The eleven tips you’re about to read have been life-changing for me. Some of them may seem simple, but I come back to these practices whenever I need to get grounded and remind myself that living with cancer can be healthy—it can even be vibrant, abundant and filled with beauty.
Whether or not you’re living with cancer like me, these tips are universal. I know you’re going to find something (or maybe a few things!) that resonates with you.
So, let’s dive in…
During my teens and twenties, I celebrated (or avoided) Valentine’s Day. Each year had its own flavor. Heartache, romantic plans gone awry and some very sweet moments, too. But, February 14, 2003 changed that day forever. That’s the day I was diagnosed with an incurable, stage IV cancer.
Life stopped… and then transformed.
Valentine’s Day is a very spiritual celebration now. I call it my “cancerversary,” a day of deep self-love, reflection, gratitude and re-birth. It took me over a decade, post-diagnosis, to get to that sacred place. But, I’m here now and if you’re newly diagnosed, trust that you will get there, too.
For many patients, cancer is no longer a death sentence.
Really take that in. The first doctor I spoke to suggested a triple organ transplant, the second gave me 10 years to live. Thankfully, both were wrong and I didn’t listen. If you’ve been given statistical projections or an expiration date, there’s a good chance your well-meaning doctor could be wrong, too.
Once I found a better oncologist for my disease, my entire world opened up. As you may know, I have a weird slow-moving (could get aggressive one day) sarcoma. And though I’m living with cancer, I do it in a healthy, harmonious way. In fact, today I call myself a cancer thriver and I bet that no matter what your personal, medical or emotional pickle is (cancer or something else), you can be a thriver, too.
I would never say that life with cancer is easy, but it can be quite stunning and rich, even in the midst of the pain. These tips have helped me feel better and get stronger along the way. I think they’ll be useful for you or someone you love, too.
11 Tips for Healthy Living with Cancer
1. When the going gets tough, take a really deep breath.
This is the first (and most important) move you can make when the shit hits the fan. There will be endless ideas, advice, theories and even some medical bullying slung your way. Your breath is the gateway to your intuition—it will help you navigate the noise. Breathe and listen. Your breath also has the power to reduce stress (more on that below). When we’re in prolonged fight or flight mode, it’s hard to make decisions and easy to get depressed, anxious and exhausted. Breathe.
2. Find the best oncologist for your disease.
If I had listened to the first doctor, I wouldn’t be here today. Thankfully, I was willing to travel to find the best oncologist for my sarcoma. If you’re newly diagnosed (with any medical issue), I highly suggest you do the same. Your life is in their hands. Do they have experience and access to the latest research? Are they tapped into a network of colleagues who can discuss your case? Your local hospital may not cut it. My oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute understands all the current traditional treatment options for my disease. I still haven’t had any conventional treatment, but should my disease become aggressive, he’d be my first stop (but not my last).
How to find an oncologist: Start by Googling the top 10 cancer hospitals in the U.S. Also, use the resources below to explore the best oncologist for your specific cancer. In addition to these tips, network! I’ve found the best support by asking my doctor, family and friends.
- National Cancer Institute’s Office of Cancer Centers
- American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Cancer.Net Cancer Specific Resources
- Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA)
3. Your oncologist (or other doctor) probably isn’t enough.
Build an integrative team. Integrative and functional medicine practitioners treat your whole body, not just the symptoms. How do they do that? With dietary recommendations, targeted supplements, IVs, stress management tips and other integrative therapies that improve your overall well-being, including boosting your immune system.
How to find an integrative MD: Check out the directories below. Again, network your butt off. Ask around and interview the prospective healing candidates—that’s right, they work for you.
- Find a Functional Medicine Practitioner
- American College for Advancement in Medicine
- American Association for Naturopathic Physicians
4. Reduce inflammation. Eat plants.
In a nutshell: Embrace gorgeous greens, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, sea veggies, fruits and vegetables galore. Crowd out inflammatory, hormone-filled dairy and other animal products (even organic) by filling your plate with plant-strong, whole foods. And while you’re at it, dump the processed white stuff, especially sugar (it feeds cancer and other bullshit). Speaking of sugar, choose low-glycemic fruits and desserts. If you’re not interested in going full tilt vegan, make plants your main dish and think of everything else as a condiment. If you don’t ditch animal products, reduce your consumption to 2-3 times per week and avoid factory farm products at all costs. For delicious recipes, check out our recipe section at Kriscarr.com, Crazy Sexy Juice and Crazy Sexy Kitchen.
5. Juice your ass off. Not sugary juices.
Avoid store bought processed juices and choose fresh, green, healing juices that you make yourself. Organic is definitely best if you can afford it. If not, check out the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen for guidance on avoiding chemical-laden produce. Without a shadow of a doubt, my daily, low-glycemic green juice practice has allowed me to thrive in spite of my obstacles. My basic juicing rule for patients is a 3:1 ratio—three veggies to one low-glycemic fruit. You can also add lemon, as it has very little sugar. Ginger rocks too. Juices are nutrient dense, hydrating, energizing and medicinal. If you only have a blender, that’s great, too. Make green smoothies instead. Cheers!