Utilizing Services of an Integrative Medical Clinic
Patient Whitney Neighbors discusses the benefits of connecting with MD Anderson’s Integrative Medicine Center and support groups or other integrative medicine clinics following a diagnosis of cancer.
PUBLISHED October 30, 2018
Loretta J. Nastoupil, MD: We’ve discussed the various ways that you can approach this disease, particularly in terms of managing the side effects of chemotherapy through the initial treatment. You’ve expressed that you’ve explored options outside of our clinic setting. Let’s talk a little about that. For the average patient, how can they go about achieving an integrative approach to their cancer care?
You were treated at MD Anderson Cancer Center. We have an Integrative Medicine Center that is a separate, stand-alone clinic from my office. I often refer patients to go there. There you’ll find a multidisciplinary approach. As you’ve mentioned, they have specialists in nutrition and specialists who deal with acupuncture, massage therapy, meditation and music therapy, yoga, etc.
Share your experience with the clinic. In addition to that, what other resources did you rely on?
Whitney Neighbors: The Integrative Medicine Center is something that should be incorporated and mentioned. People should think to explore that when they first come in. I know you’re overwhelmed with information. I think you guys do a great job of letting us know that it’s an option and that it’s available for us. From a patient perspective, you need to be your own advocate. I found it helpful to keep a log of all of my questions and my day-to-day monitoring of my side effects. It helped trigger my list of questions for you. It also helped me determine what help I could get to manage some of those things. That’s when we talked about integrative medicine. They are a wonderful resource, as you mentioned, for all of these aspects. They are very good at staying on top of things.
Once you have your initial consultation, they put you in touch with the different disciplines and each of them does a separate assessment. You are evaluated from a whole perspective. What I liked about getting acupuncture and massage therapy from the integrative Medicine Center is that they have access to all of your scans. They know where you have an issue. They know areas to avoid, and things to focus on, because they can see all of your medical records. If you went outside to a standard massage person or a standard acupuncturist, they won’t have access to that information unless you are able to articulate that. This is so overwhelming. You’re not really able to articulate that at the very, very beginning.
And so I found that to be a very, very helpful tool. Also, have a conversation with each of your treatment professionals so that they can express that to you. If there’s a place that’s more convenient for you to go, once you understand, you can certainly share that information with whoever it is that’s helping you—if it’s another acupuncturist or another massage therapist. I found that very, very helpful. The staff always stays on top of things. “We’re noticing that you still have some appointments available or some orders available for additional treatments. Can we get that scheduled for you?” They’re very, very helpful. Well, the whole system is helpful in that regard, but they were particularly helpful.
They also have weekly free support sessions that not only focus on nutrition but mind wellness as well. Music therapy, which I didn’t experience, is also available. They also have yoga for cancer patients, and they have a training circuit and things like that that are helpful in maintaining your overall health. You get to experience that with other people. So, I found that very helpful.
There’s also the Lymphoma Support Group. The group meets on the second Wednesday of every month. I found that to be a good resource, because you’re around other people who are either ahead of you in your stage or behind you in your stage. Either way, these are still people who have had this disease or are on the same journey as you. You’re able to have conversations with them. And so, that’s a great support resource.
Loretta J. Nastoupil, MD: I agree with you. Have you ever explored the Lymphoma Research Foundation or the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society or the Lymphoma Coalition? Or is this just something that you found through the clinic?
Whitney Neighbors: Through the clinic. Signs are up throughout the lobby. In the clinic rooms, there is information about what the topics are and where they’re meeting. And then, once you get on the list, they incorporate you on an email list. They send you reminders and let you know what the topics are. So that’s been very helpful.