Managing Cancer as a Chronic Illness

By Leslie Vandever

Most of us think of cancer as being curable or not-curable, with few—if any—stages in between. But the fact is that many people live with cancer. Their disease might be in remission, or stable: their cancer isn’t gone, but it isn’t growing or spreading. For others, cancer is chronic, and kept under control with regular treatment, along with periodic tests and check-ups.

There’s no denying that having an incurable cancer is daunting. It’s natural to be afraid and resentful; after all, you didn’t ask to get sick! Any chronic illness can force lifestyle and other changes, some of them unpleasant. You may have to give up activities you love and enjoy, cope with new physical limitations and special needs, and be dependent upon others to handle even the small things. You may feel pressured and very alone.

The good news is that your disheveled emotions regarding your chronic cancer are all completely normal—even healthy. You can manage your physical, mental, and emotional health so that you can live joyfully and well in spite of your illness. What follows are ways to get started.

When You’re Feeling More Than Blue

Depression is common among people who live with chronic illness. It’s important to know the symptoms so you can get help as soon as you can. Symptoms of depression, which may show up all day, nearly every day, include:

  • feeling sad and worthless
  • irritability or anger, even over little things
  • loss of interest in life
  • insomnia or sleeping too much
  • fatigue that sleeping doesn’t help
  • trouble focusing and making decisions
  • restlessness and anxiety
  • guilt and self-blame
  • thinking a lot about death, or suicidal thoughts or attempts

If you’re experiencing these symptoms of depression, talk to your doctor. She may be able to help you herself, or may refer you to a mental health specialist who can. Depression strikes a third of all people who have chronic illnesses, but it is treatable.


Take Your Medicine

Be sure to take your medications, sticking carefully to the dosage instructions and schedule. Be sure you understand why you’re taking them and what they’re expected to do. If you’re not sure, talk to your doctor.

Love and Care for Yourself

To feel your best while coping with chronic cancer, you’ll need to treat yourself like your very best friend. Give yourself the basic things your body and mind need to thrive:

  • Eat a simple, healthy diet that includes lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grain breads and pastas, lean meat and fish, beans, nuts and legumes, and low-fat dairy foods. Limit sweets, sugary beverages, and processed foods. Drink at least six measuring cups of water each day.
  • Aim for at least six hours of sleep (eight is better) each night, and if you need a nap during the day, nap no more than 30 minutes.
  • Move your body. You can try stretching exercises, or resistance bands, or light hand- and ankle-weights. Walking, swimming, and yoga or tai chi are excellent. Get and stay strong and limber. It’s as good for the mind as it is for the body.
  • Try to get out and about. Visit with friends and socialize. Talking and laughing are potent feel-good medicines.

For more information on living with and treating cancer visit

Leslie Vandever is a professional journalist and freelance writer with more than 25 years of experience. She lives in the foothills of Northern California.



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How Fish Oil Helps Prevent and Treat Cancer

Fish oil is a unique and rich source of the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). A small structural difference distinguishes these from the omega-6 fatty acids found in plant-derived oils.
EPA and DHA can play a valuable treatment role. A number of studies show that a diet rich in fish oil tends to slow tumor growth.  We can attribute at least part of this effect to a suppressive effect on angiogenesis -again, the process from which new vessels develop to enable tumor growth and spread. EPA decreases the expression of a key receptor in endothelial cells that makes them responsive to VEGF.

Cox-2, another key angiogenic factor, produces, in a endothelial cells, prostanoids required for vascular tube formation. A high intake of fish oil has potential to antagonize its role by decreasing this production and may blunt production of growth-promoting prostanoids in cancer cells.

Fish oil has the ability to fend off cachexia (severe muscle-mass loss that often complicates late-stage cancer). Though usually it entails a loss of appetite that can contribute to weight loss by decreasing caloric intake, the commonly seen life-threatening selective muscle loss reflects a specific inflammatory process in muscle fibers not seen in healthy dieters. EPA interferes with the related inflammatory mechanisms.

