Cancer Fight – Supplements, Time

Cancer Fight – Supplements, Time

Dear Fellow Traveler,

It seems like I’m always seeing and hearing people describe cancer patients as being in a fight with cancer. The word “fight” makes sense in many ways, but at the same time it makes me cringe a little because the word can mean many different things depending on one’s cancer status and where a survivor is in their healing journey. 

Dealing with cancer might be the major fight of and for our lives using a heavy arsenal of artillery like chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. However, using the word “fight” suggests that cancer and we are equal partners and that we have a fair chance to win. With our current medical knowledge, we do not always have that chance. Thinking of cancer as a fight may make cancer patients feel like they have failed their loved ones (who are often unrelenting cheerleaders!) and themselves when cancer starts to “win”. This may give a person in the final stages of their life a heavy burden to carry – shame, embarrassment, and guilt — as if they could and should have tried harder to fight it. It is important to remember that the fight with cancer is not fair. The knowledge and therapies available to us in the 21st century do not yet guarantee that we can outsmart cancer. And yes, lifestyle may play a role too – but we have to note that there are so many other, often unknown, factors in our body, the black box, that affect cancer outcomes

Cancer is our enemy, since it can literally attack and break our bodies down resulting in suffering and death. The emotional rollercoaster it sets us on may result in anger, sadness, and frustration. But over time, perhaps with help from others (including professionals) we may be able to see the silver lining of a cancer diagnosis. It confronts us with the fragility of life and teaches us empathy, humility, and the value of time and love (which can, at times, seem rather abstract). In the end, we all try to make sense of our lives, the good and the bad, by telling our life stories in a way that makes sense to us, comforts us and allows us to be at peace. 

Cancer therapies can result in battle scars. Emotional scars, in the most extreme form, can be similar to the PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) that soldiers have when they return from war. Physical scars — from surgery, radiation, procedures, port placements, etc. — serve as a constant reminder of your illness when you look in the mirror or when other people ask about them. That may be more than you or your loved ones can handle. Healing may require a little bit of work to allow you to accept that cancer is a part of your life story and new identity, but nothing more than that. Even though cancer can be all-consuming, you are defined by more than your disease. Recognizing this may allow you to remain graceful, resilient and adaptive when others comment on your scars. You may openly explain to them that you are not ready to delve into that topic yet or are not ready to deal with their emotions. Alternatively, you may have a ready-to-go, light reply that strikes a balance between humor and respect (“Oh! Those are my battle scars!”) that allows you to kindly dismiss and change the topic. Most people will get the hint. 

When a person deals with cancer, depending on where they are in their healing journey, describing them as fighting cancer can be a seemingly innocent, yet charged label, that may give them the feeling of being a loser or a failure.  Remember, the fight isn’t always fair. I believe every person is brave and deserves a Medal of Honor! 

Thank you for visiting me. Below I’ve included a few things to educate and entertain you. Remember, I share ‘extra treats’ if you follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest! Plus, you can get notified of a new posting by subscribing to our newsletter!

Learn and Think:

Live and Feel:

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Acceptance – Nutrients, Perfectionism, Photo Ark

Acceptance – Nutrients, Perfectionism, Photo Ark



Dear travel buddy!

How is the summer treating you so far? If you are able to go outside, please protect your skin. In addition, for those undergoing active cancer treatments, please explore with your cancer provider if these could increase your skin sensitivity. On the other hand, if you are watching the summer pass by from the side of the pool, or even inside, then please know you are not alone! I am sure there are many other persons, including myself!, who prefer or are in need (for e.g. physical reasons) to stay on the side-line, which may result in feeling like an outsider.

But what are we trying to “fit into”, really? And who defines or decides who does or does not fit? This makes me think of Hans Christian Andersen’s  Ugly Duckling story about a swan’s egg that ended up in a duck’s nest! Other ducks gave the “ugly duckling” a hard time, because he appeared and behaved differently. But when the ugly duckling encountered other swans, his perspective changed. His self-image and confidence improved for the better: he wasn’t ugly after all! The humbling experience also led to a silver-lining insight:

He felt quite glad that he had come through so much trouble and misfortune, for now he had a fuller understanding of his own good fortune, and of beauty when he met with it. [Source].

For me the morale of the story is that trying to ‘fit in’ may not be the best approach, because it has a moving target of which the standards are driven by the constantly changing societal norms and pressures. Furthermore, striving to fit in may force us to portray ourselves differently to the outer world than we feel on the inside. This facade may result in us losing touch with our inner values and principles, and drain our soul.

