You've Been Diagnosed with Cancer....Now What?


A cancer diagnosis comes as a shock. There’s no easy way for your doctor to tell you those words, and there’s no easy way for you to comprehend them. Your mind may race through a variety of questions, including:

  • Why me?

  • How did this happen?

  • When should I tell my family?

  • How will cancer treatment make me feel?

  • Will I be in pain or have other side effects?

Every person is different, but you don’t have to try to sort through those answers on your own. At the Raby Institute, Naturopath Kathy Chavez, ND, uses a holistic, five-step approach to help patients come to terms with their cancer diagnosis. She also helps them readjust their expectations and lifestyle choices to create as healthy a life post-diagnosis as possible.

“Conventional treatments for cancer are usually surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and radiation,” says Dr. Chavez. “While those may be necessary to immediately remove the cancer, I work with patients to develop a longer term, mind-body approach to their care. This may include massage or physical therapy, exercise, acupuncture, nutrition, botanical medicines, and homeopathy.”

Read on to learn how Dr. Chavez takes an integrative, holistic approach to treating patients who have been diagnosed with cancer.

Step 1: Ensure Safety

Patients tend to assume that natural therapy equates to safe therapy, but that’s not always the case. Natural therapies have effects on the body, and those effects can be positive or adverse depending on other medications a person is taking, allergies the person has, and more.

Vitamins, minerals, botanical medicines, and foods can stimulate cancer cells to grow or interfere with other drugs and chemotherapy agents. They can protect cancer cells from radiation or alter blood clotting and anesthesia during surgery.

Dr. Chavez conducts an extensive interview with each patient to learn how the lifestyle choices the patient makes on a daily basis may interact with their treatment. This type of in-depth analysis takes time, and is often something an oncology surgeon or doctor may not dive into during appointments when so many other decisions about immediate cancer care need to be discussed.

Step 2: Reduce Side Effects of Cancer Care

Without a doubt, conventional treatments are the fastest, most effective approach to managing cancer, but treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation also come with many negative side effects that can greatly diminish quality of life. Sometimes, the patient even has to pause treatment until those side effects clear.

Common cancer treatment side effects include:

  • Fatigue

  • Low blood cell counts

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Taste changes

  • Loss of appetite

  • Mouth sores

  • Diarrhea or constipation

  • Numbness and tingling in fingers and toes

  • Rashes

  • Bone pain

  • Burns

Luckily, many complementary treatments can reduce or prevent these side effects. They can even enhance the effectiveness of the treatments. And Dr. Chavez works with patients to design a unique, integrative plan of supplements and/or alternative therapies that will best benefit them.

“So many therapies have been studied and shown to be safe, so that’s what I stick with,” Dr. Chavez says.

Step 3: Support Wellness

The healthier a cancer patient is, the better the person’s body will be able to tolerate cancer treatments and fight cancer. At the time of the diagnosis, many people are not actually as healthy as they might be, though. They may be experiencing anxiety, sleep disturbances, chronic diarrhea or constipation, obesity, unsupportive relationships, and stress.

Often, the cancer diagnosis itself leads to stress and can worsen other health issues, further burdening the body’s resources. Addressing these issues is key, and will enable the body to focus on destroying the cancer cells.

“I’ve had many patients report that their cancer diagnosis initiated positive changes in their life,” Dr. Chavez says. “They started eating better, increased exercise, quit jobs they hated, broke off relationships with negative friends, and started taking time to care for themselves. As a result, some even report feeling better after their diagnosis than before.”

While that’s not always the case, increasing wellness practices in your life will always come with benefits.

Step 4: Address Risk Factors

Most cancers have predictable risk factors, some of which (genetics and family history) can’t be changed. Fortunately, though, you can do something about many other risk factors.

Lifestyle choices that affect your risk for cancer include:

  • Sleep habits

  • Physical activity

  • Diet

  • Nutritional deficiencies

  • Exposure to toxins (cigarette smoke, alcohol, solvents, pesticides)

Even after a cancer diagnosis, it’s important to change any of those contributing factors to reduce any further insults to your body and genes.

Dr. Chavez uses her time with patients to educate them about these risk factors and highlight opportunities for change in their lives. Schedule a consult with Dr. Chavez today by calling (312) 276-1212.

Early traditional Chinese medicine stemmed from Taoist masters who developed an extraordinary sense of the body and its workings through their many hours of meditation.