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Managing Cancer as a Chronic Illness

Oncology is gradually embracing the approach my father started 50 years ago, focusing on adding years of quality to his patients lives versus destroying tumors at any cost. This concept is managing cancer as a chronic illness.

Most patients, when they first come to treatment, ask me to do whatever it takes to get rid of the cancer. It takes a bit of listening and education to show the benefits of focusing on life and not on cancer. I usually ask questions like:

1. Do you want to live longer than the prognosis you were given?

2. Do you want to minimize negative side effects?

3. Would you be pleased if we could slow down the growth of cancer enough so that you could return to your regular activities and only have to come back occasionally for a booster treatments?

4. Would you like to try a non-aggressive approach that will help you achieve the first three goals versus aggressive treatments that may or may not work but will certainly have debilitating side effects?

From time to time I encountered a patient who told me to be as aggressive as possible with little regards to side effects but most people are more interested in living well by controlling cancer than devastating the quality of life while trying to destroy cancer. My goal for all my patients is to help them live longer and stronger.

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Chronic Stress and Immune Suppression

There is no greater cancer control agent than your own immune system. In fact, if the system is functioning perfectly, it’s actually impossible for cancer to proliferate and develop into tumors. Among its many different cells with different tasks – monocytes, macrophages, dendritic cells, T cells, B cells, are natural killer (NK) cells, antitumor effectors that can destroy cancer cells long before tumor markers can detect them. One clinical study concluded that people with long-term stress and anxiety had lower blood natural killer (NK) activity.

A University of Kentucky study provided an ecological model to help explain the relationship between immunity and stress. Measurements were taken in a group of adults to determine how the body matches it’s biological resources with behavior to manage exogenous (from outside) stressors and protect itself. The researcher, Suzanne Sagerstrom, found that the body manages its finite energy by redistributing to where it’s most needed for any given situation. For example, if sensing an infection, the body may produce a fever as a defense. The cost to heat the body will take away physiological resources necessary to perform other functions. For Example: the muscles receive fewer resources, like peptides, resulting in less strength in common aches. Dr. Sagerstrom just so found,

  • Chronic stress perturbs homeostatic mechanisms in the body and results in poorer immune functions in the cellular arm, the humoral arm or both. When the fight or flight response, which was designed to meet short-term energetic demands, is prolonged, undesirable consequences ensue.

If you can learn how to manage a response to stress you will allow your immune system to improve and help you win the fight against cancer.


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Cure to Cancer Conference

Did you know there are 40 million people in the US right now diagnosed with cancer, and millions more around the world, and most of them do not have the insurance, finances, or ability to go through conventional treatment in a traditional hospital?

Did you also know that many people around the world are reversing cancer by incorporating integrative and alternative therapies each month?

There is hope, and that’s why I want to invite you to join me for the Cure to Cancer Conference in San Diego April 25th-27th, 2014.

Visit this page for all the details today:

The Cure to Cancer Conference Provides the Latest in Integrative and Alternative Solutions to Cancer from the Leading Edge Researchers, Scientists, Doctors, and Health Advocates in the World.

World Class Presenters Include:

Number one integrative oncologist Dr. Francisco Contreras,Integrative medicine pioneer Burton Goldberg, world renowned author Bill Henderson, cancer survivor and thriver Chris Wark, Dr. Leigh Erin Connealy, MD, hormone health specialist Dr. Sherrill Sellman, breast cancer educator Dr. Veronique DeSaulniers, emotional trauma specialist Dr. Robert McDonald, leading edge integrative advocate Dr. Thomas Lodi, MD, TV show host and world renowned speaker Doug Kaufmann, health and wellness expert Dr. Nick Delgado, holistic health coach Helayne Waldman, cancer survivor and thriver Elaine Gibson, Mark Simon, holistic lifestyle coach Paul Leendertse, award winning author and nutritionist advocate David  Sandoval, raw foods and lifestyle expert Dr. Jameth Sheridan, university professor and neuro-science research Mark Robert Waldman, and many others.

The Cure to Cancer Conference is designed to bring forth the latest and most groundbreaking leaders around the fields of cancer research and share the results they’ve been getting with every major type of cancer on the planet.

