Cancer/Oncology - Guided Imagery and Meditation Blog | Health Journeys Mon, 22 May 2017 17:30:50 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Nurse Practitioner and Ovarian Cancer Survivor “Prescribes” Guided Imagery Nurse Practitioner and Ovarian Cancer Survivor “Prescribes” Guided Imagery

We got this lovely note from a nurse practitioner in a GYN practice, who inspired us to take her lead and develop our own prescription pads. Check it out!

Dear Belleruth,

nancy-longI am an ovarian cancer survivor and a nurse practitioner in gynecology GYN. I also am Volunteer Chair of the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition.

I buy your CDs and give them to women going thru surgery and chemo.

One of my friends sent me these cards with my very favorite quote from you. When I say it or even think it, my shoulders relax! {Ed. Note: the affirmation is "I know I am held in the hands of God and am perfectly, utterly safe."]

Thank you for all of your wonderful healing work. I often write your website and name on a prescription for my patients.

I play your CD's in my survivor groups.

Thanks so very much.

Nancy Long

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]]> (Belleruth Naparstek) Inspiring Stories Fri, 11 Mar 2016 00:00:00 -0500
What Does This Chemo Affirmation Mean: I Can Heal Myself and Live or Heal Myself and Die ?? What Does This Chemo Affirmation Mean: I Can Heal Myself and Live or Heal Myself and Die ??

A chemo patient likes the affirmations on the guided imagery program she listens to during her infusions, but wonders what is meant by the statement, "I know I can heal myself and live or I can heal myself and die: my physical condition is not an indication of my wholeness", and BR explains what she meant by it.


I have finally found the perfect affirmations for me, just one thing I am confused about In your Chemo disc, you say you can heal yourself and live or heal yourself and die......would you kindly explain what you mean by 'heal yourself and die'?

Dear S.,

I think of healing as something that can occur on many levels - physically, emotionally, spiritually and relationship-wise. If we limit ourselves to thinking of healing as only something that occurs physically, then the only indicator of success is if we are cured of a disease or go into remission. And of course, this is what many people are looking and hoping to do and wind up doing.

But I have also seen many people heal their relationships or come to a new understanding and peace with themselves during the course of an illness, and this is healing, too. And as the late, great Stephen Levine liked to point out, sometimes when you heal in this way, it can open up new avenues to physical healing. Either way, though - heal and live or heal and die - it's a real blessing.

I also worry about people who think that, because they have fallen sick, or aren't improving the way they had hoped, that they must have done something wrong, and are at fault for something. So I put that sentence in there for them, too.

For all those reasons, I like to include this message in the affirmations, especially when there is a life-threatening condition that is being addressed.
I hope this clarifies it. Of course, if you don't like this affirmation, or it doesn't agree with your views, by all means, feel free to ignore it!

All best,

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]]> (Belleruth Naparstek) Ask Belleruth Tue, 01 Mar 2016 00:00:00 -0500
How to Use Guided Imagery if You’re Hearing-Impaired How to Use Guided Imagery if You’re Hearing-Impaired

We got this query from the friend of a woman about to begin months of intensive chemotherapy. The friend who wrote felt she had benefited greatly from guided imagery during her own bout with cancer, so she wanted her friend to have the same experience. But her friend has severe hearing loss. She wondered how an audio intervention could possibly work.


First of all, thank you. When I went through chemotherapy, your meditation CDs were a lifesaver (or at least a sleep-saver). My oncology rehab program used them at the end of our exercise sessions, and after a few weeks, my brain was trained to get sleepy when I started the recording.

Now I have a friend about to enter intensive, months' long treatment, and I'd like her to have the same benefit. However, she has severe hearing loss, only hearing with the help of an implant -- and as a result, I suspect that something that is mostly auditory would not be relaxing for her.

Do you have your script written out, or do you have an online version with subtitles? Or any other suggestions for how those with hearing issues could also benefit from meditation?

I haven't spoken to her about this yet, but I think if she watched/heard it through with subtitles a few times, she would probably be able to "hear" it better subsequently to actually use the CD. However, relying on her hearing alone would probably be too stressful.

(OK to post--as I think the answer could help others- but please change my location and name.)


Dear Sara,

You're right - if your friend were to read through the script first, she would then be able to follow a partially heard audio better. I've managed to dig up a script to send to you.

