Ask anyone who’s been through it — breast cancer is like a tornado in your life. From the moment you get the news to the ongoing tests and treatments, it’s a whirlwind through the medical system. Instead of just one doctor treating you, there’s a whole team of doctors, nurses, and other specialists to help you deal with all the complex diagnostic and treatment decisions. You go from one doctor to the next, and it may not be until the end of treatment that you have a chance to even stop and think about what’s just happened.
When the dust finally settles at the end of all the treatment, you may find yourself — like many of us do — in the middle of limbo-land. We’re trying to get back to the swing of things and move on with the rest of our lives — but we need to find our way to a new normal. We need to figure out what we can do in our everyday lives to reduce the risk of ever seeing that cancer again. To look at our lives and say, “What was going on in my life before my diagnosis that may have played a role in putting me at risk? Was I a couch potato? Was my life full of stress and strain? Was I overweight, doing the whole yo-yo diet thing? Was I drinking too much alcohol? Was I eating all the wrong things…none of the right things? I need to know what was I doing that I need to change, because I don’t ever want this to happen again.” While there likely isn’t one thing that you did to cause the cancer, there are things you can do to live your healthiest life moving forward.
This critical part of the journey is the focus behind Nina Monteé-Karp’s Breast Cancer: The Path of Wellness & Healing — a 2-disc DVD series that weaves cutting-edge medical advice from leading doctors together with intimate first-person accounts about the entire breast cancer experience. Nina, an award-winning director and friend of Breastcancer.org, has been a selfless and tireless champion for women, men, and their families confronted with breast cancer. According to Nina, “My first goal in making this DVD was to raise awareness and bring hope. I heard from my girlfriends over and over again that once your doctor tells you that you have breast cancer, you can’t hear another thing. That’s a powerful sentence — ‘You have breast cancer.’ Your life changes.”
When Nina set out to make the DVD, she found everyday women, physicians, and celebrities affected by breast cancer to share their stories in a truly inspiring way. I was honored to participate along with these incredible people. Experts and diagnosed women share personal stories as well as information on risk, accurate biopsy reading, treatment options, diet, exercise, stress reduction, spiritual growth, talking to children about breast cancer, and much more.
According to Nina, “It was really obvious to me that we needed to have an educational DVD — not just another documentary — but something that educates women about every aspect of breast cancer from A to Z. Real, everyday women mixed with celebrities in a way that is positive and hopeful. Here, women can share a special sisterhood with those who have done really well — like Christina Applegate, who was 34 and went on to have a baby, or Sheryl Crow, who is looking fantastic and rocking it. A woman who is diagnosed can sit down with her family, and in a few hours can really get the whole big picture of what is ahead on her journey.”
My book, Living Well Beyond Breast Cancer, touches on all these issues too, and I’m proud of the word “well” for its double meaning. People don’t just want to live beyond breast cancer – they want to live well beyond breast cancer – far, far past this challenge in their lives. While the book provides answers to many of the questions women have, Nina’s DVD opens it up to a new level. Seeing and hearing a variety of women and specialists speaking frankly about their experiences, insights, and inspirations really brings it home: We’re all in this together.
Seeing the opportunity to give women a broader perspective on their treatment options, Nina brought together a mix of leading doctors and wellness experts. This unique blend of insight helps give women an understanding of how complementary medicine can work together with conventional medicine. “We feature the top doctors in every area of the breast cancer world. So women who may not have the chance to go and see these doctors can still benefit from their advice,” says Nina.
One of the standout moments of The Path of Wellness and Healing is Nina’s interview with Dr. Soram Khalsa, a Los Angeles physician and expert in integrative medicine. I was intrigued and inspired by what Dr. Soram had to say. Later, I had the fortunate opportunity to meet him, where I arranged for my own evaluation.
Dr. Soram compares cancer to weeds, a type of growth that crowds out the good crops and plants. Cancer, he says, is the result of unhealthy soil that’s been compromised by stress, robbed of nutrients such as good food and vitamin D, contaminated by chemicals like pesticides, plastic residues, and hormones. Plus it’s further strained by negative lifestyle habits such as smoking, excess alcohol, and inactivity. All of these forces, together or in sequence, can combine to damage our breast cells and yield unhealthy overgrowth of cells such as cancer.
Passionate about these issues myself — the focus of our Think Pink, Live Green initiative — I wanted to know more about how Dr. Soram uses holistic healing to complement his traditional internal medicine practice.
During the evaluation, he explored multiple areas of my life: quality of sleep, stress factors, my food intake, my weight, and how much I was exercising. His questions tried to get to the very root causes that may have contributed to the development of cancer in each individual — kind of like a nice FBI agent figuring out a crime.
Our medical practices are so entirely different. My practice of breast radiation oncology is part of the front-lines, direct battle against cancer cells that promises to reduce the risk of recurrence but has some potential side effects to go with it. To a person undergoing this type of treatment, it feels like something they have to do — but they really don’t want it. Our focus: fighting the cancer.
Dr. Soram works to improve overall strength and well being, to make you feel better than you ever have in the past — and less vulnerable to any future cancer event. His focus: nurturance and improving vitality.
So, you can understand why it feels better and more comforting to see a Dr. Soram rather than a doctor like me. And the different orientations of our practices are what make them complementary.
If you choose to visit a doctor like Dr. Soram, treatment might begin with a number of tests. The doctor may want to test your hormone and vitamin D levels. You might also be tested for certain chemicals in the environment. Once you and your doctor recognize the factors you may be dealing with — and to what degree — a treatment plan can be designed to complement your current therapy.
Whether you’ve just been diagnosed or you’ve completed treatment, I encourage you to explore your own next step. The Path of Wellness and Healing DVD set is a great place to start.
An additional reason to check it out: With every DVD purchase, a percentage of sales go to Breastcancer.org to help us continue in our efforts to bring the most up-to-date medical content to everyone affected by breast cancer. Visit The Path of Wellness and Healing website to order a copy.