What Spiritual Self-Care Looks Like for Those with Cancer by Scott Sanders

I’d like to welcome a guest article by Scott Sanders. Scott hosts CancerWell.org to promote self-care and spiritual wellness for those who are enduring cancer treatment or for those helping someone through cancer treatment.

*The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Driving Force Fitness, Tiffany Damle or its members. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.



What Spiritual Self-Care Looks Like for Those with Cancer

By Scott Sanders

The psychological and emotional stress of a cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment can be tremendous. Research has found that people who incorporate spiritual and emotional wellness into their overall treatment strategy feel better and have better outcomes.

A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work when it comes to practicing spiritual self-care and wellness. Everyone has differing opinions on what spirituality means, and everyone puts it into practice differently. For some, spirituality means an organized religion with specific practices and beliefs. For others, spirituality is about the meaning and purpose we define for ourselves.

As one oncologist-turned-chaplin told Cancer Today magazine,  “I will say, ‘What do you believe in?’ It could be family, it could be artwork, it could be beauty. All of those are manifestations of that person’s spirituality.”

Whatever your philosophy, here are some spiritual issues that can arise during a person’s cancer journey, and what self-care actions you can take to resolve them.

  • A crisis of faith. Being faced with a life-threatening illness like cancer is more than enough to make you question your beliefs. Know that this is only natural. Don’t fault yourself for any doubts you may be having. Instead, try to be forward-thinking. Identify your emotions. Then, decide how you want to process and react. Are you feeling angry, as if God is undeservedly punishing you? Are you feeling abandoned by Him?

  • A renewed interest in faith. Just as the devout sometimes have a crisis of faith after a cancer diagnosis, the nonreligious (or those who have lapsed in religious practice) sometimes feel a pull toward spirituality after being diagnosed. This, too, is perfectly natural. Explore this renewed interest and see where it takes you.

  • No change at all. Cancer doesn’t shake everyone’s faith. Many people feel the exact same way about God, the universe and man’s purpose on Earth as they did before their diagnoses. Again, this is normal. If you feel your spiritual wellness remains at a positive status quo, then feel free to focus on other aspects of wellness.

  • Loneliness. Cancer can be a lonely disease. It may take you away from work, school or other social groups. It may also drive away folks who don’t know how to handle someone battling an illness. And interactions with your loved ones can be strained for various reasons. Bible study groups or counseling with a faith representative can often counteract these feelings of loneliness. They can offer emotional support or a distraction, depending on what their focus is.

  • Emotional stress. Fear that treatment won’t work, the financial burden of medical bills, and the shakeup of daily routines leading to strained relationships with those around you -- all of these things are stress-inducing. Part of spiritual self-care is finding peace amid the chaos of life. Find ways to destress and relax. Try guided deep breathing, meditation or prayer. Even reading scripture can be relaxing.

  • Physical pain. Cancer treatment or management can be brutal on the body. Patients must find ways to cope with their pain, and an over-reliance on addictive medications needs to be avoided. Individual or group prayer, listening to spiritual music, and meditation can all be healthy coping mechanisms. In fact, the simple act of stretching can help people cope with pain, as well as help alleviate stress and anxiety, improve circulation, and improve your mood.

  • Cabin fever. Cancer typically takes center stage, and sometimes, that leads to us forgetting about the world around us. We can get a bit stir crazy. Many people find a spiritual connection in nature. Take a walk, even if it’s short and slow. Sit on the patio and enjoy listening to the birds sing. It can do wonders to clear your mind. Spending time indoors also means you’re not getting as much fresh air, which is important for our immune systems. Since getting outside isn’t always feasible, it’s important to pay attention to the quality of your indoor air. Things like air purifiers and MERV-rated air filters from companies such as Lennox can help improve the air you breathe.

Spirituality manifests itself differently in everyone, but incorporating it into your life has tremendous benefits for cancer patients.


Photo via Pexels.


Knowing Better Means Doing Better: My Vegan Journey

The consumption of meat and dairy doesn’t just impact animals, but it is the number one cause of environmental degradation, deforestation, global warming, water depletion, species extinction and ocean “Dead Zones” -Cowspiracy

My Ramses

Ramses was just ten days old when I first met him. Unable to open his eyes just yet, he nuzzled into my neck and made little whelping- like, grunting noises. There was an instantaneous bond between us as I felt the warmth of his little body against mine. I could hardly wait to get to know him, to see his personality unfold, to laugh at his funny little ways, and more than anything, to revel in his companionship.

I never knew how strong a bond could be between a human and an animal. That is, until Ramses, my Rhodesian Ridgeback pup came into my life. He arrived during my first semester of business school, shortly after my husband and I were married. Ramses opened chambers of my heart that I wasn’t even aware existed. Pawing at the pages of my textbooks looking for a playmate when I studied, basking in the one lone spot of sunlight on the floor, he was quite the character. He was quite the terror at first too. We used to call him our baby shark, before he learned that his baby razor teeth actually hurt! My husband and I had forearms that looked as though we had been moonlighting as navy seals, traversing through barbed wire.

Undoubdtley though, Ramses and I loved each other, more than words could ever express. Our bond grew deeper every day, and we learned to read each other’s expressions and body language. With the gentle lean of his body, Ramses seemed to understand when I was stressed. After being away at school for a weekend, I was greeted with an explosion of jumping, kissing and wailing, that often brought me to the ground in a most ridiculous snuggle fest. For the next several days, Ramses wouldn’t let me out of his sight and rested his head on my chest as I read from my text books, opening his eyes every once in a while to kiss my ear or cuddle in closer.