Additionally, odd as this might sound, if she were to listen to some chemotherapy imagery in a support group or surrounded by any gathering of people who were all listening to it with her, there's a kind of group contagion that occurs, an energetic sharing that deepens the experience and it gets through somehow. I know this might sound a bit woo-woo to you, but I've seen this in groups I've led, where, on several occasions, a participant could not hear at all, but at some point, stopped reading the prompter or stopped watching the hand signer and just closed his/her eyes and sank into the experience. Afterward, they would report that they felt they'd gotten a full "zap" of the imagery.

However, if you want an oncology related video that has written words to it, Carl Simonton produced some nature scenes with affirmations scrolling on the bottom of the screen, and you can find that here.

And Bernie Siegel created something similar, but I'm not sure it's available in anything other than VHS. That's here.

You might also be able to find something on Youtube that has words scrolling along the bottom of the screen. I looked a bit and didn't see anything, but that doesn't mean something along the lines you're seeking isn't there.

I hope this is helpful. My very best wishes to you both.


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]]> (Belleruth Naparstek) Ask Belleruth Tue, 23 Feb 2016 00:00:00 -0500
Any Imagery to Help a Disabled Son during His Father’s Bone Marrow Transplant? Any Imagery to Help a Disabled Son during His Father’s Bone Marrow Transplant?

We got this question from a Mom dealing with multiple stresses from all directions. She's a cancer survivor herself, with a disabled adult son who finds changes in routine difficult, and a husband probably facing bone marrow transplantation ....


Do you hve any materials for parents of children with disabilities? My adult son has a severe genetic disorder and his father is in chemo for multiple myeloma. The chemo appears to be working well at this point.

As you can imagine, my son is wonderful, but he cannot understand the implications or be part of a support system. As a bone marrow transplant becomes more and more a reality, I need to reassure him that things will be OK, but different.

My son has a chromosomal disorder. He is verbal, extremely intelligent, does basic math in his head, has an incredible memory and a dry sense of humor. He is the highest producing employee at his sheltered workshop and a joy to be with. Verbalizing feelings is very difficult for him, as are changes in routine.

I myself am a breast cancer survivor in my early 70's.

Thanks. Dorrie


Wow, certainly a challenging time for you and your family, Dorrie.

I would try out something like our Relaxation & Wellness guided imagery, which has some comforting images - emotionally evocative in a positive way - and it's designed to create a sense of protection, safety and support. He also might like the Healthful Sleep imagery, for the same reasons. If he responds well to either of these, then I'd consider some others, but not until you know that guided imagery is something he likes.

This may sound a little far-fetched, but if he enjoys and/or benefits from the imagery, he might like 'helping' his Dad during his chemotherapy infusions by listening to the Chemotherapy imagery with him or for him; and if treatment does lead to a transplant protocol, he could do the same by listening to the Bone Marrow Transplantation imagery with/for him.

Both are uplifting and soothing guided meditations, and the BMT narrative uses the archetypal image of rebirth and resurrection as its central metaphor (This was the contribution of a terrific psychologist, Richard McQuellon PhD, who worked with BMT and all manner of oncology patients at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem NC at the time, and who was a wonderful help to me when I was doing the research to write that imagery).
Listening to the imagery could help him deal with his own feelings of helplessness about his Dad's situation, and help him cope with his father's absence by allowing him to be "with him" in this way. Or maybe not – it's hard to say, but I think worth a try.

2153bAnd Dorrie, maybe you could at some point use our Caregiver Stress imagery?? Just sayin'.... The demands on you must be incredible.

I hope something is of use here.

My very best wishes to you and your family,


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]]> (Belleruth Naparstek) Ask Belleruth Tue, 16 Feb 2016 00:00:00 -0500
This Dying Man Has Never Been Happier This Dying Man Has Never Been Happier

This note arrived in the mailbox, and this is definitely not the first time we've heard these sentiments. There's something to be said for having your heart cracked wide open by all the love, care and appreciation that can surround a person who knows he/she is dying. Read on:

"I am a 69 year old man, in the hospital at the moment getting 5 days of chemotherapy treatment for another recurrence of a cancer that I've been fighting for 5 years. Realistically speaking, I probably have less than 6 months to live.

"I have an inspiring story of my own although it is obviously not about finding a miracle cure. I want to tell about the importance of friends and family, how they make all the difference, even though they can't cure this disease. I have been transformed by their love, concern and generous giving of time and work to me and my wife. It overwhelms me at times in a good way.

