preparing for breast cancer treatment

Conventional breast-cancer treatments like surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, require a great deal of Qi or energy to recover from. Generally, they leave the immune system severely weakened, and compromise what may already be a poorly functioning digestive system. Some women enter chemotherapy and radiation with GERD, IBS, ulcers, and other conditions that already signal poor Stomach function. Breast-cancer treatments will definitely take a toll here.

It is vital to take preventive measures even before treatments begin. If you start out calm, well rested and strong, your body can recover more quickly. You’ll also be in better condition to fend off a recurrence when treatments are finished.

To help you prepare for surgery, chemotherapy or radiation, here are four recommendations based on the principles of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM):

1. Conserve Energy

It is impossible to overstate the importance of resting—before, during, and after surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Most women are completely exhausted even before cancer treatment begins—not only physically, but mentally and emotionally. Living in a constant state of exhaustion makes it more difficult to recover your body’s healing ability.

Reduce your work schedule and commitments as far in advance as possible. Even if you feel you have plenty of energy, save it. You'll need it later for self-healing. Be selfish about how you spend your energy. Avoid situations that cause emotional distress. Avoid strenuous activities or exercise; have sex in moderation. Set aside time to rest each day. Close your eyes and sit quietly, even if it's only for several minutes. Do this as often as you can throughout the day.

2. Stay Positive

The mind-body-spirit link is real and vital. Your mental state can either strengthen your body's energy function or cause it to collapse. Don't waste energy on negative thoughts or worries. Focus on getting well. Believe that your body has the amazing ability to heal itself, because it does! Never, ever forget this message and remind yourself of this truth daily. If you feel worried or frightened, think of yourself completely cured, strong and healthy. Feel this powerful surge of Qi and keep these thoughts with you at all times.

3. Exercise Gently

Soft forms of exercise promote the smooth flow of Qi. Such exercises include Qigong, Taiji (tai chi), non-aerobic yoga, swimming, and simply walking in the park (not on a treadmill). Avoid strenuous or aerobic exercise.

Our self-care section on Qigong offers simple yet powerful energy movements to do at home, or anywhere for that matter. These seven energy exercises target breast cancer by unblocking the condition of energy stagnation in the breast area. Practicing Qigong is the best way to build Qi and improve your overall energy level.

If you've had lymph nodes removed, try to raise your arms very slowly as often as you can each day. This may be painful at first, but it helps re-establish the flow of blood and Qi through this area. Our Qigong movements, " Dragon Opens the Curtains" and "Dragon Touches the Moon," can also help improve full range of motion. For swelling in the arm, massage the area gently.

4. Eat Well

Recognize the true function of natural and organic foods. At the highest level, their loving essence can communicate with your own consciousness and support your body. At a functional level, their essence can support healthier organ function. At least two weeks before surgery, increase your blood volume by eating more spinach and red beets. Support your Kidney energy by eating more seafood, especially shrimp, lobster, clams, oysters, and mussels. Drinking any type of soup stock made from bone (like beef stock) also helps increase blood volume and strengthens the immune system.

While undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, avoid chemically-processed foods as much as possible. Eat mostly fresh fruit and lightly-cooked vegetables. Pears, almonds, kiwis, dandelion greens, and carrots are especially good. They help detoxify the body and cool excess heat caused by cancer treatments. Other good foods include clams, mussels, oysters, quail eggs (either fresh or canned), and sugarcane juice.

For breakfast, include two kiwis and a handful of toasted almonds. Over the course of the day eat at least four pears (whole or juiced). Other meals should include one or more recommended vegetables and, if possible, shellfish, particularly effective for reducing internal heat.