Healing Focus® Integrative Cancer Survival Guide provides a reliable and empowering map to create an integrative cancer care plan.
This guide helps cancer patients through their journey with any necessary conventional treatments, integrative therapies, self-care, and self-advocacy strategies toward improving quality of life and survival.
Along with those newly diagnosed with cancer, Healing Focus® Integrative Cancer Survival Guide also helps patients to re-evaluate their plan, create a new one, and explore other health and healing options.
Negotiate—guiding you in a process to first and foremost resource yourself as you move through your cancer journey
Investigate—explaining key steps and optimal resources for you to explore the best of integrative cancer care
Navigate—providing you with directions through a step by step process to optimally navigate your situation
Elevate and Evaluate—offering guidance and resources for you to evaluate cancer research, cancer providers, cancer treatments, and follow-up survivorship cancer care
Integrate—guiding you in your journey with empowering steps to take action and support the whole person through core components of integrative cancer care
Travel your path step by step. Trust that you will find exactly what you need with proactive, informed actions. Know that you are not alone in your cancer journey.
Step One: Orientation in a New Reality is about self-care in the midst of cancer. Before diving into research and evaluating cancer treatments, providers, and facilities, you need to find some calm and support in your world turned upside down.
1. Find Ways to Relax and Resource Yourself
In the shocking aftermath of a cancer diagnosis, crossroads, and transitions during the cancer journey, the first step whenever possible is to find ways to relax and resource yourself. Explore this website to learn about supportive integrative cancer care approaches and practices.
Research indicates that people temporarily lose everyday basic skills when diagnosed with cancer, including communication skills, information seeking, decision-making, problem solving, negotiation, and speaking up for rights. Do your best to relax before proceeding in your process. Some calm must be felt so that you can access and utilize skills you possess to evaluate and navigate your health challenge.
2. Evaluate and Identify Forms of Support
People with cancer need support. Many types of support are described and referenced in the Social section. Get the help you need from family, friends, professional colleagues, support services, and spirituality. Find what works for you and meets your needs.
3. Consider how you want to Participate in Research and Decision-Making
How do you want to participate in your research and health care decision-making?
Do you want research conducted and decisions made
- by your doctor?
- as a team with your doctor and loved ones?
- by yourself?
- by a loved one/s?
- through a combination of these and other approaches?
Evaluate and choose what you are comfortable with. Approaches can evolve during your cancer journey.
Also read Social Tips for Cancer Patients with insightful guidance. Understanding common relationship challenges and solutions offers helpful information to enhance self-awareness and strengthen meaningful connections.
Step Two: Research is about education through exploring, investing, and organizing. High quality information allows you to make the best decisions for yourself. Knowledge is power. Recognize that research involves a process to define and refine your education to next steps. If you feel that you need to become a quick expert, breath and know learning is a process.
4. Use Practical Tools
Organize your research, notes, and medical records in a system that is logical for you. Use a notebook, binder, and/or files.
5. Collect and Review Cancer and Health Related Materials
Collect reliable educational materials and read cancer information online from sources in Top Related Cancer Information. Consider asking family and friends for help in obtaining quality information. Start your research with learning the basics about your cancer diagnosis, stage, location(s) of cancer. Sometimes the stage of the cancer is not confirmed until a biopsy or surgery has been performed. Understanding basic cancer information about your situation allows you and/or your loved ones to better research and evaluate the full scope of treatment options. Pace yourself to avoid mental and emotional overload.
6. Identify Questions throughout the Process
Evaluate information you have about your cancer diagnosis, treatment recommendations, and health. Determine what you know and do not know, what you understand and do not understand. Develop your questions. A comprehensive list of questions is available in Questions for Evaluating Cancer Treatments and Providers. As you learn more about your health and disease, and travel through phases of your journey, questions will evolve and new gaps in information will emerge. Keep a running list of notes with questions.
7. Consider a Consultation with a Cancer Coach & Navigator
A one-on-one support professional to coach and guide people affected by cancer with knowledge about integrative cancer care provides knowledge, research skills to gather information about treatment options, and can further provide help with advocacy. Learn more in Cancer Coach & Navigator.
8. Research Treatments
High quality research focused on cancer treatments is necessary. Research your condition and treatment options toward the best possible care. Potential cancer treatments can be identified through researching providers and facilities. Research focused on cancer treatments should also be gathered through the following cancer information resources as well as in other topics throughout this website.
Top Related Cancer Information
Explore the Top Related Cancer Information when researching cancer treatments. Quality cancer related, health and healing resources are organized by topic. For example, if you are researching conventional cancer treatments, our cancer information guides you through your investigation with many helpful resources.
Locating Relevant Cancer Research
Learn about using a free online tool called PubMed to find published research. Our guidance also refers to other research strategies through specific journals and additional resources.