The event kicks of with a Friday night gala dinner event with live music, games, keynote presentations, and dinner with the experts.

Livestream and video recordings will be available for those who can not attend it in person.

A percentage of all proceeds are donated to a new non-profit dedicated to bringing healing, health, and hope to children and families in need.This will be a weekend of inspiration, education, networking, support, and empowering keynote presentations highlighting leading edge research around preventing, healing, and reversing cancer.Learn More Here: empowering conference is happening in a beautiful bay-side San Diego location with a free shuttle from the airport and will highlight over a dozen expert presenters, scientists, Doctors, researchers, and cancer survivors and thrivers who will share with you their latest information around preventing, healing, and reversing cancer.

Don’t miss this:

You will learn new scientific breakthroughs, hear from cancer survivors how they beat cancer, and be inspired by these leaders who care about your wellbeing and the longevity of your life during a 3 day weekend gathering of gentle and passionate souls.

I am here to support you, and I highly encourage you join me and the other world leading experts during this life changing weekend event.

Get Your Tickets Today:


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H.O.P.E. Team

Probable nobody has a cancer support team assembled when they are first diagnosed. But there’s no doubting the importance of organizing a network and wrapping support around yourself. Here is an acronym, using the word HOPE, to help build your support group:

H Helpers Accept help for everyday needs: shopping cleansing, cleaning, companionship, transport, food preparation ,donations.
O Oncologist Pick and oncologist you; engage him/her in a personal conversation so that he/she makes an emotional investment in the relationship with you.
P Physicians, nurses, other practitioners Assemble a multi-disciplinary team; include general practitioner, nurses, nutritionist, naturopath, chiropractor, fitness trainer, massage therapist.
E Emotional and spiritual counselors Individual counseling, spiritual care, and groups are priceless support source that can help you manage anxiety, depression, anger, guilt and stress.
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Exercise for Cancer?

Exercise to prevent and keep Cancer from returning?

Are you kidding me? Who feels like exercising when they have stage 3 or 4 cancer? You should. Old school medicine said to go home, take it easy, get plenty of rest, right? WRONG!

Harvard says Exercise for Cancer!

Here’s what I mean: “A 2005 study by researchers at Harvard Medical School found that breast cancer patients who exercise moderately for 3-5 hours a week but their odds of dying from cancer by about half compared to sedentary patients” By HALF?  AND, if you’re a male, if you work out with weights, you can be “between 30-40-% less likely to lose your life to a deadly cancer.” Help me out here, 30-40% LESS LIKELY TO DIE BY PUMPING IRON?

Exercise for Cancer is a great idea!

One of our long-term survivors, Rick Hill, who was at Oasis of Hope in 1974, to treat stage three, high-grade embryonal cell carcinoma had this to say about exercise: “Having had stage three cancer, 40 years ago, I understand that when you are a male and down to 121 pounds, hitting the track or the gym is not a primary goal, but it needs to be. I started playing racquet ball in 1976 and played in the city league for more than six years. It was a sweat bath 4-5 times per week. Due to a total of almost ten hours of surgery, the pumping iron was about a year later but now, 40 years later, I just joined the YMCA to start pumping iron after I read the Harvard study!”

Join us to exercise to help conquer cancer.

Whether you are just diagnosed, in the throes of  fighting active cancer, or trying to keep it at bay, Diet, Detox, Attitude, and Exercise may be the four legs of your health chair. Take one away, it topples. Don’t topple. Keep all four legs working for you. Even if you just walk to the corner and back this week, and two blocks the next week, you will eventually get to where you can walk a couple of miles. If possible find something you enjoy doing. I enjoy tennis and snow skiing. You might want to take up racquetball. One of our former patients took up competitive ballroom dancing and kept his weight down, his vitals good, and met a lot of nice people in the process. Exercise doesn’t have to be a grind.



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Is there a link between Gluten and Cancer?

Is Gluten Free a fad or a real issue?

