Dealing with Cancer Is Hard, but Self-Care and Spiritual Wellness Don't Have to Be

Dr. David Buscher, D.Ac. here: I've been seeing more people with cancer lately, helping them remain calm and positive, supporting their wellness goals, and minimizing the side effects of chemotherapy. Coincidentally I've been in contact with Scott Sanders, creator of cancerwell.org and author of a forthcoming book on the importance of self-care during cancer treatment. I'm turning over the rest of this post to him for a quick overview on the topic.

 

Dealing with Cancer Is Hard, but Self-Care and Spiritual Wellness Don't Have to Be

by Scott Sanders

Are you struggling to find spiritual peace while dealing with cancer? Know you are not alone. Cancer, though a disease of the body, has a habit to doing damage to the mind and soul as well. Even treatment can leave you tired, worn out and at the end of your wits. People want you to be a warrior but really you just want to feel normal again. If you are having issues finding spiritual tranquility, self-care may be a way to disconnect from the physical and mental pain and feel some control over yourself again. Wondering what kind of self-care you need to soothe your soul? Take the following tips to heart. 

Stay As Active As You Can

When you’re living with or being treated for cancer, even the simplest of tasks can be taxing on your physical and emotional strength. It’s tempting to give in and settle into a sedentary routine but, in reality, you still need to stay active. Physical activity helps strengthen the body and clear the mind, so try finding easy ways to get some exercise in throughout each week. Go for a short walk or practice a simple yoga routine

Find Peace in the Present

Studies show that mindfulness, or staying focused on the present, can help people find peace and calm in their life. Cancer may cause your mind to wander and stress about the future, or think about regrets and the past. Being able to focus on a single moment or object, and take in the beauty it has to offer is much more beneficial to your spirit. Mindfulness practices, like meditation, will help you think through difficult times and search for strength within yourself. These practices can also help take your mind off of pain and stress, if you focus on basic concepts like breathing instead of letting your mind race. 

Take Care of Your Mental Health

Cancer can be a source of severe physical pain but often the most painful effects are those that impact your mind. When you’re dealing with a serious disease, it’s understandable to feel stressed, anxious, afraid and depressed. You may even be angry. Everyone experiences illness differently but what’s universal is the need to express emotions positively and seek professional help when needed. Consider visiting a counselor to keep your mental health in check. You can also opt for group counseling or support groups, if that offers more solace. If you start having thoughts of suicide, seek help immediately at the closest emergency room or call 911. 

Try to Relax and Rest

The physical, psychological, and emotional effects of cancer can make it difficult to get decent rest. Yet, your body, mind and soul need sleep and relaxation to heal. Talk to your doctor about ways to make relaxation a little easier. He/she may be able to prescribe medications or treatments that will help put your mind at ease and allow you to get some real rest. It can also be helpful to create comfort and calm at home, especially in your bedroom, or wherever you can get the most rest. Keep your room cool and avoid using harsh lighting. Invest in some soft pillows, to support your entire body, and change your sheets out for ones that feel comforting on your skin. 

Supplement Your Treatment

Chances are, you have a busy schedule with chemo and doctor’s appointments. Quality medical care can make a difference your treatment, you could benefit from the addition of alternative care. Many cancer patients find comfort in using complementary treatments, such as acupuncture and medicinal plants and herbs, as complementary care to their traditional treatments. Talk to your healthcare team about supplemental therapies that could enhance your treatment or at least provide relief from pain and other side effects. 

Cancer takes such a toll on your body and mind. Practicing self-care may seem trivial but attaining spiritual peace may help ease the pains you feel. At the least, taking care of yourself will help you feel a bit of control over your life and the way you live it while struggling with cancer. 

Scott Sanders is the creator of CancerWell.org, which provides resources and support for anyone who has been affected by any form of cancer. He is also the author of the book Put Yourself First: A Guide to Self-care and Spiritual Wellness During and After Cancer Treatment, coming Summer 2018.

 

Now In Stock: Radiate Herbal Soaking Treatment

© 2017 by Dr. David Buscher, D.Ac.

Earlier this year, I began hearing chatter in the international acupuncture community about a new kind of medicinal treatment – a foot soaking solution – that can be a game changer in cases of localized and general pain and inflammation, nerve pain, fibromyalgia, neuropathy, edema, chronic fatigue, headaches and migraines, emotional issues, digestive issues, women's health issues, circulatory issues, and many other symptoms. 