Clinical trials involve research studies in cancer patients. Learn about cancer clinical trials to help evaluate your potential cancer treatment options. Perform your own research, and ask during consultations with oncologists.
Understanding Cancer Statistics
Cancer statistics are complex and can sometimes feel harsh. Statistics never predict the fate of a single individual. Read the scoop about the real deal with statistics.
Learning about evidence based medicine helps clarify the value of studies to better inform the cancer research process. Definitions of evidence based medicine also illuminate the role of patient’s values in making cancer treatment decisions.
Personalized medicine (also called precision medicine) is about finding the treatment to address the disease for each individual. Depending upon the approach, it can involve identifying some genetic, genomic, and clinical information, identifying specific treatments. Personalized medicine can involve various tests from different companies to collect information for each cancer patient, and then trying to identify molecular targets. Additionally, personalized medicine cancer treatments can also be related to immunotherapy. Some have been approved by FDA, and others in clinical trials.
9. Research Oncologists and Facilities
Explore Top Related Cancer Information to help you track down these components of your integrative cancer plan.
Oncologists with Expertise in your Cancer
Research oncologists with the goal of finding experts in your cancer diagnosis and/or to even help confirm your cancer diagnosis. Know that treatment recommendations may vary among oncologists. Identifying several oncologists will allow you to collect multiple opinions. Oncologists monitor disease status and provide information about conventional cancer treatments. Only a limited number of oncologists practice varying degrees of integrative cancer care.
Research facilities to learn about oncologists and cancer treatment approaches. Know that there is variability between cancer treatments that are offered and recommended by different treatment centers. Some facilities have larger or smaller departments devoted to certain types of cancer, take more or less aggressive cancer treatment approaches, use different types of equipment and cancer-related tests, and conduct different clinical trials.
Comprehensive cancer centers typically have more physicians who specialize in treating one particular kind of cancer compared to community hospitals. For certain surgical procedures on rare tumors, studies indicate hospitals that perform more of these operations have significantly better outcomes. Some studies also suggest that outcomes for surgeries are generally best at high-volume hospitals that treat a large number of cancer patients.
Personalized medicine is a newer realm with further advances offered by specific hospitals and oncologists. In the future, personalized medicine will be everywhere. For now, opportunities are better provided by more innovative places.
Treatment facilities may offer some form of integrative cancer care. Hospitals increasingly have an integrative department that may or may not be truly integrated at the medical center. Research integrative services available at treatment facilities.
Research integrative cancer care providers. Learn about the different cancer treatments offered by providers and their facilities. Identify some potential integrative cancer care providers for your health care team. These providers may be doctors including oncologists or highly trained in another discipline. People with cancer sometimes have several integrative providers with expertise in different areas.
10. Confirm your Cancer Diagnosis
More than one pathologist should confirm your diagnosis. Variability exists and one pathologist may label the type and stage of the cells differently than another. Confirm the cancer type and stage with multiple experts. The pathology diagnosis is best done before your oncology appointments if possible. If not, make sure the review and report occurs after your appointment, including a follow-up conversation.
11. Research Other Providers for your Integrative Cancer Care Team
Quality cancer care is not only about treatments for the cancer diagnosis and instead with cancer care for the whole person. Identifying a group of quality integrative providers is essential to optimally supporting health and healing for people dealing with cancer. The full spectrum of comprehensive integrative cancer care will not come from one professional and instead through a team. Remember that integrative cancer care optimally tends to you as a whole person through body, mind, and spirit, including social and environmental health. Think about what that means to you and where you need more support. Explore Top Related Cancer Information Integrative Cancer Health and Healing Resources to help you track down these components of your integrative cancer plan, as well as other sections of this website.
Whole Body Health Care
Even if you find an oncologist working within integrative cancer care, you will most likely need additional integrative providers with expertise in cancer to address your entire physical body. Consider integrative cancer medicine systems such as naturopathy, functional medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and ayurveda.
Caring for your mental and emotional inner life will support your health and healing. Incorporate ways to optimize your mind-body balance and vitality. You can do this through self-care as well as working with providers. Meditation, breathing techniques, imagery, movement, creative expression, massage, biofeedback, psychological support, and other approaches can be done alone, in groups, and/or with providers.
The spiritual dimensions of life often become more prominent when dealing with cancer. As spiritual questions surface, opportunities for new knowledge about religion and spirituality emerge. Find spiritual support within yourself and from others.
12. Assess Potential Causes of your Cancer and Overall Health Issues
Explore any available information on known or suspected causes of cancer and your diagnosis. Consider how the diagnosis relates to other health issues that you have dealt with and your current overall health status. Use this information to support empowered changes in your lifestyle, other health care strategies, and the development of your integrative cancer care plan.
