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 Guided Imagery: Beliefs, Attitudes, and Expectations: The Relationship Between Personality and Cancer 

Many professional therapists and physicians feel that such a strong will to live represents denial. It appears that if the person does not conform to the conventional and expected idea of the course of their illness, then they are suffering from denial--denial of what? Steven Appelbaum, in discussing the topic of denial and the failure to adequately study the psychological effects on cancer, has this to say:

. . . the options are few and clear. One can assume that one has a hopeless disease, that one's chances for survival are dictated irrevocably by the statistics attached to one's disease and its treatment. Or one can embrace the assumption that control can be asserted over the disease, that its development and maintenance can be understood according to psychological dimensions, and that if one works at it one may create a new set of statistics. It is a choice that the therapist as well as the patient has to make.

Six months after her husband of only four days was killed in an automobile accident, Lisa had another relapse. Her subsequent medical history has been a continuous round of full and partial remissions and relapses. Her physicians are continuously amazed that she continues to rebound.

Lisa has the office across the hall from mine, where she is an attorney for Legal Services for Prisoners. When I first knew her, she did not tell anyone that she had leukemia. As she puts it, other people's reactions are often less than helpful. However, she had the Simontons' book, Getting Well Again, and was doing visualization and following their guidelines on her own.

Because she has not encountered all the other illnesses that generally accompany acute leukemia of her type, the original diagnosis is now being questioned. Nevertheless, she has had a number of complications, one of which was a myeloblastoma on her leg.

This myeloblastoma, a tumor made of live leukemic cells, was growing and was occasionally painful. Worse, it compromised her circulation and was a cause of great concern. A number of X-rays were taken of it, and it was also biopsied. Her physicians were contemplating amputation of her leg, since there was no other treatment considered feasible. Lisa began working on the tumor with visualization, and she and I also did a visualization session. Once she began visualizing her white cells attacking it and eliminating it totally, as a blueprint signaling her intentions to her body, it disappeared in a very short time. It remains absent to this date, more than a year later. Interestingly, in spite of the biopsy and all the X-rays, her physicians now deny that this tumor was ever there. It simply does not fit their belief system of what can happen.

Lisa is in remission again and happily married. Her energy, her strong positivity in every aspect of her life, and her unique blend of compassion and humor unleash a life force and energy that sustain her through everything. Her story represents a constancy of healing.

It was certainly in recognition of the role of attitude in healing that caused Jerry Jampolsky to choose the name, "The Center for Attitudinal Healing." The center is founded on the idea that the most powerful healing force in the world is love. As Jerry said on the award-winning film, Donahue and Kids, "We believe the mind does control the body, and we do have a will to live; what we have done is give the added ingredient of love. The love and unity is the healing experience."

The psychological effect of cancer or other life-threatening and catastrophic illness on people can go one of two ways. Either they identify themselves as very sick, dying, and that becomes the organizing principle of their lives, or they begin to experience every moment as precious and to reconstruct their priorities and become more open in their relationships, more consciously aware of love and warmth that they previously took for granted.

The children in the center help teach each other that they can choose one thought over another, they can choose peace instead of worry, love instead of fear. In Donahue and Kids, a number of the children state that the experience of having cancer contributed something very important to them. They have learned that in helping each other, they help themselves. They have learned that they can experience one day at a time and not live in regret over the past or worry about the future. They have learned that they have the power of choice. In combating their illness, these children have learned the greatest lessons of life.

(Excerpted from Why Me? Harnessing the Healing Power of the Human Spirit, Stillpoint Publishing)
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 About The Author
Patricia Norris PhDPatricia Norris is Director of Clinical Psychoneuroimmunology at Life Sciences Institute of Mind-Body Health, Inc., with 25 years work in psychophysiology psychotherapy......more
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