When you hear the three words “you have cancer,” your world just stops. You go into shock. You can only hear the pounding of your heart fearfully beating within your chest. It is that moment your body goes numb and your world turns upside down. The joy of everyday life is sucked out of your soul until you hear the beautiful words, “you are cancer free; there is no evidence of disease.”
So how does one build up their immunity, their stamina, their strength after going through chemotherapy and radiation treatments? You might ask yourself, how can I help my body now adapt to lingering side effects of treatments and help reduce cancer recurrence?
We all should know by now that getting enough sleep, eating a proper diet and exercising all play a role in how our immune system functions and heals. Having healthy habits prior to cancer also can affect how well your treatments go. We also should know that stress reduction is a vital part of healing during and/or after cancer treatment. It is a hard one to grasp when you are constantly dealing with doctor visits, insurance claims and possible loss in wages if you had to take time off from work. With a high stress level, your immune system is suppressed and reduces the body’s ability to heal.
So, how do you help your stress level? Why not try yoga or meditation? First, ask your hospital or doctor’s office if they have cancer-specific exercises classes, yoga, or stress-reduction classes. Many cancer centers now offer stress reduction therapies prescribed along with traditional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation. Keeping stress low, in turn, helps your immune system stay strong and functioning well.
Doing a low-impact form of movement like yoga not only can help you feel good, but it can build bone density and help your bones stay strong. It also can help keep your lymphatic and digestive systems functioning properly. An added benefit, it raises serotonin levels to keep you happy and mentally strong without having to do strenuous activity. Yoga for cancer also gives you a chance to connect with your thoughts. As you work through the gentle movements, you, in turn, are able to work through your fears and anxieties among a community of others who understand the same journey on which you are traveling.
Yoga breathing also allows you to connect with the natural state of “just being” which can help you simply let go – an important factor when faced with the cancer journey.
Shay Moraga, E-RYT500, is a triple negative breast cancer survivor and teaches Yoga for Cancer Survivors locally at Eisenhower’s Lucy Curci Cancer Center. She is also founder of the non-profit Shay’s Warriors – Life After Cancer and can be reached at [email protected]. For more information, visit www.shayswarriors.org or reach out on social media @Shay’sWarriors.