This is valid for every person, but perhaps more so for cancer survivors who may not always be able to conform to society’s expectations. Their bodies may have been disfigured. Dysfunction or disability may interfere with one’s ability to climb the career ladder. Cancer treatment related infertility or financial difficulties may ruin one’s ability to create the picture-perfect life.

Instead, pursuing acceptance and belonging may be a healthier approach, although it still requires effort (as does every meaningful relationship!). But this pursuit may be easier to sustain, because it is ideally based on authenticity and thus may allow you to remain more true to yourself. But determining where you belong starts with you finding the “new you” and accepting this “new you” in the post-treatment phase!

Life is a journey….enjoy your personal rediscovery, frank conversations with your loved ones about your (likely altered) abilities/needs/wants, and the expansion of your social circle with more people who ‘like you just the way you are‘! [sorry – I could not help myself as a Pittsburgher].

Together we stand strong! Please find below a few things for education and entertainment!

Learn and Think:

Live and Feel:

I create and maintain this platform on my own. Please help by nudging me if you encounter technical problems.



To Eat or Not to Eat…That’s the Question….

To Eat or Not to Eat…That’s the Question….

We all need (and want to!) eat. Food keeps us alive, but more than that….the activity of using our senses (taste, smell, see, touch) and eating is important to our quality of life and a significant part of socialization with our loved ones and friends…..

It can be rather confusing to know which food products, combination of foods, and preparation methods to pursue that will result in not only improved health, but also, and more importantly, do no harm! Searching for recipes and trips to the grocery store may become a time-consuming process that you dread. This can be overwhelming if you have one, or perhaps even several medical conditions that require a special diet. Education to make more sense of food labels has been provided by e.g. FDA, NIH, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Your PCP may be able to connect you with a local (oncology) dietitian for advice (or you may be able to find a registered one here). Cancer centers may provide free access to a dietitian, and depending on the indication, your health insurance may also help in providing coverage.

Eating out can also become an adventure and a challenge. Fortunately, many restaurant menus are becoming more attuned to these dietary needs and are working to offer greater transparency by including nutritional content for calorie counters and those with food intolerances and allergies.

To put this into some perspective, although we have made great strides in the medical field, we still face the challenges of much that remains unknown, confusing, or even contradictory. New study results often raise more questions than they answer, which may be due to multiple problems.

Two examples:

  • An early 2019 publication made headlines by stating that “among US adults, higher consumption of dietary cholesterol or eggs was significantly associated with higher risk of incident CVD and all-cause mortality in a dose-response manner”. This publication has been heavily criticized. Two articles may help provide perspective and allow you to make your own informed decisions. One is an article by the New York Times and another one by the American Heart Association (the latter predated the above mentioned publication, but nevertheless still provides valid points).
  • The intake of vitamin supplements seems to have drastically increased, since popular trends suggest that they “may help, but do not harm’. However, this perception may need to be revised, since evidence has shown multivitamins can indeed harm and may actually help a tumor thrive rather than improve your overall health. As such, until we understand better, it may be wiser, to boost your vitamins in a more natural way, such as a balanced diet that healthfully includes a variety of vegetables and fruits. As always, trust your provider, especially if they specifically recommend and prescribe you to take certain supplements (e.g. when you are at risk for decreased absorption, or have been found to have low levels of vitamins B12 and D).

Another nutritional consideration may be whether or not to ‘go organic’. Organic foods are thought to contain more ‘of the good’ and less ‘of the bad’. But organic products can be less readily accessible and are often significantly costlier. You may want to prioritize your grocery list by investing in the organically produced dirty 12, and be less concerned about the clean 15.

My personal take on this is that there are many diets out there, and it is simply not possible to have a complete and accurate comparison of the benefits and flaws between them. Some diets can be expensive and may be restrictive by omitting certain food products or food groups. Until we understand more, it may be best to adopt a lifestyle that is ‘all things in moderation’. Don’t forget variety is the ‘spice of life’ and at the end of the day, we can only hope to have done our best. Our health outcomes are determined by many factors, and our diet is only one.

Allow yourself to enjoy – Bon Appetite!

Which Vitamin Source?

Which Vitamin Source?

Dietary Supplements and Mortality Rate in Older Women The Iowa Women’s Health Study (JAMA 2011)

Do Cruciferous Vegetables Really Fight Cancer? (NYT 2018)

Bottom line – until we know more and understand better, it may be preferable to get your vitamins from a large variety of dietary sources rather than pills (unless specifically recommended/prescribed by your health care provider).

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