Helping Women Survive
Treating the whole patient through integrative medicine is especially important for those facing life-threatening illnesses.
“It’s become a critical and essential piece of a patient’s journey through chronic disease and survivorship,” says Dr. Courtney Jordan Baechler, cardiologist and vice president of the Penny George Institute.
Anna Linck discovered this firsthand in 2010, when she suffered heart failure and checked into Abbott Northwestern to await a heart transplant. While in the hospital, Linck experienced acute pain and nausea. She worked with an integrative health practitioner to receive acupressure, aromatherapy, guided imagery, massage and music therapy, and energy healing.
“Before my heart arrived, I was dying,” Linck wrote in her patient testimonial on Abbott Northwestern’s website. “These integrative therapies helped me survive.”
Patients at Park Nicollet, too, can take advantage of a wide range of integrative therapies for mind and body, something Carissa Warren learned when, at 24, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“My room was a revolving door of complementary treatment therapists,” Warren wrote on her blog at the start of her second round of chemo at Frauenshuh Cancer Center.
Throughout her treatment, Warren used music therapy, reflexology, and visualization as part of her overall plan—treatments that not only made her feel better, but also made her feel valued.
“They are not only concerned with my physical well-being, but my emotional and spiritual healing too,” she wrote. “Everyone that walks in the door is concerned about treating me as a whole person, not just cancer patient in room 304.”
Thanks to state-of-the-art medical treatments, many people can expect to live long lives after being treated for a life-threatening illness. Integrative medicine can play an important role helping survivors live to the fullest.
“Some people feel isolated from the medical system and socially if they’re fortunate enough to make it to survivorship,” says Baechler. “We are there to make sure they get back to their life and again feel in control.”
It Starts with Prevention
Starting from a place of wellness not only helps patients fight disease—in many cases it can prevent it in the first place.
There are direct links between lifestyle changes—diet, exercise, stress management—and reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Based on current research, Van Sloun estimates that about 80 percent of heart disease, up to 90 percent of type II diabetes, and about 50 percent of cancer could be prevented through lifestyle changes.
For Van Sloun and other health care providers, this means integrative health starts in the office, listening to patient concerns and working to create a plan for eating, exercise, and stress management.
“Part of integrative medicine is meeting the person where they are,” she says. “There are some really simple things I can teach them in the office; if they’re interested, there are resources I can refer. Then, you have to wait for people to be ready to make changes.”