Step Three: Seek and Search is about venturing into the unknown as you explore potential providers and treatments. This phase can feel chaotic with both fear and forward movement. Meetings with providers and learning about treatment recommendations takes people with cancer and their loved ones to an edge. Trust that any vulnerability you feel contains your power. Know that you can reach a confident decision about next steps with quality, informed decision-making.
13. Choose Oncologists and Providers for Consultations and Schedule Appointments
After you have evaluated all of the information gathered during Step 2: Research about your diagnosis, providers, facilities, and treatments, and perhaps consulted with an Integrative Guide, create a list of your top potential oncologists and other key providers. Make appointments with those individuals. Consider consultations by telephone if possible. Assess your travel options if the best providers appear to be located far from your home. Evaluate how you feel about seeking care outside of your local area. If you’ve contacted a medical facility and they haven’t called you back, try again. Be proactive. It’s unfortunate that some phone calls to providers are not returned. But when people with cancer have the experience, they need to follow-up. Call them again and again if necessary. Contact the provider’s assistant, provider, nurse, or someone else in their department. If you absolutely do not have energy for the follow-up calls, ask a familiy member, friend, or even a Cancer Coach to help you.
14. Ask for Support
Ask a family member or friend to join you for your appointments to serve as your advocate and perhaps even help you prepare for consultations.
15. Identify Questions for Appointments
Identify questions for each appointment. A comprehensive list of questions is provided in Questions for Evaluating Cancer Treatments and Providers. Know that your questions may often change from appointment to appointment.
16. Consult with Oncologists
Get your Questions Answered
Make sure you have your list of questions, including Questions for Evaluating Cancer Treatments and Providers. Maintain the priority to have your questions answered. Ask your support person to maintain focus on this task by repeating questions that have not been answered and requesting clarification about any unclear responses from providers. Add questions to your list during the consult as necessary. Feel empowered toward collecting full answers from providers about any and all questions and concerns.
Recognize that Treatment Recommendations Differ
Providers are unique in how they think, communicate, and relate to their patients. Treatment recommendations also vary depending upon the person making them and where they work.
Optimize Patient-Provider Communication
Tell the provider if you prefer detailed, technical explanations with scientific reasoning about complex procedures, or if you would rather be given a general explanation. Ask providers to repeat important information, emphasize the most critical pieces, and, if necessary, meet with you during more than one appointment.
Consider Recording Conversations
Emotional overwhelm can impair comprehension during clinical appointments. Studies suggest that cancer patients may not retain information given to them during their appointments. Listening to recorded conversations can be helpful.
Collect Research Studies
Ask for references to research studies supporting treatment recommendations. Learn about different levels of scientific evidence in Evidence-Based Medicine.
Learn the Complexity of Cancer Statistics
Statistics reflect estimates based on large groups of people and that the numbers are typically compiled 10 to 20 years earlier. As circumstances change, including treatments and the knowledge about what each individual can do to support their own wellness, the survival curve changes. Statistics can never predict the fate of a single individual.
17. Collect Multiple Opinions
Studies indicate cancer care is uneven. Different facilities and providers offer different types of care. Compared with several countries in Europe such as France, Germany, and Great Britain, overall, cancer care in the United States is also more aggressive. To make the most informed, educated decision toward the best care, consult with several oncologists and other providers. Acquire a second, third, and even a fourth opinion if necessary. If you are receiving different recommendations, ask the provider to explain these discrepancies.
If you are the most comfortable with a treatment plan recommended by an oncologist far from your home, you might be able to find an oncologist in your community to coordinate your treatments.
18. Evaluate Opinions and Recommendations
Review opinions and recommendations from providers you have met. Analyze the answers you have collected to your questions. Create a chart with the information if that helps your evaluation process. The chart might assess the providers you have consulted with, their recommendations, and answers to your questions. From there, further questions can occur.
19. Use your Intuition and Instinct
Along with your intellect, use your wise intuition and instinct. These resources are always available to you for support, decision-making, and navigation through your journey. You can learn a lot more about intuition and instinct.
20. Choose an Oncologist with a Treatment Plan
Tell the oncologist you have chosen that they are now a part of your team. Know that only a limited number of oncologists practice varying degrees of integrative cancer care.
21. Choose Other Providers for your Integrative Cancer Care Team
Even if you choose an integrative oncologist, you will need additional integrative providers with expertise in different areas. The potential scope of other providers in your integrative cancer care team was discussed in #11 Research Providers for Other Components of your Integrative Cancer Care Team, #9 Research Oncologists and Facilities with Integrative Departments and Integrative Providers, and involved with other strategies in this guide.
Step Four: Work in Progress involves finding yourself in a bigger picture. Knowledge and understanding about health and healing expand into self-realization. The process and content of your self-discovery strengthen your confidence and ability to make empowered changes.
