How to help heal the mind and brain during and after cancer

Joint winners announced as the Best Mind & Brain Product at the inaugural Live Better With Spotlight Awards

mind and brain
Photo by Jacob Townsend

When you’re diagnosed with cancer, it’s easy to think about the physical complications the disease brings – from nausea and hair loss to pain and fatigue. But what about the impact on your mental health?

Feelings of depression, anxiety, and fear are very common and are normal responses to this life-changing experience. Many things can cause these feelings. Changes in body image can affect self-esteem and confidence. Family and work roles may be altered. You might also fear death, suffering, pain, or all the unknown things that lie ahead.

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Campaigners want coffee to come with cancer warning

A future cup of coffee in California could give you jitters before you even take a sip of your cup of joe

coffee cancer warning

A lawsuit is underway in the state of California that might force coffee retailers such as Starbucks, Seattle’s Best and Dunkin’ Donuts to add a cancer warning label to their coffees.

The nonprofit organization Council for Education and Research on Toxics (CERT) has brought this suit to court. It’s an effort they began back in 2010 against 90 different companies in California, claiming these companies failed to follow a state law ― Proposition 65 ― that requires a warning for the presence of hazardous chemicals to the residents of California. The hazardous chemical in question is acrylamide, a known carcinogen, which is produced in small amounts during the coffee-roasting process.

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Stage IV cancer patient prepares for Ironman

This October, 68 year-old Mike Levine will become the first Stave IV pancreatic cancer patient to complete an Ironman race. 

Ironman cancer

This October, over 2000 athletes will take part in the inaugural Ironman Championships. After a gruelling 2.4-mile swim and 112-mile bike ride, contestants will race a 26.2-mile marathon, looking to be the first to cross the finish line.

Among them will be 68 year-old Mike Levine; a retired salesman and Stage IV cancer patient.

Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015, Mike is well aware that his cancer is serious. “I have less than a one percent chance of making it five years, and since the diagnosis, I’m already two and a half years into it,” he told the San Diego news.

Despite these challenges, Mike has found a renewed sense of purpose.

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Outpouring of love after LGBT activist Dean Eastmond passes away

Friends, family and fans all over the globe have paid tribute to the writer and LGBT activist Dean Eastmond, who passed away earlier this week. Dean was just 21 and was diagnosed with a rare bone and soft tissue cancer in 2016.

LGBT activist Dean Eastmond

Sharing his experiences of having cancer as a young man in the LGBT+ community earned Dean a huge online following, and the internet has been filled with messages of love and admiration following his passing, with his hashtag #DeanEastmondSLAYS trending on Twitter as fans reminisced about his impact.

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Is cancer contagious?

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, you’re probably wondering: is cancer contagious? The short answer is: no. But there are still things to be mindful of. 

Is Cancer Contagious

A cancer diagnosis always brings up lots of questions. What are my treatment options? Will I need surgery? Will I lose my hair?

A cancer diagnosis can also elicit more difficult questions. What’s my prognosis? Can I still have sex? Is my cancer contagious?

Lots of people wonder about that last question: “Is my cancer contagious?” Though it may feel silly, it’s a question worth asking. 

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Preparing for a mastectomy: What will happen to your body after surgery?

mastectomy breast cancer

It’s difficult to condense the emotional and physical tolls that a mastectomy brings.

If you are having a mastectomy as part of your breast cancer treatment or as a preventative measure, your doctors will give you lots of information on what the procedure involves and what to expect.

Here at Live Better With, we have put together a list of the most common problems that can arise after a mastectomy to help you be prepared should you experience any of these.

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Nic Naish: Take Small Steps to Achieve Your Dream

Take small steps to achieve your dream

On Monday I open the doors, my very own doors, to my health and fitness clients! I’m feeling quietly excited, quite exhausted but very much supported.

Who knew that a diagnosis of breast cancer could change my life around in such a remarkable way? I feel that I’m nearing my goal, but that suggests that I had a definitive idea of where I was heading. I knew what I didn’t want…and that was a job that exhausted me but left me unfulfilled, and more often than not, frustrated. My health had taken a downturn due to the job and the incessant feeling of self-doubt wore me out.

During my year of cancer treatment, I had time to reflect…not that much time as I started many projects, all of which I saw to fruition. (Apart from painting again and organising an exhibition in my local library!) I made my nutrition and exercise a top priority. They were very much part of my cancer ‘treatment’.

My positive experience regarding my cancer treatment made me want to spread the word and also give something back. I volunteered with a local charity, Albion in the Community (the charitable branch of Brighton & Hove FC), on a cancer awareness project and my journey started. To physically work in my community talking about the benefits of early detection felt so right. The scientific side of my brain wanted answers though.. to so many questions, and I loved the work that Breast Cancer Campaign were funding. (Now known as Breast Cancer Now!)

