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Personalized Therapy

© Patricia Norris PhD

He came through the biopsy with flying colors. After the procedure, the doctors told him he behaved better than most adult patients. The results of the liver biopsy revealed no abnormalities. The next day he had a CT scan of his chest, abdomen, and pelvic area, with no evidence of the disease. He was in complete remission.

Now, four years later, Tommy is still in remission and has just completed a physical examination giving him a clean bill of health.

When I finished sharing with Tommy the text I had written about him for the book, he added the following comment. He said that at first he had rebelled so much against the treatments, but after understanding something about voluntary control, he stopped struggling and just let everything happen. He said,

One thing I don't think they put enough emphasis on is the need for understanding and the importance of helping a patient release the anger. I believe the mind is what cured me, but anger swelled up in me from my cancer, and all the effort was on making me physically better. There was no relief from the anger. It was, "Well, we have to help you live!" It's harder for a young kid to have a clear concept of what you're doing with the chemotherapy. In biofeedback I knew what we were doing to get the mind over the cancer. It was a painful but growing experience. Now I think in terms of living a lifetime.

Another important attribute of the visualization is that it be felt to be taking place inside the body. In other words, the imagery must be kinesthetic and sensory as well as visual. Although Garrett's imagery was a battle in outer space, he felt and visualized it taking place inside his head, literally as well as figuratively. The internalization of the imagery must take place, and usually this is accomplished fairly easily by the first "guided imagery" trips through the body. Occasionally people are unwilling or afraid to look inside. If possible, they must be helped to do so, and various techniques, similar to those used in systematic desensitization, can be employed.

Warts: Demonstration of the Need for Anatomical Accuracy in Visualization
A frequently-asked question is whether the visualization needs to be accurate. As has already been demonstrated, the visualization can be completely symbolic. In fact, often when a patient tries to be biologically accurate and tries to know exactly what is going on from a scientific and technical point of view, he only becomes frustrated. Nevertheless, it seems that the visualization does have to be anatomically correct.

I would dike to illustrate this with an experience in self-healing of my own. A few years ago, I was bothered by a callous-like growth on the bottom of my foot. I thought it was a corn. I remember being bothered with it at Thanksgiving and at Christmas and later at some spring conferences that I attended. I remember these times specifically, because I had to take this corn into account and bring corn plasters and protective pads with me.

My foot was becoming more and more painful. I even tried to use solutions that are supposed to dissolve corns, and several times I went after it with clippers. Of course, I was also using visualization, seeing the skin growing smooth and firm beneath the corn, and also simply seeing it drying up and falling off. All of this was to no avail.

As it continued to grow, it finally reached the point where it was affecting the way I walked. Due to pain messages reaching the spinal reflex arc, I was as helpless to stop this as to prevent the knee jerk reflex that occurs when the right spot is hit with a hammer. So, by the following summer I had decided that I had better have it surgically removed, since my visualizations and my ministrations were not working, and I could not afford to risk my knee.

At the swimming pool one day, I was telling Rusty Kellogg, a physician friend visiting from New York, that I was unable to eliminate the corn on my foot and would probably have to have it surgically removed. Rusty asked to see it and said, "That's not a corn, it's a planter wart." I had heard vaguely of such a thing, although I thought it was called a "planter's wart," and was something that farmers got if they walked barefoot in their fields.

Rusty explained that a planter wart is caused by a virus, is highly vascularized, and is shaped something like an upside-down octopus, sending long tentacles up along the blood vessels. He said that they are very difficult to remove surgically and are hard to treat. I am sure he thought he was giving me bad news, but since I had been doing this work for some time and had seen what Garrett and others have been able to do, I thought, "Virus, vascularizedÑ good, then I can get it with my white cells."

I was somewhat astonished myself with the rapidity of the results. In less than a week, it began to deteriorate and come apart. I discovered that at the outer end, this wart is built like a thick cable of packed wires, and now some of the fibers were coming loose and beginning to extrude.

I made the mistake of pulling on one of these. It was about three inches long and came out slowly, seeming to rip away from other tissues all the way. It hurt, but I couldn't stop because I didn't feel I wanted to cut if off, and also I didn't want to just leave it there. When it finally all came out, it bled quite a bit for a little while. Within two weeks the wart was completely gone, and it has never come back.

There are mysteries here that are not yet answered. During the entire time that this planter wart was growing, I had an excellent immune system. I did not have a single episode of cold or flu. Why did my immune system ignore the wart during all that time? And why did it attack the wart as soon as I directed its attention to it?

Warts have interested many physicians. Lewis Thomas, president of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, has written a whole chapter on warts and their mysterious behavior in his book, The Medusa and the Snail. He notes that warts, the elaborate reproductive apparatus of a virus, can be removed by "something that can only be called thinking, or something like thinking. This is a special property of warts which is absolutely astonishing, more of a surprise than cloning or recombinant DNA or endorphin or acupuncture or anything else currently attracting attention in the press." This process may seem astonishing and certainly is of that magnitude of importance, but surely the attribution must be made that it is a special property of thinking that has caused the warts to go away, not a special property of warts.