We hear it all the time and now we see it in grocery stores. Gluten Free! And, sometimes it’s on packages that have never been or never will contain gluten, like vegetables, meat and water. But for those who have been diagnosed as having Celiac, or Celiac Sprue, or Gluten Intolerant, or Gluten Sensitivity, it is not only real, but to ignore it could be life-threatening. Don’t believe it?

Medical Doctor says Gluten Free matters a lot!

Dr. Mark Hyman, MD, calls today’s wheat Frankenwheat. He claims it has been genetically altered and bears little resemblance to any wheat our forefathers ate. In the August 13 edition of the Huffington Post, Dr. Hyman says modern day wheat contains:

  1.  Super Starch — amylopectin A that is super fattening.
  2. Super Gluten that is super-inflammatory.
  3. Super Drug-like ingredient that is super-addictive and makes you crave and eat more.

At the Oasis of Hope Hospital, we have Gluten-Free meals for our patients because inflammation is the precursor to all cancers. We take inflammation seriously so any time we can reduce it, we do.

How to know if Gluten Free is for you…

The very best way to know if you should avoid wheat is to stop eating all forms of it for up to six weeks. Most people who do this have fewer headaches, less bloating, less diarrhea or constipation. Most breads, pastas, donuts, basically everything you like contains wheat. The number one ingredient in Soy Sauce? Wheat. Not soy. Go figure. The good news is that nearly all health food stores and most grocery stores today have Gluten Free foods. You can buy UDIs bread, Glutino brand breads and treats, many kinds of Gluten Free pastas, in fact, you can still gain weight simply buy eating enough gluten free foods. Since most GF foods are made from some combination of rice and corn flours, they are higher on the glycemic index or in simple terms, they have too many carbs to eat. Moderation is the key, huh?

Want to reduce inflammation? Go Gluten Free.


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Treat the Tumor or the Patient?

Francisco Contreras, surgical Oncologist

Dr. Francisco Contreras, Director Oasis of Hope hospital

Should we be treating The Patient or the Tumor?

It’s an age old question, treat the Patient or the Tumor? Modern cancer therapies are primarily concerned with ridding the body of tumors. If the tumor shrinks or disappears, modern therapies of chemo, radiation, considers the therapy a success, even if the patient died. If the patient dies it was successful? Not to the patient!


Can a patient and a tumor co-exist? 

Dr. Ernesto Contreras, his father, had been speaking to many health and medical organizations since the early 1970s. Over and over he presented his papers and was told his “cancer cures” were worthless because while the tumor shrank significantly, it did not disappear even though the patient may have lived for twenty more years!

His son, Dr. Francisco Contreras, inherited his father’s mantel for the Oasis of Hope Hospital in Tijuana, Mexico ( Today, as with his father before him, Dr. Francisco Contreras battles the medical establishment on effective treatment. According to Dr. Contreras, “If the patient is comfortable and lives an extra ten years, why are we so distracted if they have a non threatening tumor?” Dr. Contreras was interviewed on the popular TV show, Know the Cause with Doug Kaufmann to address this issue, Watch the show here.

Integrative medicine, as practiced at the Oasis of Hope in Tijuana uses both conventional and alternative techniques. For a detailed report, please visit our website at:

For 50 patient testimonials read the book, 50 Critical Cancer Answers by Dr. Contreras and Daniel Kennedy.  This book not only has 50 patient testimonials spanning the last 45 years but it has 50 videos you can access with your cell phone QR reader! Click here to order.

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5 Cancer Victor Tips

1. Believe and trust God for your healing. The Bible is alive, stand firm on his promise, knowing that he is good and faithful. Find Christians who believe in healing and have them pray over you.

2. Surround yourself with positive people who fill each day with encouragement and laughter. Choose to enjoy the good things in life, every day, and do not let negative thoughts captivate your mind.

3. Find good books about nutrition and cancer. And live actively, made time to exercise as much as possible. It will help you feel better!

4. Take time to relax and heal by minimizing commitments and tasks. Isn’t necessary to eliminate what makes you “busy” so that you can focus on things that bring healing. You will benefit greatly from massages, family time, naps, walks the beach, detox bath, etc.

5. Have doctors and health professional’s work together on “your team” to support the treatments pan you’ve chosen.

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