"I have always been a strong, silent type but lately my heart is touched many times a day. Tears fill my eyes from the affection and kindness people show. I understand I matter to them and that I contributed to their lives in a positive way. It is as if I can see myself and my life from outside myself, and it looks good. I am a happy man.

"My dear wife of 48 years shakes her head at the new me. My two daughters and son-in-law as well. I have meaningful conversations like never before. I thought this would be a worthwhile perspective for your readers. Blessings.


Robert M.

]]> (Belleruth Naparstek) Inspiring Stories Fri, 26 Jun 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Telemedicine Proves as Impactful as Live Therapy for these Alaskan Cancer Survivors Telemedicine Proves as Impactful as Live Therapy for these Alaskan Cancer Survivors

Researchers from Mind Matters Research in Anchorage, Alaska, conducted a multi-site randomized trial to evaluate the impact on quality of life (QOL) benefits of an imagery-based group intervention titled 'Envision the Rhythms of Life'(ERL).

Breast cancer survivors more than 6 weeks post-treatment were randomized to attend either five weekly, 4-hour group sessions at a community center with therapist present (live delivery (LD), n = 48), or with the therapist streamed via telemedicine (telemedicine delivery (TD), n = 23), or to a waitlist control (WL) group (n = 47).

Weekly individual phone calls to encourage at-home practice began at session one and continued until the 3-month follow-up.

Seven self-report measures of QOL were examined at baseline, 1-month and 3-month post-treatment times, including health-related and breast cancer-specific QOL, fatigue, cognitive function, spirituality, distress, and sleep.

Linear multilevel modeling analysis revealed less fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, and sleep disturbance for both treatment groups, as compared with the waitlist group, across the follow-up (p's < 0.01).

Changes in fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, sleep disturbance, and health-related and breast cancer-related QOL were clinically significant. There were no differences between the live delivery and telemedicine delivery scores.

The investigators conclude that both the live and telemedicine delivered intervention resulted in improvements in multiple quality of life domains for breast cancer survivors, as compared with the wait list controls.

Further, there were no significant differences between Live Delivery and Telemedicine Delivery, suggesting that a telemedicine-delivered ERL intervention may represent an effective and viable option for cancer survivors in remote areas.

Citation: Freeman LW1, White R, Ratcliff CG, Sutton S, Stewart M, Palmer JL, Link J, Cohen L. A randomized trial comparing live and telemedicine deliveries of an imagery-based behavioral intervention for breast cancer survivors: reducing symptoms and barriers to care. Psychooncology. 2014 Aug 22. doi: 10.1002/pon.3656.

]]> (Belleruth Naparstek) Hot Research Thu, 25 Jun 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Co-Workers Contribute Sick Days to Man with Cancer Co-Workers Contribute Sick Days to Man with Cancer

My inspiring story doesn't have to do with mind-body CDs, although I'm a satisfied user of guided imagery, yoga and meditation. This is about the people I work with.

I'm a 42 year old husband and father, recently diagnosed with stomach cancer. I have worked for the same small business for the past 12 years. Currently I am facing several rounds of chemotherapy, with little sick leave left, because earlier this year, my wife had to undergo back surgery. I was needed to help at home. It never crossed my mind that I might need those sick days for myself. I never got sick.

My co-workers got together with our manager and figured out a way to donate their own sick days to me, so I won't lose salary when I am too sick to work. I now have 34 extra days, if I need them. Each person gave whatever they could spare. The relief my wife and I felt was indescribable.

Every time I think about their generosity and love, my eyes fill with tears. This kindness may be what cures me, more than any chemotherapy treatment. I post this story with you, because it reminds us all of the good we are capable of.


Tom P.

]]> (Belleruth Naparstek) Inspiring Stories Fri, 15 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
What to Do for Fear of Recurrence after You’ve Had Cancer… What to Do for Fear of Recurrence after You’ve Had Cancer…


My husband died from lung cancer in 2011 and not three months later I myself was diagnosed with colon cancer.

I have many of your CD's (I don't know if I could have gotten through treatment without them, by the way) and listen to one or another of them at bedtime, every night.
Something I really wish you would address in a future CD is something to help with the fear of recurrence. Things always seem so much worse at night, when you are alone in the dark. That fear is not the same thing as anxiety. Please consider this.


