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A woman asks how her husband might use guided imagery to help her manage a significant loss in saliv

08 Jun
A woman asks how her husband might use guided imagery to help her manage a significant loss in saliva production, due to head and neck surgery and radiation therapy for tongue cancer..
Question: My husband had cancer at the base of the tongue last year (along with cancer in some of the lymph nodes of his neck). He went through surgery to remove the tumor and had a modified neck dissection. Next, he had radiation therapy (IMRT) in both areas.

Because this can damage the salivary glands, it causes dry mouth. Though he is able to eat most foods again, the lack of saliva keeps him from enjoying food or being able to eat very much at a time. This is a very common problem with people with oral cancer. Do you know of any Guided Imagery that might help out with this problem? Thanks.

Carrie B.

Dear Carrie,

I’m not aware of any guided imagery recording specifically for this surgical side effect, and I’m not conversant enough with it to suggest some detailed imagery myself. For healing in general, I recommend Carol Ginandes Rapid Recovery from Injury - a 6-CD set of highly skilled, research-tested Ericksonian hypnosis technique by a master in the field.

For something more specific and detailed, there are two ways you can get more targeted help for your husband with this.

One, you could email Susan Ezra or Terry Reed - the fabulous founders of the Beyond Ordinary Nursing integrative imagery training program for health care professionals - and get the name of a graduate of their certificate training in your area. Their website is at and the email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . The advantage of finding a local practitioner with this training is that he or she could tailor a guided imagery program specifically to address this issue and provide very focused help for your husband.

(And by the way, those of you who are interested in getting trained in this excellent program, check the calendar at and look for a Phase I training program - that’s the first of 4 weekend programs offered at various times and locations around the country.)

The other alternative you can try is to get information from your oncologist, radiologist or nurse practitioner about how much damage to the salivary glands has actually occurred, (you might even ask to see a picture of it), how much is permanent and how much is temporary, and how the remaining salivary function would naturally tend to heal, compensate or regenerate on its own. Then you could devise imagery to pump up that natural process as much as possible, imagining accelerated healing to the area or a clever bypass of function, perhaps, maybe while touching the affected area with your hand. My book, Staying Well with Guided Imagery offers a general template for devising your own imagery, once you know the particulars.

I hope this helps.

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award