|CANCER & TREATMENTS FOR CANCER CENTER PATIENTS PREVENTION & RISK ASSESSMENT CLINICAL TRIALS & RESEARCH LIVING WITH CANCER|
Information and Resources from the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center
Mind-Body Connection: Explore complimentary medicine, page twoComplementary, integrative medicine offers healing
For those seeking a more comprehensive approach, integrative medicine blends conventional medicine with complementary therapy as well as alternative or traditional medicine. At the University of Michigan Integrative Family Medicine Clinic, physicians consult with patients to develop individualized plans to help maximize their health. These plans may incorporate supplements or traditional therapies, such as acupuncture.
The clinic is designed to help patients sort out beneficial therapies from those that may be harmful, said Sara L. Warber, M.D., co-director of U-M integrative medicine. Because supplements can interfere with cancer treatment, it's extremely important to pursue these options with a doctor's supervision.
The Integrative Family Medicine Clinic is not part of the Cancer Center, but the clinic accesses the same U-M medical records and consults with oncologists to ensure patients receive the best care possible. In addition to consultations specific to cancer care, clinic doctors also serve as primary care physicians, offering a similar blending of therapies to promote health and wellness.
"Many forms of complementary therapy offer true benefit and they don't interfere with conventional medicine, so it's a win-win situation," Warber said. "I think there's also a psychological empowerment that happens because these are things patients themselves decide to do. They think, 'I'm going to seek out something that's good for me,' and when they find a doctor who's willing to be an ally in that process, that's a powerful relationship."
Learning from Children
"He taught me to draw; I taught him to color," Savannah answered.
For the Fosters, art is a family affair. Al Foster paints portraits for a living, but he didn't see his children's artistic talent bloom until after Evan's diagnosis. Both Savannah and Evan have taken to drawing, while older son Alphonso has taken up his dad's other passion: fishing.
The goal of complementary therapy is often to grease the wheels of self-expression to help people cope with the anxiety of a cancer diagnosis. Most adults have the capability to talk about it, but often choose to bottle it up. Young children sometimes don't have that option at all, said Jessica Doletzky, a member of the Cancer Center Child Life Team.
For kids, complementary therapies are integral. Specialists guide children to use their imagination to cope with painful procedures and offer arts and crafts projects as a way to help them express feelings they might not have the words for. Siblings also are encouraged to participate in these activities to help them deal with the strain cancer puts on a family.
"Our goal is to use activities, games and projects to limit anxiety and reduce stress," Doletzky said. "We try to support families so they have the ability to get through painful or difficult situations a little more easily."
Creating a record
"I want to get that story out," King said. "My vision is someday I can go to the Gilda's Club support group I attend and say, 'Hi, my name is Tammy,' and hand them a notebook and say, 'Here's my story if you're ever bored. I've had quite a journey.'"
King also said she would like someday to share her story with her daughter, who was 15 months old when King was diagnosed with cancer.
Complementary therapies offer people a way to commemorate their experience, Murphy said. This is important for survivors and also for families of those who die.
"These therapies are forms of expression and can create a tangible way to capture some of this intense and life-altering time," Murphy said. "Being ill is not something we think of commemorating, yet illness can often change the course of our lives. Some of these activities can create touchstones for later."
Learning to use complementary therapy to create a better sense of well-being can have lifelong impact, she said. Although the challenge right now is fighting cancer, these techniques can be used to reduce stress from other sources. The key is making that mind-body connection.
"Seeing the person as a whole is an essential tenet of integrative medicine," Warber said. "Our patients have a mind, they have a body, they have emotions, they have spiritual needs that must be valued. We do the best medicine when we attend to all those missions. Healing the whole person is every bit as important as knowing scientifically that we're treating the disease."
University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center
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