Of course, as with much of Chinese medicine, this treatment wasn't "new" – in fact, its origins are part of a very long tradition – but the ability to export this formula for use in the west, in addition to the very high quality and purity of the herbs, the pharmacological research supporting it, and some novel ways of combining this medicine with other formulas were seen as game changing. 

Because of some very strong recommendations from practitioners I trust, I took a leap of faith and applied to become one of the few initial distributors of this medicine, one of just 100 worldwide with access to a supply of this formula. I was honored to be accepted into this program.

And then I waited . . . perhaps not entirely patiently. In the interim, I was receiving anecdotal evidence of amazing results in test cases and encouraging progress reports of the better-than-expected quality of the herbs obtained. In fact, I have to mention here that the the developer of this program was able to obtain herbs of a quality historically reserved for emperors and, later, the upper elite of the ruling political party. Further, there were updates about the economic development and charities the manufacturer was able to support in this small Tibetan region because of the new project to begin exporting this medicine. 

(For more on this, you can check out this podcast, and there are upcoming videos.)

https://botanicalbiohacking.com/33-tibetan-footsoak-therapy-pharmacology-and-use/

My point is, I was receiving a lot of really exciting information, but what I wasn't receiving was my package of Radiate Herbal Soaking Treatment!

But the good news is, it has finally arrived! I will be assembling the packaging that accepting orders in the next few days for immediate availability.

Despite the fact that it is never taken internally, this is a strong medicine that affects the circulation and other body systems. There are a few contraindications I'll need to screen for, and a few cautions you'll need to be aware of (mostly involving handling and submerging in the hot water the formula steeps in). 

If I've already mentioned this medicine to you, I think you're a good candidate for beneficial results. If I haven't mentioned it to you, that doesn't mean you're a poor candidate, just that I realized I should probably stop getting people's hopes up when I wasn't sure when I'd finally receive my shipment.

The MSRP on this product is $150 for one course of treatment, which takes ten days if done in full compliance with the instructions. Due to my agreement with the distributor, I'm not allowed to publicly advertise a lower price. However, I do have a lower introductory rate I can offer my patients while my current supply lasts. Please speak to me privately about it, and I'll also be mentioning this formula to people displaying certain diagnostic characteristics and symptoms that indicate they may benefit.

(There isn't a lot about this program that's generally being publicized as they work out the logistics of being able to distribute at this quantity . . . and solidify the fragile deals that keep the supplies available and the Chinese economic opportunists and counterfeiters at bay. That's why it's only being distributed to 100 providers at the current time. I'll be updating anyone who's interested with more information. The developer is currently finishing up a video about the herbs, the region they're harvested, and more about what makes this particular formulation so profoundly unique. For the moment, clicking on the link to the brief podcast above may satisfy some more curiosity.)

Introducing Chinese Herbal Medicine

© 2017 by Dr. David Buscher, D.Ac.

Since completing my doctorate in acupuncture, I have focused on expanding my knowledge in herbal medicine and combining this powerful modality with acupuncture for better and longer lasting results. 

In addition to my upcoming participation in two exclusive programs for pharmaceutical grade herbal preparations (more on this very soon), I'm stocking up on effective everyday formulas for common symptoms such as cold and flu, pain, stress, insomnia, low energy, hypertension, and more. 

Most of these should be in stock within a week from today. They will be in pill or tincture form from high quality manufacturers based in the United States.

 

How can Chinese herbal medicine help you feel better?

For millennia, acupuncturists have used herbs to enhance and supplement the effects of their treatments. Herbal medicine can:

1. Prepare the body to get more powerful results from acupuncture.

2. Extend the beneficial effects of acupuncture treatments for longer periods of time.

3. Work in acute cases when acupuncture isn't possible, such as when you're traveling or suddenly come down with a cold.

4. Take over some of the specific workload from acupuncture treatments so we can use our appointment time more effectively. (For example, use herbs to take over in treating insomnia so we can use acupuncture to focus more on back pain.)

 

In our culture and healthcare system, acupuncture is usually something we have the time and resources for once or twice a week . . . often less frequently. (In China, acupuncture gets even better results because it's more conveniently offered every day in their medical system.)

However, herbs are something you can take daily.

Why is this important? I always tell my clients that I get at best only one hour a week to balance out the stresses and strains of the other 167 hours. Acupuncture is up to the task, sure, but retraining your body to cope with physical and emotional burdens would be much easier with more frequent interventions.

