Stress Management Techniques for Cancer Patients

By Aisha Kazi, Ph.D.

There is no doubt that a diagnosis and treatment of cancer can be a stressful time for patients and family members. We know that there is a strong mind-body connection. Studies have shown that stress can alter the immune system in healthy individuals and more so in patients with a major illness like cancer. Although we can’t entirely eliminate stress from our lives, and some stress is actually good, there are ways to manage stress so that it doesn’t impact your psychological or physical functioning.

Identify the source of stress in your life. First it’s important to become aware of what the stressors are in your life. The reason for this is to identify if you have certain thoughts, feelings or behavior that may be increasing your stress. The next step is to try and reappraise the stressor and try to look at the situation in a different light. If you can reappraise the situation, your stress level may decrease in response.

Look at how you currently cope with stress. It’s just as important to recognize how you cope with stress and if your current coping strategies are healthy or unhealthy, helpful or unproductive. Some methods of coping with stress can make the situation worse. Continue reading

Discovering the Power of Massage Therapy

Michelle Haugen

By Michelle Haugen

At a turning point in my life, I decided that I wanted to change careers and do something that was a benefit to other people. As I was reviewing different paths within the many health professions, my first granddaughter, Eva, was born. This was a wonderful and exciting event! But there was one caveat — Eva was born two months premature and we were not sure whether she would make it.

As I was searching for information about preemies and what might benefit them, I discovered research being done by Dr. Tiffany Field at the Touch Research Institute, University of Miami. Her research found that a well-defined protocol of touch helped infants thrive in neonatal intensive care units, and significantly shorten their time in the hospital.

That discovery indicated to me just how powerful massage can be, especially since premature infants have no preconditioned notion of it. I had received massage therapy myself as a means to reduce neck strain, and found it therapeutic. As I researched the benefits of massage more extensively, I learned that it was beneficial for a myriad of health conditions, and could be useful for people of almost all ages. This was it! I had found my new career choice. Continue reading

Video: Rush’s Cancer Integrative Medicine Program

By Angela Johnson

In early June 2010, we were contacted by the Web managing editor at Rush about a great opportunity to create a video to educate people about the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program. For a few days, graduate students from the Medill School of Journalism set up shop in the office, creatively utilized our small office spaces, and interviewed staff and patients to learn first-hand what the program was all about. After some helpful feedback and edits, we now have a great story to share — on YouTube! Our team was grateful for this opportunity, and we thank our patients who donated their time to share their stories.

What we learned in this process is that patients are truly interested in sharing their stories. They want other people, who are going through their own journey with cancer or other chronic illnesses, to know that services like ours can sometimes be the key to “carry them through” the difficulties of managing a chronic illness. It is our hope that this video provides people with a greater understanding of our program, and is a source of inspiration to know that Rush has a dedicated group of integrative medicine practitioners who are here to help carry patients through their own personal journeys with illness, and gently move them into a place of healing.

If you would like to know more about the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program, please call (312) 563-2531.

Angela Johnson, MSTOM, Dipl OM, MPH, LAc, is a nationally board-certified diplomate of Oriental medicine at Rush University Medical Center and a member of the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program staff.

Rush Dietitian: Using Nutrition to Empower Patients

By Cheryl Sullivan

When I was younger, I used to think, “everyone has to eat, might as well make it good.” But my definition of “good” has changed over the years. Growing up as a kid and teenager, “good” meant things that tasted good: French fries, candy, burgers, candy, pizza and more candy! But now “good” has a different meaning to me.

In college, I was trying to discover what I wanted to be when I grew up. I took several science classes as this was always an interest to me. One day I enrolled in a nutrition course and everything just clicked. We are what we eat. Our bodies will function no matter what type of food, or fuel, we provide it. But through nutrition we can impact the degree to which our body will function. And thus, the phrase “everyone has to eat, might as well make it good,” changed for me that day.

I loved learning about how different vitamins and minerals affected cell function and about different calorie and protein needs for our bodies during growth. But what was most interesting is how the fuel requirements for the body differ when we are sick. I was surprised to learn that during illness, different “diets” can help the body to function optimally. I am now a registered dietitian providing medical nurition therapy to all types of patients, but my passion lies on oncology.

During my training, I completed a rotation on the cancer units, and again, something just clicked and felt right. I love being surrounded by such motivated patients who want to make an impact in their lives through nutrition. Every day I get to help empower individuals by providing them with nutrition knowledge that could improve their health and their quality of life.

Cheryl Sullivan, MS, RD, CNSD, LDN, is a clinical dietitian and graduate faculty member at Rush University Medical Center. She’s part of the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program team.

Headache? Complementary Medicine May Help

By Angela Johnson

Do you ever experience dull-achy head pain or discomfort? Or how about a sensation of tightness or pressure on the front, sides or back of your head? If so, you may be experiencing what’s called a tension headache. It’s the most common form of headache and can last anywhere from 30 minutes to an entire week. Yikes. If this type of headache is occurring more than 15 days in any given month, it’s considered chronic.

If this sounds like something you struggle with, you are not alone. Surveys estimate that 45 million Americans suffer from chronic headaches. You should contact your medical provider if your headaches are sudden, severe or disrupting your life in any way.

To help manage pain, as many as 38 percent of American adults and 12 percent of children turn to complementary medicine (also referred to as integrative medicine), including acupuncture. A recent review of studies found that patients who used acupuncture, in addition to their standard care (e.g., medications, etc.) had fewer headaches than those patients who only relied on standard care. When performed by trained practitioners, acupuncture is a safe treatment, and can be helpful for pain and other chronic health conditions.

For more information on how acupuncture may be of help to you, contact me via email at or call (312) 563-2531.

Angela Johnson, MSTOM, Dipl OM, MPH, LAc, is a nationally board-certified diplomate of Oriental medicine at Rush University Medical Center.

Talk to Your MD About Integrative Medicine

Examples of integrative medicine include acupuncture, biofeedback, nutritional/herbal supplements, relaxation, meditation, massage, yoga.

Saturday, January 23, is International Integrative Medicine Day.

By Angela M. Johnson

Did you know that as many as 50 percent of Americans, of all ages, use some form of integrative medicine (IM) to help enhance health or well-being?  For those who suffer from chronic illness, as many as 80 percent incorporate IM in their care. Examples of IM include acupuncture, biofeedback, nutritional/herbal supplements, relaxation, meditation, massage, yoga.

Do you use IM? During your last doctor’s visit, did you have a conversation about it? If you haven’t talked with your doctor, you’re not alone. Surveys show that as many as 50 to 70 percent of patients do not talk with their doctors about IM use because (1) their physician never asked; (2) the patient didn’t feel like the MD needed to know; (3) there wasn’t enough time during the office visit.

The term “integrative medicine” includes healing-oriented medicine that takes the whole person (e.g., mind, body, spirit) into account. It emphasizes:

  • a respect of the body’s own ability to help enhance the healing process
  • the importance of the relationship between health care practitioner and patient
  • a consideration of all factors in life that may influence health, wellness, and disease
  • inter-professional collaboration between IM practitioners and conventional health care professionals (MDs, RNs, etc)
  • use of integrative medicine modalities that, in scientific studies, have been found both safe and effective.

While it can be helpful and empowering to use IM, it is extremely important to talk with your health care providers about it. If you’ve never done so before, make a commitment to yourself to do so at your next visit.  Why?  Well, even though some IM modalities, such as herbs or supplements, are marketed as “natural,” there is a possibility that they could cause drug-herb interactions. Continue reading