Cancer can take a lot out of you. We know that taking steps to live well with a cancer diagnosis, both during and after treatment, gives you the best possible chance of recovery. This includes staying active and eating well but also involves looking at the whole person. It’s important to focus on mental, emotional and spiritual health as well.
For World Health Day, we asked Barry du Bois from Channel Ten’s The Living Room about the whole person approach to living well with cancer. Barry’s take is that it doesn’t just start with the diagnosis.
“We need to look at before you even get cancer,” says Barry. “I was the guy who never went to the doctor because I was healthy. But I think that’s the wrong approach. We need to view the doctor as an integral member of the team that makes sure we stay healthy and helps us prevent illness.”
For Barry, this includes tracking levels of different elements in the body that you don’t often track. “I want to see the copper content in my body, the zinc levels, the potassium and the magnesium levels.”
By monitoring our bodies in such detail, it allows us to make tweaks which go hand in hand with eating well and exercising regularly, to ensure that we are in the best health possible.
Barry has multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells. When he found out it had returned last year, he was determined to throw everything he could at it. “My favourite saying is, I never plant a seed without watering it. There’s no sense in getting just the treatment you are offered, throwing a seed in the ground, walking away and hoping everything’s going to turn out for the best. No, I have to combine what I know about good healthy living with the medical option. That’s just the seed in the ground. You’ve got to water it with nourishment. You’ve got to water it with exercise, healthy living, mindfulness and positive psychology. That’s the new medicine. It was the old medicine thousands of years ago and it’s the new medicine again. It’s the one that lasts.”
“It’s about the science of medicine, the science of nutrition, the science of physiology and the science of the mind and nervous system, all together as one connected approach.”
Barry has enlisted the help of his co-presenter from The Living Room, Miguel Maestre. Miguel has been providing nutritious recipes and “my beautiful wife has been preparing the most beautiful and healthy food.”
He visits the LivingRoom at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse where he practises mindfulness to clear the noise and clutter from his head and exercises to make sure his body is in the best possible shape to deal with the treatment.
Barry says, “I look at it as a spinning plate. If you only rely on modern medicine, the plate will be unbalanced. The whole life is a balanced plate. Socialisation, exercise, work, passion, empathy, everything that you can philosophically come up with is a part of balanced plate.”
For Barry, the very clear message for World Health Day is prevention. “For too long we haven’t been focusing on prevention, we relied on the cure. That’s an unbalanced plate. The cure for diabetes is a tablet, yet the prevention is diet and exercise. So, that’s why I believe you need to work with your health team to use everything in your toolkit, including medical science and complementary therapies, to help prevent problems.”
“If you put a seed in the ground, fertilise it. Make sure it gets some water. Make sure it gets some sun. Make sure it gets some shade. That’s what modern science tells us it needs. And modern science tells us that we need nutrition, exercise, psychological therapy, a moral purpose and social support to live well.”