Herbs are something you can do every day – very safely and conveniently – to improve your daily experience.

 

How do I get the right Chinese herbs for me?

You can go to any grocery store or drug store and buy herbs, and the headlines are full of hype about the benefits of this one or that one . . . or claims that none of them work at all.

The truth is, assuming the manufacturer is reliable (a big assumption), some herbs and supplements will "work" for everybody, and most are a waste of money unless there are certain indications that your body needs them. Some can even be harmful if used in excess or when contraindicated by bodily conditions or medications. 

The key to success with herbs is learning the specific formula and dosage that matches your specific needs . . . then ensuring the high quality of the supplement . . . and then being ready to change the dosage or formula to match the level of progress.

This often requires a knowledgeable herbalist to assess and monitor the course of treatment and recommend modifications on the fly. If the herbalist is also an acupuncturist, the prescriptions can be tailored for even greater efficiency between the two modalities.

Starting this month, at your regular acupuncture appointments, I may start recommending herbs based on my findings and treatment plans.

Please ask me if you have any questions!

Changes Afoot

© 2017 by Dr. David Buscher, D.Ac.

If you’ve ever visited my office, you've seen firsthand how much I value the comfort and convenience of my patients. I’ve enjoyed practicing my medicine in my Mt. Vernon location for the past two years, and in the other local offices I rented in the years before that. Every time I moved, I attempted to upgrade the experience of everyone who walks in the door, to let them know they are in a special place where their needs will be met and exceeded.

As the lease on my current office nears its end, I’ve been looking for a similar upgrade within the neighborhood for the past several months. It’s been so important to me that I’ve even considered changing my business model: renting a larger office to be able to offer more wellness specialties, for example, just so I could keep relatively close to where my patients expect to travel.

However, this time around, I haven’t been so lucky in Mt. Vernon. None of the larger or even smaller offices I investigated would be workable, as determined as I was. In mentioning this to my dear friend Katherine Hancock Porter, a wonderful acupuncturist in the Roland Park neighborhood, she made the eye-opening offer for me to share her office. After pondering the implications of such a move, I decided to take her up on it.

In July, I will begin transitioning to our new office at 600 Wyndhurst Ave in Roland Park (Suite 235). I will be there on Mondays and Fridays, and the rest of the time until October I’ll be in my familiar location at 6 E Eager St. 

600 Wyndhurst Ave is a quiet, accessible building on a gorgeous, tree-lined street. There is ample free parking in the rear parking lot and along the street, and it’s close to major bus lines along Roland Ave and Charles St. You will not have to buzz to get into the building. There is tea and water for you in the comfortable waiting room of Suite 235.

I think it’s a good move, for me and for you. Good people. Good vibes. Potential to see more patients at more flexible times. A quiet place to get away from it all for an hour.

I hope to see you there.

(July appointments for the Roland Park are already available on my online scheduler for Mondays and Fridays, on the hour and half-hour. Make sure you select that location when logging in, and the times will appear.)

Acupuncture Dosage and Frequency

© 2017 by Dr. David Buscher, D.Ac.

When people ask how often they will need acupuncture treatments in order to make a difference in their symptoms, I usually answer four to six weekly treatments would be a good start. Acupuncture is a cumulative therapy, and regularity is key to getting results.

But the other main consideration, especially at first, is frequency. Once the condition seems to settle down, the appointments are spaced out more on a maintenance schedule.

It’s important to “front load” acupuncture – have more treatments early on – because it’s a natural medicine. It is not injecting anything into the body; it’s “convincing” your body to do something different than it has been doing. If the symptom is especially intense or long-lasting, the body will need more convincing to turn the tide.

All of this is to say that the “dosage” of acupuncture is as important as it is in any other medicine, and I’m becoming more convinced lately that weekly treatments may not be enough at first. There is often a dramatic change right away, but keeping the momentum of that change is trickier if there is only one hour of treatment versus the other 167 hours a week of the symptom trying to reassert itself. It usually works out in the long run, but it might work faster and more thoroughly if the treatments were closer together in the first few weeks, especially in tougher cases.

Acupuncture for Athletes

© 2017 by Dr. David Buscher, D.Ac.

