Some of the most tragic stories one will ever hear in medical practice are those of cancer patients and their families. Unfortunately, the tragedy is often the result of the impact on people’s lives not only of the disease but also of the treatment, as well as the failure of the current medical model to deal with preventive factors and emotional issues.
Although even the most conservative groups acknowledge that at least 80 percent of our cancers are premature and could be prevented by eliminating smoking, adopting a healthier diet, and avoiding certain exposures to radiation and cancer-producing hydrocarbons. In fact, in 1987, the New England Journal of Medicine published results of two studies indicating that women who consumed three to six alcoholic drinks per week experienced a 30 percent to 60 percent increase in likelihood of breast cancer.
Still, the notion of teaching people to care for themselves and to prevent these cancers seldom receives more than lip service from the orthodox medical practitioner. Instead, the overwhelming bulk of money and attention expended in the field of cancer is directed toward treatment. And as many cancer patients will tell you, the treatments are often as bad as the disease-extensive surgery to remove the cancer and all lymph nodes to which it has spread, radiation and
x-ray treatment, which can burn and destroy normal tissue, and metabolic poisons, which poison not only the cancer cells but also many of the body’s healthy cells. And because, with the exception of surgery, none of these treatments is expected to actually produce a cure, no matter how grisly was the last treatment, the cancer patient generally feels he or she has only two options for the future: an even more unpleasant course of treatment or death.
It has been said that when the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to treat everything like a nail. Similarly, when the kind of medicine you have developed is designed to attack invaders (such as bacteria and bullets) the same logic is carried over to the treatment of cancer.
Although there is some theoretical support for the belief that at least some cancers may be triggered by viruses, what we do know is that in all cases of cancers the cells that cause the problem are cells from the patient himself or herself. Whatever the etiology may be, the final common pathway for the disease is that the normal rate of growth is changed and the healthy destruction of abnormal cells is inhibited in some way. As a result, large masses of cells are formed and appear as benign or malignant tumors.
Ordinarily, in nearly every organ of the body, cells are constantly dividing, producing new cells. Simultaneously, other cells are being destroyed as they grow older. This balance is also maintained by other, poorly understood factors, such as contact phenomena, in which the presence of a certain number of cells seems to inhibit the formation of new cells.
When we examine the cells of a tumor beneath the microscope, we find that they appear quite different from normal body cells. These changes are even more marked if we are dealing with a malignant tumor. The drawings on page 242 will give you an idea of some of these differences. These abnormal cells seem to ignore the usual rules, the normal cellular structure is lost and there appear to be no restrictions on their growth.
The appearance of abnormal cells is not, however, a rarity in anyone’s life. Each day, of the hundreds of thousands of new cells that appear in our bodies, a certain percentage are abnormal and are destroyed by the body, either through its immune mechanisms or through the action of phagocytic cells. Thus, as many investigators believe, we may be producing many potential cancerous cells each day.
What leads to the breakdown in the controls that usually limit the rate of reproduction of cells? What paralyzes the body’s ability to recognize these abnormal cells? Why is it that the body, which is capable of recognizing and identifying the difference between such infinitesimally small particles as molecules of clover and rose pollen, fails to recognize the rather obvious differences between tumorous and nontumorous cells, even though this difference is often obvious, even to the inexperienced eye, when viewed through the light microscope?
As we mentioned before, the development of the body proceeds gradually from fertilization, and the development of each organ and each cell of the body is closely associated with nerves and nervous discharges. We might, then, suppose that the coherent information traveling down the nerves maintains a coherency growing and functioning set of organs. We might also imagine that certain kinds of incoherent patterns, when they become closely associated with a particular organ, might produce a breakdown in these normal control mechanisms. This would allow the abnormal cells to multiply seemingly undetected by the body, in much the same way that any other unwanted syngrained in a person’s mind without the person’s being able to do anything about it.
I have had an opportunity to work with many people who had – tumors of various types. Because of the long natural course and the possibility of sudden appearance and disappearance of this kind of problem, * is difficult to draw any firm conclusions at this point, though the response to Selective Awareness Exploration seems to be beneficial indeed.
The most significant traits that seem to be common to these people are:
- Very high degree of intelligence and/or imagination.
- A strong, often uncontrollable, fear of death, or fear of loss of love.
- A strong mind-body connection (although it may be totally unconscious).
- Frequent experiences characterized by inwardly directed anger (guilt, depression).
- Often multiple frightening dreams and nightmares during the year or so prior to the discovery of the tumor. (Other researchers note, similarly, that a large number seemed to have a devastating emotional trauma the year or so prior to the development of the cancer.)
- Frequently, a history of fear associated with an altered state of consciousness such as anesthesia, drug usage, dreams, or emotional trauma to the nervous system.
My feeling about these diseases is that their appearance may often follow a breakdown in the usual defense mechanisms, much as I believe a breakdown in defences may be the predisposing function in a viral or bacterial infection. Indeed, many investigators feel that many cancers are themselves viral in nature.
