February 4th marks World Cancer Day, a day for appreciating the importance of uniting and working together to improve the lives of those of us with cancer.
This year’s theme – “I am and I will” – recognizes that our commitment to act will lead to powerful progress in reducing the global impact of cancer. This theme relates to the importance of encouraging people with cancer to become active participants in their health. Here at the CCNM Integrative Cancer Centre (CCNM ICC), empowering our patients to remain actively involved in their care is one of our first and foremost goals. In fact, studies show that greater participation in the decision-making process is related to improved compliance, ultimately improving clinical outcomes. Moreover, having people take an active role in their health fosters hope and some studies have shown hopelessness is bad for our health – it may increase our risk of recurrence and may lead to reduced survival.
If you have cancer, here are 3 ways that you can embody “I am and I will”, foster hope and empower yourself to take action for your health:
- Create a vision for your health, followed by setting realistic goals to help you get there, and then reach out for support. Regardless of where you are in your cancer treatment, there is support that can help you work towards those goals – you don’t have to do it alone. Here at the CCNM Integrative Cancer Centre, we see people at all stages of cancer and offer therapies like acupuncture, massage, naturopathic therapies and diet and movement counselling. These therapies can be incredibly supportive of quality of life, in recovery from treatment and generally, just help with feeling better. Reach out to an integrative provider who has experience in cancer care to start working on your vision and achieving your goals.
- Focus on modifiable risk factors – these are the ones that you can change. You can’t change your family history, age or gender, however you do have control over what you eat and how you move. Diet and exercise are the biggest modifiable risk factors for most cancers and seemingly small changes, like a 20 minute daily walk, not only reduces your risk but also provides numerous benefits to your quality of life.
- Any serious illness impacts mental health and emotional resilience is a key part of having hope and empowering yourself to take a front-seat in your health care. Addressing mental health will look differently for everyone – it could be a mindfulness meditation or yoga practice, an individual therapy session or joining a support group. Here at the CCNM ICC, we offer free weekly mindfulness and yoga classes to our patients, funded by Better Living Health and Community Services. Mental and physical health are fundamentally linked and we can’t forget to check-in with our mental and emotional health.
So, on this World Cancer Day, we believe the theme could be broadened to: “I am capable of making positive changes in my life. I am willing to consciously evaluate my moment-to-moment decisions to ensure that they are the best ones for my health, both physically and emotionally. With the guidance of my health care team, I will take an active role in my own health.”