Praise for the Curve.Life Video Course
"I highly recommend the Curve video course for cancer patients and their families."
Dr Jonathan Krell
Cutting Edge Science
Our experts have trawled through the journals so you don’t need to
Knowledge is Power
Understand how cancer works, understand how to fight it
There is A LOT patients / families can do to help themselves after diagnosis, but this is not often discussed by doctors. Learn what the science says can help.
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A tough diagnosis (and prognosis)
I was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer 10 years ago. The cancer had spread from my ovaries to the surface of multiple internal organs. It’s never easy being told that you have incurable cancer. I had felt ill for a couple of years before this and had researched online what it could be so I was somewhat prepared for bad news, but it still hit me like a tonne of bricks.
I quickly entered the “medical system” – appointment after appointment, treatment after treatment. Initially my greatest concern was figuring out how to tell my kids. They were young, but old enough to know what was going on. I wanted to protect them as much as I could and received counselling on how to broach this issue, which I found enormously helpful.
Building a tough mind
When you are diagnosed with cancer, it’s important to try and get your head in the right space as you have so much to deal with. Not an easy task but possible and it gets easier over time. Initially you feel totally overwhelmed, but that’s normal – everyone feels it. I would recommend everyone consider counselling – I found being able to talk to a neutral third party hugely helpful. In addition, I built in mindfulness meditation and continued with the things I love, like painting and sport (more on this below). I don’t know how I would have coped without these things – they provide an anchor in the storm.
A key part of building mental toughness is acceptance – not only accepting the diagnosis and prognosis but also working on doing as well as possible for someone in your position. This also helps you better appreciate the things you have and ultimately leads to gratitude. I am immensely grateful for my family and all the richness in life.
The importance of building a strong mind should not be underestimated and I always tell newly diagnosed patients to address this area.
Exercise – the closet thing there is to a magic pill
For me, it was important to get beyond being a “ cancer patient”. I wanted to get some normalcy back and feel like a person again, albeit one with a challenging medical condition. I love tennis and so kept that up as much as I could through treatment and beyond. Exercise is not only great for mental health, but there is also research showing that it improves medical outcomes, i.e. it makes some people live longer. For me, it’s been a key part of my response to cancer.
Taking an active approach to cancer
When I think about my cancer journey, I tend to divide actions between those that my doctors do to help (surgery, chemo and targeted therapies etc) and those that I can do to help (exercise, diet, mind). This is why I like the Curve videos so much as they adopt a similar view and encourage patients / families to be active in their response to cancer. They give you a foundation of knowledge that will help you make better decisions. For example, they explain how to think about cancer, how to improve your personal odds, and provide a great understanding of the things that patients / families can take control of and that really help (for example, diet, where the videos provide simple guidelines that make eating healthy easy).
I was diagnosed with breast cancer aged 45 after finding a lump during a check at home. A friend of mine had recently been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and so it was the first time I’d done a check in a long time but I didn’t expect to find anything, I felt so healthy and there was no history of it in my family. I was swiftly diagnosed by my local hospital as having an aggressive triple negative cancer and given a lumpectomy, which was followed by chemotherapy and a course of radiotherapy.
Breaking the news to family and close friends was tough but their support helped me enormously. My two young children were aware that something was wrong so I found a children’s book that helped me explain what was happening in a way that they could understand. My daughters’ main source of concern was my hair loss and I therefore added time to my chemo sessions by wearing a ‘cold cap’ which kept much of my hair so the wig I’d been given still lay in its box.
Searching for Solutions
Although I followed a conventional medical path of treatment, I spent far too long on the internet looking in all directions for additional advice. I just wanted to improve my chances and felt there had to be something out there that could help. There wasn’t. I wish something like Curve had been around then as it has a positive approach that strikes a great balance between information and empowerment, helping improve the odds for individuals.
I’d been fairly fit beforehand and loved running prior to my treatment. After my diagnosis, I went from feeling healthy to pretty frail but kept running – and eventually walking – around the heath near me through my chemotherapy and subsequent radiotherapy. It helped to keep some sense of normality and also helped clear my mind of all the hospital visits, stress and fatigue I felt.
I had already eaten fairly healthily but made some key changes that helped me feel I was improving my chances of a positive outcome. I also started yoga classes which I tied in around my radiotherapy sessions. From taking my body for granted, I had come to see it as something of an enemy and the yoga helped me shed that negative feeling.
When my treatment was completed, I decided I wanted to raise money for a breast cancer charity. I hadn’t told many people about my diagnosis but felt ready to do so and was overwhelmed with the level of support. I raised nearly £1500 for the run and, wonderfully, a few non-running friends trained for it too and we completed the 10k together. I’ve been symptom free for five years now and haven’t stopped running.
My Position (metastatic prostate cancer)
After keeping an eye on my PSA level (a marker for prostate cancer) for a few years, I elected to have my prostate removed in early 2018. The normal response to this is that one’s PSA drops to zero meaning the cancer has gone.
Unfortunately, my post-surgery tests showed increasing PSA levels indicating that the cancer had spread and I was then diagnosed with metastatic disease, following which I started the standard treatments for such – hormone and chemo therapies.
Knowledge Is Power
Being told you have incurable (at least based on current technologies) cancer is nothing short of horrific. For me, it caused a huge amount of introspection about life in general and my place in it. How long did I have? Am I going to get to spend time with my grandkids? Did I do this to myself? So many questions.
Accepting the diagnosis (and prognosis) was important to me, and a big part of this was actually trying to understand the disease I had. When you’re not medically trained, and don’t want to learn a bunch of scientific terms, this is easier said than done. Plus many of the resources online don’t really explain what cancer is at the biological level, which means you don’t get a good understanding of it.
Curve’s videos get the balance right – they’re easy to understand, but don’t leave out important detail (in the words of Einstein, they’re “as simple as possible but no simpler”).
Figuring Out What I Can Do To Help
Understanding what I had was an important initial step as it allowed me to have better conversations with my doctors and figure out what more I could do to help. For example, once you know what promotes cancer – e.g. an inflammatory environment – you can look at things in your life that promote inflammation (such as certain foods) and things that reduce inflammation (also, certain foods but also exercise and stress reduction). The understanding leads to action, or, as they say, knowledge is power.
I have worked a lot on diet – eating less of the bad things and more of the good things. I’m also physically active through my work, and walk a lot, knowing that exercise keeps me and my immune system strong.
Easy to Understand, Easy to Implement
The Curve.life videos are spot on – they give you the fundamentals without having to learn a bunch of scientific terms. They have distilled what is a complex topic into a series of easy to understand topics that all cancer patients should be aware of. Food is a great example – their mantra is “eat food, not too much, mainly (certain types of) plants”. It’s easy to understand and, more important, easy to implement.