This led me to run marathons to raise money. I loved becoming fit again and didn’t want to stop. I wanted to tell everyone  “Cancer doesn’t have to be a death sentence” so I became even more involved with both fitness and the volunteering. When I had qualified as a fitness instructor, I realised that the qualification had glossed over nutrition. I knew it had a big part to play in our health and wellbeing, so I enrolled on a nutritional therapy course at uni. The biochemistry side of the studies pushed my buttons and simply made me want to understand more.

That’s when I started to realise that as a personal trainer I wanted to work holistically, with people living with and beyond cancer. I still have to juggle my work as an artist in residence at a large primary school, teach workouts on the beach and squeeze in being a mum and a wife, but I am so close now.

Next time I write a blog, I will have moved into my new studio….fingers crossed!

The journey has taken six truly amazing years. I didn’t know then what the result was going to look like..and that didn’t matter. There have been hiccups, and I’ve made a few mistakes, but the important thing is that every night when I went to bed, however, I was feeling…I knew that when I woke up, it was a new day, a fresh start. And for that, I am eternally thankful.

Most of the steps have been forward, some sideways, a very small number backward…but I have always had a burning desire to get ‘there’.

So I guess that’s my message for this week. Welcome each new day and take tiny steps towards something you really believe in. The tiny steps do add up!


Nic x

Chemotherapy mortality study raises key learning points for hospitals

Public Health Study suggests lung and breast cancer patients  suffered harm, rather than benefiting from chemotherapy treatment

The use of chemotherapy in England is being scrutinised this week following shocking figures released by Public Health England.

A study by PHE found that almost  1,400 patients with either breast or lung cancer died in England in 2014 within a month of being given chemotherapy, suggesting they suffered harm, rather than benefiting from chemotherapy.

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Nic Naish: Setting the record straight when it comes to nutrition

I don’t know about you, but I’m hooked on the Olympic Games of an evening. I didn’t think we could better our home games of 2012 and I still get a warm glow remembering how proud I was to be of the host nation. ‘We’ did a fantastic job…(using the ‘royal we’ there!) As a sports lover, 2012 was a fantastic year to be British and at a time when I was actively using sport as rehabilitation after my cancer, I was hugely motivated by our country’s athletes.

Last night, as I repeatedly went from the edge of my seat to being hugely relieved (on the whole), I noticed how many of our superstars thanked the ‘behind the scenes’ crew for their success. Many of them personally giving credit to their nutritionists. Yay!!

Can you imagine the balance required…to push your body to an absolute peak of it’s potential; to reduce the risk of injury or illness at the same time; to know that your body will do what you ask of it without question: and control all this to happen during a certain month of a certain year. Truly amazing. The ability to fine tune this peak of health and athleticism is a science in its own right.

Now I know we’re not Olympians, but the same rules apply to us too. What you put in your body affects the performance of your body, it’s as simple as that.

Nutritional therapists work alongside conventional practitioners. They do not, (should not) make diagnoses. Their role is to listen to an individual and analyse through many strategies and tests, where and why symptoms are occurring. If a nutritional therapists detects or suspects a certain condition they should advise the client to go to their GP with this information.

Our wonderful NHS can provide excellent quality diagnostic tests and no-one should be paying a fortune for high quality supplements, or eliminating whole food groups without sound professional advice. Some GPs welcome the input of alternative and complementary therapists more than others but, as the patient, you have the right to seek the advice and combinations of treatment that you have faith in.

So going back to my marvels at our athletes peak of health at an allotted time, as cancer survivors we too can take control of our bodies, well at least what we choose to put into them.

A sports scientist or nutritionist will understand the extreme fatigue that a harsh training programme will cause; the hormones that are released and the macro- and micro-nutrients needed to fuel such exertion and subsequent recovery. Likewise a nutritionist can work alongside an oncologist to help reset the natural balance of the body. They can advise how to restore low levels of minerals, how to build up muscle mass safely, combat fatigue through diet and exercise and counter the effects of steroids and pain-killers etc.

If you are a cancer patient/survivor consider nutritional therapy. Far from quackery, a good nutritional therapist will have the time and knowledge to understand you as a whole.

So, as I didn’t give you any recipes or food ideas last week here are some snack suggestions for those evenings watching the Olympics….so you can feel equally virtuous and dedicated!

  • Apple halves filled with peanut butter
  • Oat cakes with a tiny bit of cottage cheese
  • Carrot sticks and  hummus
  • Home-made raita using Greek yoghurt, cucumber, pepper, fresh coriander and chilli to taste.

All washed down with a glass of mineral water, in a posh glass with a slice!

Have fun taking control of one very important element of your health!

Nic x