Tim Baker – 11 Tips For Cancer Self-Care

Tim celebrates his five year ‘cancerversary’. “Just me and a mate and a pod of dolphins on a fun right hand point down the coast”. Photo: Ted Grambeau

Episode 133 guest Tim Baker shares his insights into coping with a cancer diagnosis. To read more of Tim’s brilliant work, click here.

“In the surreal, terrifying, overwhelming days and weeks after a cancer diagnosis it can be hard to know what to do, where to start, who to believe.

I don’t claim to be cured of cancer but five years after being diagnosed with stage four prostate cancer, and a range of conventional and complementary therapies, I seem to be doing pretty well. I’m in remission and am fitter and healthier than I was before my diagnosis.

I quite often get asked to offer advice to friends or family who are dealing with cancer and so I came up with this summary. In short point form, here is what I did and would recommend others do when facing a cancer diagnosis. Importantly, I don’t think there is anything here that conflicts with following the qualified medical advice of the relevant specialists.

It does encourage a certain empowerment and pro-activity on your part to be an active player in your own healing. And this is really just a starting point to embark on your own research and find allies, health professionals and support people who best fit your needs“.

1. Change To A Plant-Based Diet

“Reduce or eliminate red meat, dairy, wheat, processed sugar. Eat lots of fresh, ideally organic, fruit and vegetables in a wide range of colours. If you can’t afford to go all organic check out the “dirty dozen and the clean fifteen” – a  list of fruit and vegetables that use the most pesticides (non-organic produce to be avoided) and those that use the least (where non-organic produce is okay).  Eat a rainbow. That’s the simplest way to make sure you are getting the nutrients your body needs. Don’t get hung up about the specifics of particular diets that might be recommended to you, initially at least. You can’t go too far wrong eating lots of plants and drinking lots of water, while being careful to get adequate protein and iron. Consult a nutritionist if in doubt. If you can, try and condense your meals into an eight hour block each day – say brunch at 10, a light lunch during the day, dinner at 6. That way your body has 16 hours of fasting each day when it is not digesting food and is better able to heal”.

2. Meditate

“Having some coping tools and the ability to relax through this experience is essential. Many yoga centres offer meditation classes, there are guided CDs and apps and a variety of meditation retreats widely available. In essence, meditation is deceptively simple, it is the art of doing nothing, of accepting what is, sitting with your breath and allowing your thoughts to drift by like clouds across a sky. Your clear mind, the blue sky, is always there behind the clouds. Do not fight your thoughts, simply observe them with a calm detachment. Realise that you are not your mind but you are the witness, the observer of your mind and you can learn to calmly observe its workings without being overwhelmed or swamped by them. Over time you can develop a visualization meditation with a specific healing intent which I think can be quite powerful. Think about the placebo effect, for example. When the mind believes it is healing the body follows”.

3. Move

“Exercise is vital. 30 minutes of high intensity exercise a day has been found to reduce tumours, extend survival times and increase overall health dramatically. This is a new frontier of cancer research and exercise is starting to be prescribed as medicine”.

4. Read the book Anticancer

“Dr David Servan-Schreiber is a medical doctor who diagnosed his own brain tumour and kept himself alive for 20 years with a holistic approach of conventional treatment, diet and natural therapies. It is the best sensible middle path on the topic I have found, giving you all the tools you need to overhaul your lifestyle into an anti-cancer regime”.

Click here.

5. Consider A Retreat

“I booked a five-day retreat at the Gawler Cancer Foundation, a residential retreat in the Yarra Valley, Victoria, founded by noted cancer survivor Ian Gawler. There you are fed a healthy, organic, plant-based diet; and learn all about the nutrition, meditation, and emotional healing strategies Ian and thousands of others have used to heal from cancer or improve their prognosis. Many other countries have similar facilities, or even most health retreats will provide the combination of diet, exercise, meditation and rest you need to heal and realign your lifestyle”.

6. Read Radical Remission

“Kelly Turner is a researcher and psychotherapist who devoted a PhD project to studying thousands of cases of radical, or spontaneous remissions that conventional medicine could not explain. From these cases she identified nine common traits of those who have overcome a terminal cancer diagnosis. She defines these as:

– Radically changing your diet

– Taking control of your health

– Following your intuition

– Using herbs and supplements

– Releasing suppressed emotions

– Increasing positive emotions

– Embracing social support

– Deepening your spiritual connection

– Having strong reasons for living“

Click here.

7. Treat Your Oncologist And Other Medical Professionals As Consultants

“Ask questions. Take your time. Don’t feel rushed into making decisions about your treatment. In most cases your condition won’t be made worse by taking two or three to explore your options, seek second or even third opinions. Don’t be scared or pressured into making decisions faster than you are comfortable with”.

8. Reduce Stress

“As much as your circumstances allow, try and lighten your workload, reach out to others for help and be ready and willing to receive it. Embrace this as an opportunity to be selfish, do what you feel like doing and listen to your intuition”.

9. Come To Terms With Your Own Mortality

“This might sound confronting but it was an absolute turning point for me. We are all going to die. Learning to accept our mortality, according to Buddhism, is our life’s work. It is the homework that most of us put off until the last minute. A cancer diagnosis is a call to get your homework done now. Not everyone who embraces the most rigorous course of natural healing is successful in surviving cancer. As long as survival is your only goal, you will always be on tenterhooks, hanging on the next scan or set of test results, agonizing over every phantom sensation in your body as a sign the cancer is spreading. For me, there was a pivotal point at which I accepted that I cannot completely control the outcome here and my goal instead is to evolve to a place of peace and love and acceptance no matter what happens. That doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes get scared and freaked out, but it means I have a goal that I can work on that is entirely within my own control, that I can meditate, read, nurture my physical, emotional and mental health, be present in the moment and cherish every day. Conveniently, I believe this approach also provides the best chance of healing”.

10. Dial Down The ‘Battle’ Language

“You will notice endless media reports of someone “losing their battle with cancer”. Richard Nixon famously declared “war on cancer” back in the ‘70s and that went about as well as the war on drugs,  terrorism and his political career. The cancer is a part of you and I don’t believe you want to be at war with yourself. Try and find a way to frame it that makes sense to you. I think of it as a teacher and that when the student has learnt their lessons thoroughly, the teacher can move on.  I can’t prove that this is true and I know it might sound a bit overly Pollyanna-ish, but I’ve just made the conscious choice that this seems the most useful way to frame it”.

11. Find A Good Naturopath

“Preferably recommended by someone you trust who has first-hand experience of their services. Herbs and supplements can be important components in reducing the impact of conventional treatments, but let your oncologist know about anything you are planning to take to ensure it doesn’t conflict with whatever treatments they are prescribing. Be wary of excessively expensive supplements or alternative treatments. Anything that makes extravagant and unproven claims, especially with a high price tag, should be approached with caution. As a rule, anything that claims to be “10,000 times more effective than chemotherapy” is probably bullshit”.