may need to seek professional help as well since dealing with a cancer diagnosis can be extremely difficult.

Nightly restorative sleep for 7-9 hours is healing to the body allowing you to best respond to treatment(s).  If you are a coffee drinker, stop by noon.  If you drink alcohol, decrease the amount and have it with a meal.  Alcohol disrupts melatonin necessary for sleep and blood sugar levels. Start approximately one hour before you are ready to go to sleep with a nightly routine.  Take an Epsom salt bath (excellent in magnesium) with therapeutic grade essential oils, have a cup of herbal tea, or read a book or magazine. Eliminate all electronics (TV, iPhone, computer) as these stimulate the mind.  Create a calming atmosphere.  Keep the temperature cool and dark with curtains to block all light.  Climb into bed and journal.  Write whatever comes to mind about your day. Also write about 3 things you are grateful for and why.  End with an affirmation such as “I am healing every day”.

And most importantly…believe in you.  Care and love yourself just as you are.  Be present.  Know your truth.

In the words of Buddha:

Do not dwell in the past,

Do not dream of the future,

Concentrate the mind on the present moment.

Deborah Dittner is a family nurse practitioner and health consultant. Her mission is to transform as many individuals as possible through nutrition and lifestyle changes. For more information, check out her website at or contact her at 518-596-8565.