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This cancer survivior is working to help others survive cancer

Posted: Tue, Feb 21, 2012 5:50 PM

Life changed in a big way for Winneshiek Medical Center psychologist Dr. Robyn David four and a half years ago.  That's when she was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor by doctors in the Twin Cities.

Using chemotherapy sensitized radiation and a range of holistic therapies, she fought cancer--and won.

David moved to Decorah in January, since her family is from Fayette and Clayton counties and she spent 9 years working here before moving to the Minneapolis area ten years ago.

Now she wants to bring to Decorah area cancer patients the same "complimentary treatment plan" she used personally in the Twin Cities.  As she explains it, the program uses "the best of both Western medicine and holistic therapies."  The result is a 12-week program called "Living Well with Cancer" that will be offered at Winneshiek Medical Center beginning March 6th.

Dr. David realized she had advantages as a medical staff member that she wouldn't have had as a member of the general public.  She was able to rely on her colleagues for advice on how best to fight cancer.  She says she felt "spiritually called" to provide that advice to others once she recovered from cancer.

So the "Living Well with Cancer" program will urge people to take the best of conventional medical treatments and then add holistic therapies such as massage, healing touch, acupuncture and yoga. 

She is especially excited about the prospect of teaching what she calls "mindfulness skills."  Those are tricks patients can learn to remember to operate in the present, rather than thinking about past regrets or future possible problems.  Dr. David says research has shown that anxiety and anger cause toxic responses in the body, while changing thoughts can increase the functioning of the immune system, allowing powerful antibodies to fight disease.

Dr. David says the "Living Well with Cancer" group is intended for anyone from someone who has been newly diagnosed with cancer to others who have survived cancer and are living cancer-free.  "There's a lot of comraderie" says Dr. David of the relationships between cancer patients and cancer survivors.  That's because cancer survivors, like Dr. David, have one trait in common: "We want to give back."

For more information about the "Living Well with Cancer" program, call Winneshiek Medical Center at (563) 382-2911.  An initial consultation with Dr. David is required, but since such sessions are considered "psychotherapy," they are covered by most major health insurance plans, including Medicaid.