The purpose of this blog is purely educational. It does not advise any reader to forgo medical treatment for any condition. It describes methods that have not yet been proven effective through widespread scientific testing. Readers who are concerned about their health are advised to contact their physician.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The mind is a powerful thing - part 2

I ran across an article entitled Cancer in the Mind's Eye written by Margaret Philp in 2006 and published in the Globe and Mail. The article illuminates a number of interesting points on the relationship of stress and cancer, and also on the power of the mind to lengthen survival and produce healing.

On the correlation between stress and the spread of cancer Ms. Philp wrote:
A recent study from the University of Texas that is turning heads injected mice with ovarian-cancer tumour cells. When the animals were tightly confined in plastic chambers for several hours at a time — causing a surge in their stress hormones — the tumours multiplied in size and number and were far more likely to metastasize. But blocking the stress hormones stalled the spread of the cancer...

And just last month, a study published in the medical journal Cancer Research by prominent PNI researcher Ronald Glaser showed that stress hormones increased the growth and spread of an incurable head-and-neck cancer called nasopharyngeal carcinoma. The hormone, norepinephrine, stimulated the tumour cell to produce two chemicals, one that spurs the growth of new blood vessels nourishing the cancer and another that breaks down healthy tissue allowing the tumour to spread more easily.
The article then goes on to describe Alastair Cunningham's Healing Journey, a program that uses meditation, introspection and visualization to help people cope with cancer. After working with thousands of cancer patients, Dr. Cunningham -- an immunologist turned psychologist who is also a cancer survivor -- has come to believe that the techniques taught in the program add not only quality but also quantity of life. And when oncologists reviewed the participants' files, they found that the ones who lived the longest, with a few exceptions, were the ones who practiced the techniques most diligently.

Dr. Cunningham also observed that longterm survivors tended to exhibit definite psychological shifts. He found that
the long[term] survivors all shared a clear sense of what was important in their lives, felt the freedom to shape their lives according to those priorities and were more accepting of themselves, others and their lot in life. For these people, cancer was perceived as a motivation for change rather than a life-destroying illness.
When I speak to energy healers across the board, most feel that cancer can be healed, but that unless the survivor changes his or her life to remove or deal with the stressors that contributed to the initial bout of illness, it will return. I have often thought of this as "blaming the patient", but I now have had cause to wonder if there is not something to it. Something caused the cancer in the first place. If it were all caused by environmental pollutants or mutant genes, we would all likely get it. In fact, we do, but our bodies are most of the time effectively dealing with it -- until one day, for some unknown reason, they don't. The million dollar question is why?

The article also mentions research that has shown the existence of a type-C personality, which can predispose one to cancer just as a type-A personality predisposes one to heart attacks or strokes. Type-C personalities are
too nice — prone to repressing their feelings and stoically appeasing others at the expense of their own needs. They have been described as unassertive, unable to express emotions and feeling hopeless, helpless and unloved. In some cases, they had also suffered the loss of a close relationship within a few years before their diagnosis.
Of course not all type-As get heart attacks, and likely not all type-Cs get cancer. But it does jump out that Type-Cs seem to live to make other people happy and are dependent for their own happiness on the happiness of others. Their reasons to live are other- rather than self-directed. When my own mother, a classic type-C, died of complications of her cancer treatment (which her oncologist had described as "prophylactic"), I strongly wished she had been more selfish about her own needs and her own survival. I would have rather had her around a few more years being "ornery" and difficult than not have her around at all.

Ms. Philp herself died in 2009 when her cancer returned. I found the last few paragraphs of her article quite thought-provoking. She wrote:
Some insist that the alluring promise of a cure with a mind-body approach strikes false hope in cancer patients with advanced disease. Others, Dr. Fortin among them, warn that the prospect can be subtly twisted to make people feel guilty that if their cancer comes back, it will be because they didn't work hard enough at healing.

But all I can do is what I can do. My life is joyfully consumed by the busyness of four children, their homework and school lunches, hockey games, swimming lessons, piano practising and Christmas parties, never mind my job at The Globe and Mail.

I am fastidious about diet and exercise. I faithfully visit a naturopath. But between bedtime stories and dinner dishes, I find little spare time to plunk down on the floor in a lotus position to meditate.

I do feel a little remiss at times for the healing work I'm not doing. And yet I am mindful of my abundant blessings in a way I never was before cancer. Not a day passes that I don't thrill at being alive to be a mother to my children. And maybe this is a healing meditation all its own.
Read also Part 1, Part 3, Anatomy of a miracle, Why is meditation a good prescription for cancer patients?

No comments: