Foundation Funds Complementary Breast Cancer Care

Angela Johnson, a practitioner of Chinese medicine in the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IllinoisBy Angela Johnson

In a beautiful and quiet space of the 10th-floor Rush University Cancer Center, a team of integrative medicine providers helps people diagnosed with cancer heal in mind, body and spirit.

The Cancer Integrative Medicine Program team recently received exciting news: The Susan F. Lasky Cancer Foundation has provided funding so that patients with breast cancer can participate in a series of acupuncture, massage, nutritional counseling or yoga sessions, at no charge. The Cancer Integrative Medicine Program team is honored to receive this donation, as it creates opportunities for people who may not otherwise be able to afford our services, with a chance to be involved in their own care.

As the practitioner of Chinese medicine for the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program, I am thrilled to have this resource available to breast cancer patients. For those who elect acupuncture, the ability to receive a series of weekly treatments can make a significant impact in helping reduce the side effects related to cancer and cancer treatment. As one of the most studied forms of complementary medicine, acupuncture has been found to be safe, and play a very useful role in symptom supportive care. In research studies, acupuncture supports the immune system, and is known to help with symptoms like fatigue, depression, pain, vomiting, radiation-induced xerostomia (i.e., dry mouth), and chemotherapy-induced hot flashes.

If you or someone you know has a breast cancer diagnosis, and is interested in integrative medicine, please contact the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program at (312) 563-2531 to learn more about this wonderful opportunity.

Angela Johnson, Dipl OM, MSTOM, MPH, LAc, is a practitioner of Chinese medicine with the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program at Rush.

Help Your Heart: Don’t Stress Out

By Janine Gauthier

American Heart Month provides a wonderful opportunity to focus on integrating strategies to decrease our stress and support our hearts to keep them as healthy as possible.

As a clinical health psychologist and the director of the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program at Rush, I work with individuals experiencing health-related stress or distress. In my work, I focus on teaching patients strategies to manage their stress.

We all face physical and emotional challenges and stressors every day (sitting in traffic, family stressors, health-related stressors and work stressors). When faced with these life stressors (the good ones and the not so good ones), our brains are hard-wired and respond with what is called the “fight or flight” response. In the face of any perceived threat, our brains respond by releasing a flood of stress-related chemicals (primarily cortisol) into the bloodstream. This triggers other physical responses (adrenaline pumping into our bloodstream, glucose being released into the bloodstream), all of which are preparing our bodies to “fight or to flee.” This is a general description, however. Physically the result of these chemicals being released is an increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, increased breaths and a host of other physical symptoms (for example, increased muscle tension, cold clammy hands).

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Tips for Breast Cancer Patients With Hot Flashes

By Angela M. Johnson

As a practitioner of Chinese medicine with the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program, I have the privilege of providing care for many women with breast cancer. In my discussions with patients, hot flashes are among the most common symptoms people ask for help with, as they cause both physical and emotional distress. In observance of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, here’s a little more information about hot flashes, and some helpful tips on how to reduce the heat — inside and out.

Hot flashes are sudden, and many times, an intense sensation of heat in the body. They are often accompanied by a red, flushed look on the face and sweating. Many women also experience sweating at night (aka night sweats), a rapid heart rate and chills after the night sweats subside. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), they are “a problem for many menopausal women and a common side effect of breast cancer treatment.” Unfortunately, hot flashes aren’t just quick bouts of heat sensations that come and go quickly. They vary in intensity, duration and frequency, and interrupt sleep, often causing a sense of discomfort, anxiety and decreased quality of life. Continue reading

Why I Nominated Rush’s Team of the Year

Erin Schneider (right), a patient navigator at Rush, with Rush social worker Deirdra Soohov.

Rush’s Cancer Integrative Medicine Program staff was recently honored as the 2011 Bradley G. Hinrichs Team of the Year at Rush. Erin Schneider, a social worker and patient navigator for the Rush University Cancer Center, explains why she nominated the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program team.

By Erin Schneider

When you hear the words, “You have cancer,” many thoughts go through your head all at the same time. “Am I going to die?” “Where should I get my treatment?” “What kind of treatment will I need?” “How am I going to feel?”

Eventually, once the shock has worn off, you are able to start piecing things together and answering all of those questions. However, even when everything has fallen into place and patients are receiving the best possible care, they can feel out of control because someone else is making decisions regarding their health. Their surgeon says they need this surgery, and their oncologist says they need this chemo; they have little choice in the matter because these are the treatments that have been proven to cure their disease.

Fortunately, here at Rush we have the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program, which offers patients complementary therapies to help fight their cancer and the side effects from treatment. When patients can choose to receive acupuncture to help alleviate  pain and nausea, rather than relying solely on medications that their doctor prescribes, they regain some control of their health. Feeling in control can improve outcomes. Continue reading

Becoming a Practitioner of Chinese Medicine

Angela Johnson, a practitioner of Chinese medicine in the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IllinoisBy Angela M. Johnson

Have you ever had an experience where the simple act of reading a book planted a seed, and eventually became the impetus to change your life, forever? For me, the book that led to me want to learn more about the field of integrative medicine was “Love, Medicine, and Miracles: Lessons Learned About Self-Healing from a Surgeon’s Experience with Exceptional Patients,” by Bernie Siegel, MD.

This book was a great introduction to the intriguing connection between mind and body, and the impact that positive, loving thoughts can have on the healing process – even in the face of chronic illness. At the time, I was in my early 20s completing my master’s in public health degree. I had never heard physicians (let alone surgeons) talk about and share their belief in this so-called “mind-body” connection. Regardless, I knew in my heart that what Dr. Siegel was sharing in his book existed. One chapter after the next, I became more and more inspired by who he was as a physician, and had a new-found appreciation and growing interest in the mind-body connection.

Needless to say, it sparked a fire inside! I knew in my heart that some day I wanted to be someone helping patients tap into their own healing potential. It may have been premature at the time, but I was so interested in this area that that I tried convincing my master’s thesis research committee to allow me to do a small study to explore the role of humor in healing. Unfortunately, they thought it was going to be too complicated, and suggested I do something else. While I was disappointed, I didn’t let their disinterest squelch my interest in the field. Continue reading

Religion, Spirituality and Coping With Cancer

Andrea CanadaBy Andrea Canada

As a psychologist and member of the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program, one of my goals is to facilitate adaptive coping in patients with cancer. While I am interested in all forms of coping, my primary interest lies in the area of religious/spiritual (R/S) coping and its relationship to health-related outcomes.

In my clinical practice, I always assess if patients utilize R/S coping to deal with cancer, and an overwhelming majority do. In fact, research indicates that 70 to 90 percent of cancer patients use R/S beliefs and practices to cope with the illness experience.

For those patients who do use R/S coping, I also assess whether or not such coping has been helpful. I have found that the majority of cancer patients using R/S coping do so with positive results. Research findings indicate that patients who are able to derive strength and comfort from their R/S beliefs and practices experience less anxiety, improved adjustment, less hopelessness, better quality of life and greater life satisfaction, among other positive outcomes. In fact, I often hear from those patients high in R/S coping that the cancer experience has actually helped them grow in their faith and relationships with others. Continue reading

Mother Inspired Passion for Helping Others

Sally Kupczyk

Sally Kupczyk

By Sally Kupczyk, RN

The path that led me toward a career in Zen Shiatsu is one that is close to my heart. My passion for caring for and treating others began when I was growing up at home.

My mom was an energetic woman. She was a single mother with a full-time job, who still found time to volunteer for others. This would involve spending hours chopping vegetables prior to the fundraisers; cleaning and cooking for a few senior citizens three to four times a week; and spending Sunday afternoons in the basement of our church helping with bingo. Whenever someone needed her help, no matter the time, she would drop everything to lend a hand. I went wherever she went. I wanted to grow up to be just like her.

When my mom wasn’t volunteering, she would often come home from work complaining of neck and shoulder pain because she had been sitting in a darkroom for hours viewing and correcting negatives. To help her, I would massage her neck and shoulders until she fell asleep. She would awaken with a big smile on her face and give me a hug and comment on how wonderful her neck and shoulders felt. This really stuck in my head, as I was delighted that I could do something to ease her pain.

I didn’t quite understand her pains and aches, until one summer I worked at her film processing company, doing the exact same thing that she had been doing for years. This type of work can definitely take a toll on a person’s body. My mom has long passed, but the memory of her caring ways and willingness to help others will remain in my heart forever. Continue reading

Get Moving: Benefits of Exercise for Cancer Patients

By Allison Grupski

Perhaps you have read, or learned from personal experience, that exercise is a great way to reduce stress. What you might not know however, is that physical activity is now recognized by the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association as a prescription for both the prevention and management of chronic disease, and can play an important role in cancer prevention and recovery. In fact, the National Cancer Institute reports that greater physical activity is associated with lower risk for cancer incidence, especially when considering breast and colon cancers.

Research investigating the impact of exercise on mortality is ongoing, but we have learned that it has tremendous benefits throughout survivorship. Exercise helps improve surgical outcomes, fight fatigue, maintain bone density, improve functional ability and reduce weight gain. The American Cancer Society asserts that patients who adopt its guidelines on nutrition and physical activity for cancer prevention, may reduce their risk of developing secondary cancers, as well as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis.

Beyond these physical benefits, exercise can have a wonderful impact on patients’ psychological health throughout diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship.  Exercise can help ward off depression, improve mood, reduce anxiety, increase self-esteem and improve sleep. As a result, exercise can help improve physical, functional and emotional quality of life while navigating the changes and challenges that arise following a diagnosis of cancer. Continue reading