YOUR BEST DEFENSE IN A BATTLE WITH CANCER

April 1, 2011 at 1:06 pm

A cancer patient and his oncologist offer advice on staying healthy while living with cancer

(April 1, 2011) Pinellas Park, Fla. — No one is ever truly prepared for a cancer diagnosis. Unfortunately, every year millions of Americans face the reality of diagnosis and living with this disease. After the initial emotions are faced, then comes the challenge of choosing the best treatment and maintaining the highest level of health possible in the face of cancer. So what can one do to stay healthy and strong, and to build the best possible defenses to beat this disease?

Well, you could do what Billy Bynum did when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2005. “I packed-up my things and moved from Las Vegas to Florida,” says Bynum. “After a lot of research and going through several doctors and hospitals, I knew I had to make the move.”

The reason for this move was to be treated by Frank Franzese, M.D., oncologist at WellSpring Oncology. “I knew Dr. Franzese’s background and I felt comfortable with the idea of being treated by him. So I made the move while the cancer was still in its early stages, because I knew that would be the best time to beat it.”

While such measures may seem extreme to some, to Bynum it made perfect sense for his own well-being, and to remain as healthy as he could. However, if a cross-country move isn’t for you, there are many alternatives cancer patients can do to stay healthier during this difficult time. Bynum shares some of his personal strategies while his doctor gives advice to those who, like Bynum, are living with cancer.

Eat Well to Live Well
“Good nutrition is important for everyone,” says Franzese. “However, for those in the midst of chemotherapy or radiation, getting the vitamins and minerals needed in order to stay strong is more important than ever.” And while the side effects of treatment may make eating the farthest thing from your mind, maintaining your basic calorie needs is important for your overall health.

When it comes to keeping your body strong and fighting the fatigue that can come with cancer treatment, protein can be your greatest ally. Not only will it aid in boosting your energy, but it will also help rebuild damaged tissue and protect against unwanted weight loss. Natural food sources such as chicken, fish, dairy and nuts are the best way to add protein to your diet. Also, instead of three big meals per day, try to eat five or six smaller ones to maintain your optimal strength.

It’s also vital to stay hydrated. According to the American Cancer Society, many issues often associated with cancer and treatment – such as weakness and nausea – may actually be a result of dehydration. So make sure to drink at least eight cups of fluid per day, more if you are experiencing side effects like vomiting or diarrhea. These fluids include anything that your body can handle, from water to broth.

However, remember that each patient is unique, so talk to your doctor about your own personal nutrition needs. For Bynum, eating well and changing his diet wasn’t only about eating better foods, it was also a need to lose weight for both his battle against cancer and a recommendation from his cardiologist. “I became a huge fan of fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods,” Bynum says. “Not only did I lose 50 pounds, I also gained more energy that has helped me in my journey to beat this disease.”

Be Active…
For those going through cancer treatment, exercise can have a huge effect on boosting energy and creating an overall better sense of well-being. Physical activity offers many benefits to those living with cancer. It lessens fatigue, creates a better body image, improves fitness and strength and results in a better quality of life. It can also lessen the anxiety, nausea and depression that may result from your journey with the disease.

So if you can, try to exercise every day. Even 15 to 30 minutes of moderate physical activity can have a positive effect. Certain activities, such as walking, swimming and low-impact aerobics, are generally safe and effective. “Just remember to start slowly and listen to your body,” says Franzese. “If it hurts, you may be overdoing it. You don’t have to push yourself beyond your limitations in order to reap the benefits of exercise.”

But while it’s important to avoid inactivity, remember that much like nutrition, exercise is not a one-size-fits-all activity. Each patient may need a different exercise regimen depending upon their current level of activity, stage of treatment and type of cancer diagnosis. So ask your doctor if the two of you can design an exercise routine that will fit your personal needs.

But Make Sure To Rest and De-stress
Exercise is important, but equally essential is finding time to rest and relax. Taking time for yourself is vital in order to prevent becoming overly fatigued. Whether you simply spend some quiet time alone or retreat to take a nap, making time for yourself will alleviate some of your fatigue. Ways to get the rest you need include getting at least eight hours of sleep per night, taking short naps (less than one hour) throughout the day and relaxing while reading or listening to music. If you have trouble sleeping because of your treatment, talk to your doctor about this side effect and how he or she can help.

“Not only can a lack of sleep add to fatigue,” says Franzese, “stress plays a big role in it as well. In addition to lowering your energy levels, stress can also depress the immune system and interfere with the body’s natural ability to heal. Living with cancer isn’t easy, but to maintain strong levels of both physical and emotional health, managing stress is a must.”

If stress is stressing you out, try a few of the following to help manage it:
• Be realistic about your expectations of yourself. Cut back on your to-do list if you feel it may be too much to handle. Only focus on the most important things and save the rest for future days. Allowing yourself to complete even just a few things on your list can give you a great sense of accomplishment and reduce your stress.
• Practice relaxation techniques that you find effective in reducing your stress, such as deep breathing or light exercise.
• Consider attending support groups. Meeting other people living with cancer and understanding how they cope gives you a chance to see how others manage the stress associated with the disease.

Always Take Care of You
Regardless of which steps you take to stay healthy while living with cancer, make sure to take care of yourself. Staying healthy despite the disease can make a big difference in both your physical and emotional ability to battle the disease. Just ask Bynum.

Now 73, Bynum is still undergoing therapy to treat his cancer, but is doing quite well. Having taken steps to improve his health and overall quality of life, he feels confident that he has taken every step possible to battle prostate cancer. When asked about his decision to move to Florida, Bynum says, “I don’t regret it for a second. I believe I’m still here because of WellSpring.”

His spirits are high and he has every reason to believe he, along with his team at WellSpring Oncology, will beat this cancer. “Call me in a year,” he says,” and I’ll tell you I’m cured.”

About WellSpring Oncology: Doctors Robert Miller, Zucel Solc and Frank Franzese opened the doors of WellSpring Oncology in spring of 2008 to provide high-end treatment in a more personal and caring environment. The doctors at WellSpring Oncology have been practicing innovative radiation therapy since the 1970’s and developed the center to ensure patients have access to the latest technology available in the treatment of cancer. The doctors of WellSpring Oncology are all board-certified in radiation oncology and received their training at the top centers in the country, including MD Anderson, Memorial Sloan Kettering and the University of California San Francisco.

WellSpring Oncology is located at 6600 Sixty Sixth Street North in Pinellas Park, Florida. For more information, contact WellSpring Oncology at (727) 343-0600 or visit them online at www.WellSpringOncology.org.

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