“I was diagnosed in 1998 with breast cancer, and then found out that it had already spread to my lymph nodes. My mother had died at age forty-six years old of breast cancer just eight months after her diagnosis. After bilateral mastectomies at only twenty-nine, I began high does chemotherapy. As of my first treatment, I began to talk to my body. I had never done this before. … I used many of these wonderful techniques in guided imagery during that year of treatment. It seemed to make everything easier, from mentally adjusting to the surgeries, to dealing with side effects of chemotherapy.
I often went to bed telling my body what to do. I would visualize the chemotherapy and how it was killing the cancer cells; I visualized my organs and lymph system working perfectly. I visualized myself old, at about eighty-years, tucking in my great-grandkids to bed. There was a plan to live in place and I was actively discussing with my body, that my mother’s experience was not going to be my own. I never knew why exactly she died and I lived, but I do know that, now, seven, nearly eight years in full remission and continuing to raise my nine year old daughter, I am thankful for my mind being able to communicate effectively with my body. I believe it is why I am alive today.”” – J.W., Board Certified Clinical Hospice Chaplain, 37, Escondido, CA
If you have been diagnosed with cancer, and you want to have the best chance to survive it, then guided imagery is for you. The way you use your mind can make a huge difference in what happens to you; the evidence points to effects that range from improving your emotional well-being to reducing adverse effects of treatments, to surviving, even thriving, through the experience.
When you are diagnosed with cancer, you can find yourself over-whelmed with emotions at a time when you most need to keep your wits about you. I aim to teach you to reconnect with your own inner strengths and resources so you can make the best use of them when you most need them.
Cancer is many diseases, and the first thing most newly diagnosed people need to know is that having cancer does not mean they will die from it. More than 50 percent of cancers diagnosed today are curable through conventional medicine alone – as many cancer patients get well as succumb to their illnesses. While you are alive you have hope, and you have options. You have will, imagination, and powerful natural healing abilities within you that you can stimulate by the use of your mind.
There are many ways to cope with or fight cancer. The major tools guided imagery supports are your attention, your intention, your will, and, most important, your imagination. Guided Imagery can help you learn ways of thinking that can tip the balance of health and illness in the direction of healing.
Cancer Care 101: Treating the Illness, Treating the Person
In cancer care there are two complementary goals of treatment. One, the usual medical goal, is to kill cancer cells and tumors, or reduce their numbers and their ability to grow, reproduce, and spread (metastasize). The other, perhaps best called the healing goal, is to support the well-being and resistance of the patient. Here I use resistance to stand for all the mechanisms, known and unknown, that protect us from the development and dissemination of cancer.
Conventional medical care for cancer has for many years concentrated on destroying tumors without paying much attention to supporting the patient as a whole person, with innate healing capacities. Until recently, most people put themselves in the hands of an oncologist (cancer specialist) and did what they were told. While you almost certainly need a good oncologist to prescribe and monitor your medical treatment, there is often much more to surviving cancer. A well nourished person with cancer, with tools and support to help them maintain their emotional balance, is likely to have a much easier time with cancer and its treatments than a person who is poorly nourished, poorly supported, and stuck in terror and emotional turmoil.
Supporting your innate healing abilities will help you make the best use of any treatment you choose, and, alternatively, neglecting them is likely to make it more difficult for any treatment to work.
Supporting your health and eliminating your disease are two complementary approaches to healing that support and strengthen each other. In my experience, neither one works as well as both together.
Supporting your health makes it easier to tolerate treatments that can sometimes be difficult, and that in turn increases the likelihood that the treatments will work as desired. Methods of supporting your health and enhancing resistance to cancer generally fall into three categories: (1) nutritional support, ranging from improvement of diet to sophisticated individualized programs of nutritional supplementation with vitamins, minerals, herbs, essential fatty acids, and natural biological response modifiers; (2) mind-body approaches, ranging from support groups to counseling, to meditation, stress reduction, and guided imagery practices, and body-mind practices such as yoga, chi gung, tai chi, Jin Shin Jyutsu; and (3) systematic approaches with time-honored healing systems, such as traditional Chinese medicine or Ayurvedic medicine.
While the methods differ, their goal is the same — supporting and stimulating the vitality and function of the innate healing systems of the body, mind, and spirit. This idea is an ancient one, but many modern studies show that mind-body approaches, including guided imagery, are all effective in reducing anxiety and depression, reducing adverse effects from conventional treatments, and very likely in improving treatment results.
Guided imagery has become quickly and widely accepted as a useful adjunct in the treatment of people with cancer due largely to its ease of use, low cost, and rapid psychological benefits. It has been shown to increase both the numbers and aggressiveness of natural killer cells when practiced over time, has been shown to reduce complications from surgery, relieve pain, and reduce adverse effects of chemotherapy. Imagery is a psychological and medical intervention likely to increase your odds of recovery.
My Fighting Cancer from Within Book & CD Set teaches you how to use guided imagery for this purpose. The book explains how to use the guided imagery techniques, why they work, and how other people have used them successfully. On the CDs I will lead you through the specific guided imagery exercises, and then the book addresses the most frequent questions that people have when they begin to work with imagery for self-healing.
Together the set is a self-paced course in learning to use your mind to support your health and healing when dealing with cancer. For more information, or to order and try it out yourself, go to http://www.thehealingmind.org