Some of you know that I have recently gone part-time in my academic position to start Nutrition & Wellness Coaching for people living with cancer. So far, so good! I'm really enjoying seeing clients again and putting research into practice to improve lives. Its lovely to hear positive feedback from clients about feeling understood, supported, having all their questions answered and not feeling rushed. I love making a difference and that's what motivated me to make this career move.
So far clients have found me through doctor referral or word of mouth. Everyone's saying that Social Media is where it's at so I've been "playing" on the socials for the past 2 weeks. It's been interesting to say the least! Other than being contacted by teenagers and lonely men (might save that blog for another time!), I am starting to make connection with an amazing network of cancer survivors, advocates, loved ones, and health care professionals. Firstly, the good news is that there are many inspiring and courageous people sharing their stories, practical tips and useful support groups. Actually the support groups are truly amazing so if you haven't already found one, I highly recommend it (e.g. Breast Cancer Support Group, Pink Ladies, SoBrave more info at https://breast-cancer.canceraustralia.gov.au/support ).
However, there is also a bit of rubbish out there that has motivated me to write this blog. I've come across products that people are selling that claim to cure cancer. From juices to supplements to herbs and even crystals. How are they allowed to get away with this messaging and selling of false promises? Some of these products aren't going to fulfil the promise but at least won't do too much harm (other than cost & false hope) but some of these things can interfere with and actually reduce the effectiveness of known treatments.
I've also seen recommendations for "starving" cancer by cutting out sugar, meat, dairy, gluten & GMO..... (Please DON'T do this without discussing with an experienced oncology dietitian. There's a good article I've been circulating this week about sugar and cancer by Lauren and the Oncore Nutrition team here https://dietitianconnection.com/news/clinical/bittersweet-does-sugar-feed-cancer/ As an overview, its complicated and you and your health care team need to look at your treatments, diet, lifestyle and existing nutritional status so personalised advice by an experienced oncology dietitian is key).
My husband can't understand why I let this nonsense on the web get to me. Maybe its triggering experiences from 20 years ago when I would see patients (often with cancers with a good survival rate) admitted to hospital malnourished after trying all sorts of bizarre diets and supplements. I know its not new but with the web and social media it is SO widely available and actually really confusing (some of the marketing is pretty slick!). So if as a research professor and clinician it takes me significant time to sort out the promising from the unsubstantiated then I can only imagine how confusing it is for people living with cancer and their well-meaning friends and family reading this on the web.
To be clear, I'm not against complementary care. To me If it works then it should be part of medical (or supportive) care. I've personally been involved in research investigating the effectiveness of fish oil, ginger, protein supplements etc. on symptom management and quality of life during cancer treatment (future blog topics if you're interested). I do worry that people are getting misled and sold lies about "cures' with no evidence. Some will argue that it doesn't matter and may even provide hope for those with an incurable illness. I disagree. Hope is important but false promises are misleading, wasting unnecessary energy, time and money which could be better spent on maximizing quality of life and time with loved ones.
I look forward to more engagement with the many amazing survivors, advocates, support groups, health care & fitness professionals and those working in all ways to help support those with cancer. It doesn't have to be just in the medical and health field. I've come across some innovative products including beautiful cancer care packages (what a great idea!). However, those claiming to cure cancer with a supplement, herb, crystal or juice – unless you can show me multiple peer reviewed published papers in reputable journals, or even good pilot data – then it’s a, 'Not today, thank you', from me!
Let me know your thoughts, support group suggestions and feel free to request future blog topics.
To your wellness!