This breakdown in defenses seems to occur due to tremendous fear, which is present while the attention is focused on a particular organ of the body. It seems as though the mind-body complex may actually attempt to ignore the existence of one of its organs. As a result, the organ may be free to grow unhindered by the control processes that would be present if the body were “aware” of its presence.
The cancerous process then, may be viewed as dependent upon several factors including:
- Genetic factors (some tumors seem to run in families).
- The presence of irritants (such as tobacco smoke).
- The presence of certain viruses.
- The reaction or nonreaction of the body to abnormal cells produced through the above factors.
- The effectiveness of the removal of abnormal cells through medical treatment such as surgery, radiation, or chemicals.
Support for the theory that the person’s mental state may be partially responsible comes from recent research such as that of Dr. Carl Simonton in Texas, and the Cancer Education and Support Center in California, which report excellent results by combining deep relaxation techniques, imagery, emotional releasing, and group support with traditional therapy. Other experimenters have found that tumors often become smaller and may disappear when simple hypnotic suggestions are used. Another study was performed in which a group of women with abnormal Pap smears of the cervix were divided into two sections. One group was told that their Pap smears were improving, the other group that their Pap smears were showing an increased abnormality. When Pap smears were taken a few weeks later, it was found that the women who were told they were doing worse actually showed more malignant cells under the microscope, whereas the women who were told they were improving showed improvement or no change. (The experiment was immediately discontinued, of course.)
Dr. Howard Miller, working in New Jersey, has published a report showing marked improvement of patients with cancers of the cervix and uterus following simple hypnotic suggestion. (All these women had previously refused surgery.) Cervical cancer is present more frequently in women who have early and frequent sexual relationships, perhaps related to the emotional aspects of this socially tabooed activity. Uterine cancer is more prevalent in women who have borne no children, almost as though the body felt it necessary to have something present in the uterus in the absence of the normal fertilized egg.
The chance of finding cancer cells in the bowel of a person with ulcerative colitis increases on the average, at the rate of 3 percent for each year in which the disease is active and severe, and ulcerative colitis is widely accepted as directly dependent upon psychological factors. This risk of tumor formation disappears if the disease is halted. The tension associated with bowel function, toilet training, and cleanliness in our culture might help to explain the generally high incidence of rectal tumors and cancer.
Two of the most important locations of primary cancer lesions are the prostate gland in the male and the mammary gland in the female, both of which are organs closely related to the sexual system, the source of many anxieties in our culture. One might even speculate that those heavy smokers who get lung cancer may be the ones who inhale at the time of high emotional tension and fear
Further evidence to suggest mind-body relationships are found in a recent study showing that children who develop leukemia seem to show a higher-than-average incidence of the loss of a beloved family member during the first two years of life (during the time that the thymus gland, a respository for white cell development, is present). Coherency Theory gives an excellent way of explaining these various phenomena. The limitation of cell growth and the destruction of abnormal cells is a function of the organism as a whole and is probably also at least partially under the control of the central nervous system. We might view the essence of this control as related to the genetic picture of the organ and its cell but, as in the other disorders discussed, dependent upon many other factors, including learned patterns. Even as a breakdown in coherency can render an organ susceptible to viral disease (such as mononucleosis, which is related to psychological factors as well as to the virus believed to cause Burkitt’s lymphoma), it may also perhaps, predispose to the development of groups of abnormal cells.
In the same way, as a person may have obvious psychological “blind spots,” as in the case of a person with severe temper problems or the alcoholic who seems unable to recognize that he or she has a problem, the obviously abnormal cells may develop a physical blind spot. Perhaps research in the next few years will prove that persons with these tumors can learn to strengthen their resistance and perhaps even eliminate the process all together through the methods of meditation, hypnosis, deep relaxation, and Selective Awareness.
I am the first to admit that this aspect of the Coherency Theory is by far the most speculative, yet the correlations and mounting evidence certainly indicate a certain consistency. I would, however urge caution to those who, trained in conventional medical views, would scoff at these ideas without careful research. The history of modern medicine is already scarred by too-hasty rejections of innovative ideas by the conventional medical establishment. Medical science’s initial rejection of Pasteur’s germ theory and Lister’s sterile techniques are but two examples!
Further, my suspicion that there is a significant blind spot regarding cancer is well supported by my experience as the medical director of the Cancer Support and Education Center in California. In spite of the clear evidence of the improved quality of life of these patients and their improved ability to withstand treatment, only a minority of the physicians in our area refer patients regularly. Indeed, physicians who don’t make the time to investigate approaches that offer relief to their patients simply because the approaches are slightly unfamiliar may well lack the caring to explore other perspectives that hold promise of improved healing. Many techniques that make use of healing factors available within patients themselves have indeed shown great promise both clinically and in the laboratory. (Dr. Stephen Locke of Harvard University has published a review of 3,000 scientific articles that address these issues- Psychological and Behavioral Treatments for Disorders Associated with the Immune System, published by the Institute for the Advancement of Health, 1986.)
The approaches suggested here provide a valuable alternative to the present hopelessness and inadequacy of the merely palliative medical techniques that have not been measurably altered in decades. Here, again, the cornerstone is the elimination of useless fear.