The Cancer Journey and Integrative Cancer Care

The Cancer Journey and Integrative Cancer Care

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.”

— Ambrose Redmoon

Cancer is more than a diagnosis, it is a journey. It is not a journey that is chosen or wanted. It begins with the actions leading up to hearing the words “you have cancer” and continues through the maze of the medical system and treatments, through personal challenges, of relationship and financial issues. The journey has its ups and downs, encounters and lessons, many of which are similar to those found in the iconic transformation process called The Hero’s Journey by the mythologist and writer Joseph Campbell.

Campbell described the Hero’s Journey as a transformative process, a series of steps or stages as a response to challenges that have been found in cultures and times throughout history. Examples of stories of the Hero’s Journey can be found in books from the Bible to Star Wars. The journey starts in the hero’s Ordinary World, but things change suddenly with an unexpected problem known as the Call to Adventure. Likewise, many times in our lives we get a “call” of some type that we have not consciously asked for, yet we must deal with — and particularly with a cancer diagnosis, the Call feels less like an Adventure, and more like a curse. And then, the Hero embarks on the journey, beginning with a descent and trials, guidance appears, ultimately leading to mastery of the challenge, often in ways that look very different than what he or she expected at the outset.

Gathering the Resources for the Cancer Journey

Cancer is a complex illness — a collection of 100 different diagnoses, in fact, each with its own set of unique treatments and side effects. Dealing with a serious and life changing event like a cancer diagnosis requires a cache of internal and external resources. Just as the Hero gathers his support for his or her journey, those on the cancer journey gather the resources to tackle the illness, the treatment and side effects of treatment.

The effects of treatment can be short-term or long-term, and at times, the side effects can be worse than the illness itself. Many of the side effects of cancer treatment are perplexing, often those that doctors consider “difficult to treat,” such as fatigue, neuropathy, anxiety, lymphedema, insomnia and pain. The mainstream medical treatments for side effects may not be satisfactory for some patients, and sometimes the side effects of the treatments for side effects are debilitating too. Some people on the cancer journey could be looking for more than treatments, for more healing on deeper layers than just the healing of the body. In either case, there is an opportunity to explore options for other modalities for healing support, to possibly take a journey into the world of integrative therapies.

Exploring the Benefits of Integrative Cancer Care

Using integrative therapies can look very different depending on the situation. In an ideal world, if a person diagnosed with cancer wanted to include integrative therapies, his or her medical team would integrate standard Western or allopathic cancer therapies with appropriate complementary or integrative therapies in an intentional and strategic manner. However, if the medical team does not take the lead on this, the patient can initiate this integrative care process.

Current research is showing benefits for cancer patients and survivors in the areas of many integrative cancer care therapies, including the following:

  • Yoga for Cancer Care
  • Meditation and Mindfulness
  • Ayurvedic Wisdom
  • Exercise and Movement
  • Reiki and Energy Work
  • Nutrition and Healthy Living
  • Massage and Body Work
  • Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine
  • Oncology Skin Care
  • Sound Healing
  • Therapeutic Writing and Art
  • Spirituality and Joy
  • And Many Other Modalities.

Integrative Cancer Review: Supporting the Cancer Journey

In Campbell’s Hero’s Journey story, the hero faces an array of tests and tribulations, meeting mentors and allies, finally returning to the ordinary world with the elixir he has found. The elixir that he has found to get him though the trials he now shares with others in his ordinary world.

The cancer journey is never easy, but it is good to know that it doesn’t have to be traveled alone. We at the Integrative Cancer Review hope to support heroes on the cancer journey — the people diagnosed with cancer and their families and friends, researchers, healers, health and wellness professionals and all those who support them.

The Integrative Cancer Review features interviews, articles and research reports on leading edge, evidence-based therapies and the time-tested guidance of wisdom traditions for dealing with cancer and the side effects of cancer treatment. Our intention is to promote safe, effective and accessible integrative cancer therapies, in order to alleviate suffering and promote happier, healthier living in people affected by cancer.

This site is also dedicated to supporting health and wellness professionals working in the cancer community with information on resources, training and industry practices, so that they can practice with greater ease, confidence, professionalism and economic sustainability.

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