As the years have gone by, and Ramses and I spend each and every moment together, something profound has happened to me. Where once I could say that I definitely cared about animals, today, I can say that I feel for, think about and want to protect animals. The love that Ramses and I share has not only opened my heart, it has opened my eyes.

About a year ago, I watched a documentary film that so profoundly moved me, I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days to follow. The documentary was called, “Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret”, a 2014 film produced and directed by Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn, which explores the animal agricultural industry and its effects on the environment as well as the practices and policies of environmental organizations as they pertain to the issue. This documentary and the love that I have for animals has changed my life forever. I learned of the horrible atrocities that animals face in the name of “food.”  Animals are forced to live in despicable conditions without the ability to move, roam or even be treated with any semblance of dignity. Often times these animals are kicked, beaten or dumped into mechanical grinders while they are still alive. Shortly after watching “Cowspiracy”, my husband and I began gathering information from every available book, Ted Talk and other resource we could get our hands on. We educated ourselves on what really goes on in the meat and dairy industry that they don’t want you to know. What many people don’t realize, is that the consumption of meat and dairy doesn’t just impact animals, but it is the number one cause of environmental degradation, deforestation, global warming, water depletion, species extinction and ocean “Dead Zones”, (Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret). The ramifications of eating meat don’t just stop there. The “China Study,” by T. Colin Campbell, PHD and Thomas Campbell, MD, a book written about the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted, provides overwhelming data to support the idea that meat consumption is one of the leading causes of cancer, heart disease and variety of other health related issues. All of this new information was eye opening, heart wrenching, and terrifying to me to say the least. We were so appalled and emotionally distressed from our findings that we decided to go vegan together. We vowed that no matter how difficult it was, it was the right thing to do and it must be done. Together, my husband and I expanded our research and set out to learn about veganism, which by definition according to the Merriam- Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary, means, “A person who does not eat any food that comes from animals and who also does not use animal products, such as leather.” For two meat eaters from Chicago, we had a lot to learn.

I am a Midwest girl from the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. If you know anything about the Midwest, families regularly sit down to a meal of meat and potatoes. Chicago is a place steeped in a culture of Italian beef sandwiches, deep dish pizza sprinkled with the finest of sausages and of course, you can’t go to a Cubs game without seeing one of those famous Chicago-style hot dogs. This type of eating is almost a rite of passage here, it’s the way we have celebrated, shared and communed together for as far back as history goes. I grew up eating all of this stuff and soon came to realize that it wasn’t helping my waistline any. During high school, as a track and field athlete, I realized that these foods made me sluggish, left me feeling heavy and bloated. I wanted to be a top performer and on my game, so I needed to learn how to eat like an athlete. At the time, this meant switching from heavily fat laden proteins like cheese, steak and sausage, to leaner forms like chicken, fish and egg whites. It seemed like an easy enough change at the time. I could still celebrate at BBQ’s and go out to eat at restaurants, I would just opt for chicken most of the time. None-the-less, my meals always centered on a large portion of protein as I started down the path of my fitness career.

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At the age of 19, I began a career in the health and fitness industry as a co-owner and operator of two Powerhouse gyms. I had been an athlete all of my life and I really loved the results and strength that I gained in the gym. My passion for weight training led me to become a certified personal trainer and gave me an outlet to teach others how to live healthy, fit lives. Within a year of opening my first gym, I began competing in fitness competitions and modeling for the fitness magazines. I learned all that I could about sports performance nutrition and competition diets, until I  eventually became a certified nutrition specialist. When it comes to nutrition, it’s important to understand that the “health and fitness” industry is often geared more towards how you look, rather than how healthy you really are. With that said, approximately 70% of how you look has everything to do with how you eat, while the other 30% is reliant upon your training, your health and your genes. You may have heard the saying, “Abs are made in the kitchen,” well, it’s true. I learned early on that if I wanted to be lean and have abs, then I had better get myself acquainted with chicken breasts and broccoli…and a lot of it! As an 18 year veteran of the fitness industry, the number one thing you must know is that protein is the building block of muscle, and muscle is king!

 For the past 20 years, I have eaten 5-6 small meals a day consisting of grilled chicken breast, or lean steak, ground turkey, egg whites, fish and whey protein shakes, with the token smattering of broccoli and asparagus. The recommendation of protein for bodybuilders is anywhere from 1 ½ -3 grams of protein per pound of body weight.  To put that into perspective, an average chicken breast of 3.5 or 4 oz. is roughly 30-35 grams of protein. At my peak of performance in fitness and figure competition, I was around 125-130 lbs. So, in essence this means that according to the protein rules of bodybuilding, I would need to take in on average, 260 grams of protein to sustain and put on new lean tissue. In other words, I would need to consume nearly 9 chicken breasts a day! And…I did. I was religious with my workouts and even more so with my food preparations and eating. My bodyfat was around 9% at the lowest and 14% in my off-season. I was lean, I had abs, I was strong, I looked fit and healthy…but I wasn’t.

 

 

Knowing Better Means Doing Better

Knowing Better Means Doing Better

I never knew how strong a bond could be between a human and an animal. That is, until Ramses, my Rhodesian Ridgeback pup came into my life, during my first semester of business school, shortly after my husband and I were married. He opened chambers of my heart that I wasn’t even aware existed. Pawing at the pages of my textbooks looking for a playmate when I studied, basking in the one lone spot of sunlight on the floor, he was quite the character. He was quite the terror at first too. We used to call him our baby shark, before he learned that his baby razor teeth actually hurt! My husband and I had forearms that looked as though we had been moonlighting as navy seals, traversing through barbed wire.

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