KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Lifestyle medicine specialist Dr. Amber Orman with AdventHealth says nutrition is just as important to the fight against breast cancer as a patient’s medical treatment.
Through a healthy diet and keeping active, she says evidence shows that it can help prevent re-occurrences of cancer and possibly reverse the effects of other chronic diseases.
This is a lifestyle that Orman herself has lived for more than a decade, incorporating plant-based eating habits with regular exercise and other mentally meditative practices that she says she prescribes to her patients.
“Working with cancer patients is not an easy thing,” she said. “But it is such an honor and a service to be able to sit and witness grief with somebody in a very intimate way and then also give them hope in this lifestyle change.”
Orman is the co-founder of a program offered by AdventHealth called HEAL: Healthy Eating and Active Lifestyle. The program focuses mainly with patients who have breast cancer, but Orman says a lot of the same eating practices and physical movement can help people living with other chronic diseases.
As a radiation oncologist, while her focus is the wellness of her patients throughout their treatment, Orman says she encourages people to take a look at what they’re eating, if they’re being active and if they’re sharing good human interaction, because all of those things matter when it comes to healing the body as well.
“We’ve seen chronic kidney disease improve, arthritis and skin rashes and even cognitive ability,” said Orman. “We’ve seen people more clear in their mind, and those are the things we hope to impact with the program."
For breast cancer patient Terri Schon, the HEAL program was the lifestyle change she was looking for. After being diagnosed nearly five years ago, Schon said she had all of her doctors picked out and began chemotherapy and radiation, but she couldn’t stop asking herself what she could be doing to help with her fight.
“When you get a diagnosis of cancer, you immediately think, 'What did I do?'” said Schon.
She said she began questioning her diet, and looking at things like products she might have been using that brought on the diagnosis. Then one day while in treatment, she met another cancer patient that referred her to Orman.
“I scheduled an appointment to meet with her the next day,” she said.
The two have worked together since. While Orman says that changing a person's lifestyle after a diagnosis can be very challenging, she says the bigger picture and long-term impacts are what’s important to think about, and that’s what Schon says has kept her on this path since.
“I think that the reason that I am still living my life this way is because of how it makes me feel," she said. "I mean it makes a huge difference in my sleep, in my emotions."