Blog by Tammy Caldwell, survivor and ally
After being diagnosed with stage-III rectal cancer in June 2017 at age 42, I am happy to be in remission and alive. During treatment, I had to make some rapid health and lifestyle changes to increase my chance of survival. Those changes have stayed with me. Cancer gave me the ambition I needed to change myself.
My advice is to make sure you’re doing whatever keeps you committed to your treatment. I don’t credit just one thing to my survival; it required mental toughness, love, care, support, research, experimentation, and the will to implement diet changes.
Here are five ways I’ve changed my lifestyle since cancer impacted me:
1. Aggressive changes in diet
I stopped eating meat and transitioned to a plant-based diet. I ate primarily organic raw veggies and fruits. I also reduced eating processed foods and increased exercise.
2. A hybrid treatment approach
My treatment incorporated conventional and naturopathic medicine. I used natural supplements to help manage the side effects from the radiation and chemotherapy treatments. I also used supplements like ginger, black seed oil, turmeric, and moringa to help increase my energy levels and reduce inflammation. I drank a lot of herbal teas like peppermint, chamomile, ginger, and matcha green tea. This helped me with digestive improvements, while increasing antioxidant levels and providing immune support.
Meditation was key for me in increasing mental strength and reducing stress. It helped me cope with pain during treatment and after surgery. It also helped me reduce dependency on pain meds and assisted with faster healing and recovery.
4. I found support
Cancer was something I couldn’t beat alone, and I needed the support from my husband, family, co-workers, and health care team. Love was also instrumental in my fight.
5. Coping with a colostomy bag
Having a colostomy bag was my biggest challenge, but it taught me how to face opposition with humility. The bag allowed me time to heal and gave me a hopeful outcome. I actually named my stoma “Hope,” which helped me to connect better with the process, even in the most challenging moments. My ileostomy was successfully reversed after six months.
I have gained a great deal of knowledge from research on colorectal cancer, its causes, and the possibility that conventional treatment is not guaranteed to work. I took the hybrid approach for treatment to optimize my results.
Colorectal cancer taught me not to hope but to believe I could survive. Look at me now … I have had the biggest advancements in life. I’m married, a grandmother to four beautiful souls, and living to pass on the inspiration
Tammy Caldwell is a stage-III colorectal cancer survivor and ally residing in Maryland.
The Alliance provides healthy living tips here. All changes to treatment or lifestyle should first be discussed with care providers.