Physicians often believe that visualization cannot work since the visualizer would have to know all the immune responses. Which lymphocytes in which combinations of killer cells and supressor cells, B cells and T cells, would be needed? How could the unconscious figure out all the mechanisms needed? Very frequently, patients also initially believe that they need to understand exactly how to direct their immune system in order to do it successfully.

The unconscious is a master at figuring out all sorts of complex relationships and mechanisms, as can be attested by its rapid generation of the myriad physiologic responses throughout all the systems of the body that we call the "flight or fight" response when it perceives threat. The very same physiologic responses are generated by the unimagined threat; the lower brain centers cannot tell the difference between a perception and an image but only respond to the amount of affect connected to either. Andrew Weil also has devoted an entire chapter to warts in his book Holistic Health He describes dramatic cures of warts in response to all sorts of treatments, none of which has anything in common except a belief that they will work. Weil states:

It is revealing of the limitations of materialistic science that no serious research exists on wart cures in response to treatments based on belief. I can think of few medical phenomena more deserving of study. When a wart that has persisted for months or years falls off within hours of being rubbed by a cut potato, the cure may look miraculous, but it is not mystical Some analyzable, physical mechanism must underlie the event, one that uses familiar body components such as nerves and blood land lymphocytes] It would be valuable to identify and understand that mechanism, because it is so powerful, precise, and efficient, . . . Think of the possibility of directing that mechanism against malignant tumors or obstructions in coronary arteries or calcium deposits in joints! The prevalence of wart cures argues that the mechanism exists in everyone. Clearly, the switch that turns it on is located in the mind!

And finally, before leaving the subject of warts entirely, there is this: a memo received in February 1974 from a colleague.

I thought you and your colleagues would want to hear the true story of my next door neighbor. . . and his warts, as related to me by his mother... Last summer, five-year-old M went to his family doctor for some minor surgery. Once the doctor had M anesthetized, he suggested to (his mother) that he remove the warts from his hand, warts that had caused a lot of embarrassment. She approved the idea, as did M its realization once he came to.

Well, a month or so later M was angry to find warts coming back at him. He and his mother consulted the doctor, who advised them to watch and wait.

Around this time, his mother read an article about imagery and healing and told M about the Porter boy's [Garrett's! success against his brain tumor. M listened closely, and decided that he too would imagine his body as having Pac Men at its disposal--to send in to gobble up the warts.

Off and on during the next three weeks, his mother would catch him staring into space abstractedly. When she asked him what he was doing, he would say he was thinking about his Pac Men. At the end of the three weeks, the warts were gone--never to return (at least not so far). "I thunk them away" is the way M accounted for their departure.

Constancy: Another Key to Successful Visualizaton
A partial explanation for the rapidity of this response brings me to the next condition for effective visualization, and that is constancy. In getting rid of my own wart, I started by visualizing white cells streaming down my leg, attacking and vanquishing all the wart cells and viruses. Because my foot was hurting quite a bit when I walked on it, I developed a "quickie" visualization of "hurt--squirt! hurt--squirt! hurt--squirt!," seeing white cells rushing down to the wart with every step. This is also a very beneficial way to utilize pain.

Jack Schwartz is a western yogi from Holland who now teaches and counsels in the United States. He has described pain as one of the best friends of the body, a friend who must be recognized and respected as such. It prevents us from sitting on a hot radiator, or continuing to hold something hot in our hand; it also prevents us from ignoring some interior condition that needs attention. In other words, it is an alarm that warns us to take action. Like the alarm clock that awakens us in the morning, we are grateful to it for the reminder, but need not let it ring all day. Once we have taken notice, we shut off the alarm.

Of course, there are some relentless and unremitting pains that are not easily shut off, but a good portion of almost any pain is fear, tension and resistance to feeling our feelings. The more we tense against and resist pain, the more it clamors for recognition. We get caught up in a vicious circle.

There are many excellent techniques for working with pain including holding, literally or in consciousness, the affected part, feeling it, caring for it, "melting into" the pain, expanding it (like a gas, so that it becomes more and more tenuous!, transforming it to another sensation like warmth or tingling, and so on.

The bottom line, or most significant useful way of dealing with pain in cancer or other disease processes, is to first respect it for its function. I encourage patients who are doing visualization to greet the pain with a thought like, "Thank you, body, for reminding me to do my visualization again." As described, the visualization includes bringing blood flow into the area, breathing deeply and imagining breathing right into the area of pain, along with visualization of the immune system attacking the cancer.

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About The Author
Patricia Norris is Director of Clinical Psychoneuroimmunology at Life Sciences Institute of Mind-Body Health, Inc., with 25 years work in psychophysiology psychotherapy and biofeedback....more
 
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