And now for something completely different! In preparation for my work at the Whole Health Associates Integrative Center for Pain and Sports Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland, I have been reflecting on what acupuncturists can offer in the field of athletics. Here are the areas in which I thought acupuncture could help:

Reduce pain and inflammation from acute and chronic injuries.

Accelerate healing and recovery.

Restore and enhance function, flexibility, and range of motion.

Let go of stress, improve focus, and get “in the zone.”

Help prepare and condition the body for games, races, and competitions. 

Simultaneously ease many physically and emotional symptoms – such as arthritis, digestive issues, headaches, anxiety, and more – that might get in the way of training.

Provide dietary and lifestyle coaching to support goals.

Of course, those ideas are based on the various ways I know how to practice this medicine, and their success is based upon the specific needs of patient, the extent of the injuries, and other factors, but I have a pretty good track record with these things.

If you’d like to see me on Mondays in Silver Spring, it’s possible to schedule at the following link:

https://wholehealthassociates.fullslate.com

Spring Has Sprung in Our Bodies

© 2017 by Dr. David Buscher, D.Ac.

Life has been a bit hectic lately for those of us keeping track of the seasons. Our warm Baltimore-area winter was unusual enough, but now as I type this, we are expecting a blizzard in mid-March. 

Our bodies, however, are attuned to the true passing of the seasons, that natural cycle our species revolved around.

No one thinks it’s unusual in the late fall, when the days get noticeably shorter, and some people start getting “depressed” about the upcoming winter. Seasonal Affective Disorder is the diagnosis, as if settling down, becoming thoughtful, and conserving energy for the winter is a pathology rather than a built-in feature of nature. If you take a walk in the woods, you’ll the trees and animals are doing the same thing. 

Springtime has the opposite effect, although this doesn’t get as much coverage. Outside, as the days get warmer and brighter, the sap has left the roots of the plants and they are growing almost visibly. The animal kingdom is active, mating, hunting, reestablishing itself after the colder and darker times. While the natural energy of winter is sinking, the energy of spring is shooting upward, and our bodies are responding.

This is my busiest time of year. Anxiety, frustration, allergies, headaches, acid reflux – everything moving upward in the body – has been off the charts in the past couple of weeks. I’ve seen more arguments on Facebook (and participated in some, to my regret) than I did during the election season. My patients keep saying, “I don’t know where this came from.” Yes, you do. Look out the window.

Acupuncture can help ease this phenomenon, certainly; help the seasons in of the body arrive more fluidly, with less stress and suffering. But in addition, you can appreciate it, this fresh burst of directional energy. Harness it. Use it to propel yourself forward into a productive year on your own terms.

Rx: Awareness

© 2017 by Dr. David Buscher, D.Ac.

I walk to work, about a mile each way (uphill both ways in the snow). About eighteen months ago, I made that journey twice each day because I would go home at lunch to take care of my sick dog, and after a few weeks of that, my left foot started to hurt. I could get the pain to go away with acupuncture, but it always came back after a few more days of walking on it.

After a while of this, I went to an orthopedist who diagnosed me with tendonitis and gave me a brace I was supposed to wear to relieve the stress on the tendon. He also recommended I take ibuprofen to reduce the inflammation. None of this had any affect on the cycle of pain, and on a follow-up visit, he seemed mystified, as if I had actually been suffering from an ibuprofen and foot-brace deficiency all along.

I never stopped walking to work, but after I stopped wearing the brace, I became very aware of my gait, how my left foot and calf flexed and extended differently—less smoothly—than my right. On some commutes, I would make a conscious effort to step more fluidly on my left leg, and it was on those that I realized that the pain did not manifest; the times I walked less mindfully, my foot would be throbbing by the time I got home. 

As a healthcare practitioner, I have studied pain in some depth. I am aware of the complex mechanics of it. I am also aware of my profession’s preoccupation with diagnosis, the freezing of a complex living system into one abstract phrase that describes only one mechanical aspect of it. So what is my diagnosis? Inflammation of the peroneus brevis tendon? That dreaded ibuprofen deficiency? Walking funny?

A lack of awareness?

One of my great mentors, Dianne Connelly, a great and sage healer, always says that the first thing a headache should do is remind us is that we have a head. The other, Bob Duggan, said that symptoms are a wake-up call from our body.

When I am awake, when I am reminded I have a foot, when I am aware of my presence in the world in a different way, there is no pain for a while. When I insert a needle into my hand to balance the meridians in my foot, there is no pain for a while. One of these is more empowering than the other, but both are teachers.