Ponder how you want to define success for yourself. Recognize that your definition of success may change over time. Is success about cancer stabilization, reduction, or eradication? Does success relate to living a full and meaningful life? What is a full and meaningful life to you? Connect with your spirituality, including through exploring our information about cancer and the soul. Decide how you want to live. Choose where you want to focus your attention.
Remind yourself that you made educated, informed decisions about your providers and treatments. Believe in yourself and know that nothing is fixed. You can make modifications and improvements as necessary.
24. Maintain your Plan and Track your Progress
Maintain your plan. Track how you are feeling in your body, mind, and spirit. Ask your closest support people to do the same. Consider keeping a journal. Communicate your progress and any concerns to your loved ones and health care team.
25. Change for Improvements
Think about your health and healing. Focus on yourself—who you are, where you are, who you are with, who you want to become, and where you want to go. What is required in order for you to improve your health and engage your healing? Explore other articles for information about the many facets of integrative cancer care. Evaluate changes that you need to make to your body, mind, and spirit, including social and environmental health. A healthy diet, exercise, movement, and stress reduction might be a start. Know that you have the capacity for transformation. Sometimes we need to change in order to survive.
26. Determine your Reassessment Plan
Identify in concert with your health care team the best ways to measure progress, including imaging tests, blood tests, cancer and health related biomarkers, and other tools. Reevaluate your plan step by step.
27. Learn about Cancer Survivorship
Cancer survivorship begins from the moment of diagnosis. Learning about your situation as a cancer survivor better informs your journey and empowers you with necessary strategies to support your future.
28. Improve your Environment
With nearly 80,000 chemicals today considered potential environmental carcinogens, steps must be taken to safeguard against contaminants. Create a healthier environment using non-toxic products for personal care, household cleaning, water and air purification, as well as protection against other everyday exposures.
29. Consult with an Integrative Cancer Coach and Guide
If you feel lost, stuck, in need of additional guidance, and/or follow-up conversations to receive support about your integrative cancer care plan, continue sessions with an integrative expert to help coach and guide you.
Step 5: Inspired Self is everything about the whole person—the totality of who you are. Settling into yourself and allowing space for broader attention and awareness in the aftermath of navigating and evaluating integrative cancer care, expand to realize your whole potential becoming more fully illuminated as a human being. Increase your personal power. See your boundless potential. Recognize endless possibility.
30. Support your Health and Healing with Exercise
Exercise provides significant health and healing improvements. A reduction and prevention of being overweight or obese helps cancer prevention or reduces cancer. Exercise also supports anti-inflammation, insulin regulation, hormone metabolism, and other wellness components against cancer. No doubt, exercise further supports positive mental and emotional feelings to further optimize the cells and the Self.
31. Focus on what you Enjoy
Think about what you enjoy most. Maybe your passions are integrated into your life already or perhaps you need to reclaim them. It is never too late to rediscover or discover what means the most to you. The people, activities, places, and anything else that brings you joy will help ground you in yourself and give you strength as you navigate your cancer related challenges. Focusing your attention on what you love will bring light to your spirit and life.
32. Find and/or Further Express your Purpose
Each person has a unique calling in life. Sometimes a crisis helps people find their vision and purpose. What is your mission in life? Where do you find meaning? Pursue the direction in which you feel inspired. Explore the Mind section such as Meaning and Purpose, the Spirit section such as Spirituality Assessments, and Intuition and Instinct.
33. Become your own Healer
This is not about rejecting or disrespecting treatments and therapies. Becoming your own healer is about embracing, entering, and expressing your personal power to impact your health and well-being. Information and resources throughout this website will help you in this process. Along with education, more fully embodying your personal power involves self-inquiry, introspection, and a desire to transform.
34. Strengthen Inner Peace
A center exists within each individual of absolute peace and compassion. This stillpoint contains all that we really are—boundless potential and endless possibility. Breathing techniques, meditation, silence and stillness, some forms of movement, and other strategies cultivate a deeper connection with your personal power and Self. Explore other parts of the Mind and Spirit sections for other ways to find inner peace.
35. Connect even more with your Spirituality
We are all spiritual by nature, and therefore connecting with our spirituality is an expression of our true nature. Healing is about wholeness. We are whole when our spirit is united with our body. Spiritual dimensions of life are illuminated in the midst of cancer. The challenge contains the opportunity. Explore your spirituality.
36. Freedom in Absolute, Almighty Love
Move through and beyond any fear. Develop faith in things that are seen and unseen visible and invisible. Explore the larger story of your journey and bigger picture. Generate deep trust in yourself and your process. Completely love yourself with self-love and take in love from the world. Know that absolute, almighty love carries and holds you now and forever.
To get help in creating an integrative cancer plan with a cancer expert and author of Healing Focus® Integrative Cancer Survival Guide, visit Cancer Coach.