Stress Busters: Teaching Cancer Patients to Cope through Movement, Thought & Creativity

???????????????????????????????It’s not a stretch to say that restorative yoga has made a significant impact on a group of UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center patients. “They swear by it,” says Teri Hoenemeyer, director of education and supportive services for the Cancer Center. “They say they’re better able to manage their disease, they have a better quality of life, and they’re better able to cope with the stresses.”

Reducing that mental stress could benefit patients physically, Hoenemeyer says, and it’s the reason that the Cancer Center offers a variety of integrative medicine and complementary therapy programs—from yoga to art to mindfulness meditation—to help support patients undergoing treatment. “Stress can impact inflammatory factors and hormone levels that may play a role in cancer and chronic diseases,” she says. “People who are stressed all the time are more susceptible to illness.”

Research indicates that “when people start a regular, consistent complementary therapy practice, like meditation, yoga, or art, they report that they have reduced stress levels,” Hoenemeyer says. “And the more you do it, the better results you have.”

“We also see that people who are able to connect with others with similar experiences and interests in a support network have better survival rates in cancer,” Hoenemeyer says. These activities give patients a sense of control over a disease that can seem random and chaotic, she explains, adding that both patients and physicians find them appealing. “There’s definitely an improvement in quality of life, and there may even be biological responses. There’s still a lot we have to discover, but the effect is there—though it’s important to remember that what works for one person may not work for another.”

The Cancer Center would like to add more complementary therapy programs when funding is available, Hoenemeyer says. “We’re trying to include more of these practices, and more people at UAB are becoming interested in these types of studies.”

Discover the wide range of patient and family resources at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Give something and change everything for UAB cancer patients and their families.


Excerpted from and originally published by Charles Buchanan for UAB Magazine.