Pain in The...

© 2017 by Dr. David Buscher, D.Ac.

This past weekend, I attended a seminar on Motor Point Acupuncture, which is a powerful tool for easing muscle and joint pain. My go-to treatment for pain in the past had been Balance Method Acupuncture (also called Distal Needling Acupuncture), which is not local to the painful area. Motor Points work mechanically on the muscle, often induce a “twitch” of the muscle fibers reacting to the needle, and can have an immediate and lasting result—and there are ways of combining it with the distal needling technique I was already familiar with for maximum effect. 

Whenever I clear up pain, it is always with a caveat. Pain happens for a reason . . . posture, repetitive physical or emotional stress, overuse, some nutritional deficiencies, etc. It’s likely to return or manifest in a different way without the appropriate care. But return of pain after the relief of reduction is an opportunity to learn more about it, how it comes and goes, how to dance with it in the days of your life.

Even as I help their bodies to release the pain, I ask my patients, “What did this teach you about how to live well?”

Is There Such a Thing as Health?

© 2017 by Dr. David Buscher, D.Ac.

My friend and mentor Bob Duggan passed away last year. He was the cofounder of my acupuncture school and a noted author and commentator on the topics of wellness, the art of living, health care, and culture. Bob’s own mentor, Ivan Illich, has been cited as one of the great thinkers of the twentieth century. Ivan’s book Limits to Medicine: Medical Nemesis, published in the early 1970s, was a groundbreaking indictment of our healthcare system at the time – and while that book since became required reading in medical schools, he stated in the introduction to the 1995 edition that he had not taken his ideas far enough originally. 

In other words, the central premises and implications of our healthcare system were worse than he thought in 1974, and they have since gotten even worse than that. I’m not talking about our modern dilemmas of widespread coverage or quality of care or outcomes, but rather the most basic assumptions about what health is.

At various times, in various ways, and in response to various questions, Bob and Ivan are both on record saying essentially that there is no such thing as health. There is no Platonic ideal of health that we can all collectively aspire to, nor some personal pinnacle we can reach individually. There is only living from moment to moment, being mindful of our sensory awareness, enjoying the pleasant and bearing the suffering well. There is an image we used at acupuncture school of life (or wellness, or qi) as a rice pot: enough water, enough rice, enough heat, keeping it boiling appropriately, not boiling over, not burning or drying up. Living is motion, action, attention, awareness; it is not a “system,” nor can it be reduced to puzzle that needs to be addressed by a system.

According to Ivan’s work, our idea of health as an aspiration started during the Industrial Revolution, when workers needed to be separated into being fit or unfit to perform their factory jobs. This eventually resulted in seeing people as functioning or malfunctioning machines, and health as transactional, something tangible conferred by a doctor in exchange for money.  The art of living well – the rice pot – gets lost in that transaction.

This is a philosophy with broad implications for all of us. As a “healthcare provider,” someone who is apparently supposed to provide health, I feel I have a special responsibility to consider those implications. I consider my job mostly to help people keep the “rice pot” boiling, to keep life moving, to understand what living well means to them and help empower them to do so. The tools at my disposal are needles and words. I can get symptoms to go away easily enough, but I don’t consider my work done until I offer the idea that there is something to be learned from them about living well.

Welcome

Welcome to my new blog! I have been considering for a while creating a space where I can reflect on both the lessons I’ve learned from my acupuncture and wellness schooling (especially those from my great mentors in life, Bob Duggan and Dianne Connelly), as well as share my perspective current events and research from the healthcare world. I mean this primarily, although not exclusively, as a resource for my patients and to share some insight into my thought process for those who are considering visiting my practice. 

Please bear in mind that this will for the most part be raw, unfiltered, and unedited thinking. However, if anything strikes a chord, please feel free to share it with all of the attributions intact, and a link back to the source. Also, please feel free to comment and start a dialogue on any topic, or to chime in on any that may arise. (Keeping in mind that this is the Internet in 2017, I am horrified that I feel compelled to ask that we please keep things civil. Of course we will. And, well . . . comment threads have been known to devolve rapidly into primordial rage.)

I intend to post regularly here and notify interested parties via my twitter feed (@VeryWellCenter) and Facebook page (verywellinc) of new entries, or please feel free to check back here often.

Thanks, and enjoy the ride!

Dr. David Buscher, D.Ac