Dear Denise,

I agree that fear of recurrence is different from anxiety. It's a real fear. We hear this a lot - during chemotherapy or other treatments, even if they're unpleasant, you at least have the feeling that you're actively doing something to beat back the cancer.

Then the treatment phase is over, and you're "in remission", but miss being able to do something, don't feel as safe – even if you are.

This is actually the main reason we went back and recorded our Healthy Immune System imagery - so people who liked using imagery during treatment, would be able to use it to help stay well.

The General Wellness imagery also addresses this, although in a more metaphoric way. I'd recommend either of those.

Between the loss of your husband and your bout with cancer, I think it's safe to say you've had a hellish and highly traumatic couple of years. My hat is off to you for managing all this. Perhaps the Healing Trauma imagery would also be appropriate. I think it's the best imagery we've got, and so does our musician-composer, Steve Kohn.

And even though it doesn't relate to immune cells directly, the uplift you can derive from it would be good for your health and well-being – it's kind of a metaphoric journey through a hellish landscape, which gets transcended by diving deeper into your own heart – hard to explain, but I think it probably applies here.

I wish you the very best, Denise. Power on!

All best,

]]> (Belleruth Naparstek) Ask Belleruth Tue, 12 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Should She Listen to the Cancer Imagery if She Maybe Doesn’t Have Cancer? Should She Listen to the Cancer Imagery if She Maybe Doesn’t Have Cancer?

If you don't definitely have cancer, but doctors think you might (tests are still being done) will listening to the Cancer MP3 help or would it focus my mind on Cancer and end of doing harm?

Thanks for your response!


Dear Catherine,

Thanks for a great question.

Can you hurt yourself by listening to the cancer imagery? I doubt it. But is it a good idea? I doubt that too.

Why not listen to the General Wellness imagery or the Healthy Immune System imagery instead, while undergoing your tests and waiting for your results? Both have images of the body getting rid of unhealthy cells, but in the context of health and wellness.

The fact is, our bodies are continually getting rid of spontaneously formed, mutant cancer cells, way before they can become anything that's even close to a detectable critical mass that can do damage. That's just business as usual for a body!

So why not focus on healthy body processes that don't require you to label yourself a cancer patient? At this point, this is not part of your identity, and for all we know, it may never be. One step at a time!

If it does turn out that this is cancer, you'll deal with it with the same resourcefulness and energy that you're demonstrating here. Plus, you'll have already developed skillfulness in responding to guided imagery, which you can apply to more targeted cancer imagery that you can use alongside other treatments and tools.

But if it's not necessary, don't make cancer your identity.

Wishing you all the best,


]]> (Belleruth Naparstek) Ask Belleruth Tue, 05 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Meditation + Yoga Group Outperforms Therapy for Distressed Cancer Survivors Meditation + Yoga Group Outperforms Therapy for Distressed Cancer Survivors

Researchers from the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, compared the effectiveness of two different interventions for distressed survivors of breast cancer – group mindfulness meditation training with yoga vs. supportive-expressive group therapy.

This multisite, randomized controlled trial assigned 271 distressed survivors of stage I to III breast cancer to either a Mindfulness Based Cancer Recovery group (MBCR), a Supportive-Expressive Therapy Group (SET), or a 1-day stress management control condition.

MBCR focused on training in mindfulness meditation and gentle yoga, whereas SET focused on emotional expression and group support. Both intervention groups included 18 hours of professional contact.

Measures were collected at baseline and after the intervention by assessors who were blind to the study condition. Primary outcome measures were mood and diurnal salivary cortisol slopes. Secondary outcomes were stress symptoms, quality of life, and social support.

Using linear mixed-effects models, in intent-to-treat analyses, cortisol slopes were maintained over time in both SET (P = .002) and MBCR (P = .011) groups relative to the control group, whose cortisol slopes became flatter.

Women in MBCR improved more over time on stress symptoms compared with women in both the SET (P = .009) and control (P = .024) groups. Per-protocol analyses showed greater improvements in the MBCR group in quality of life compared with the control group (P = .005) and in social support compared with the SET group (P = .012).

This study, the largest trial to date, concludes that MBCR was superior for improving a range of psychological outcomes for distressed survivors of breast cancer. Both the SET and MBCR also resulted in more normative diurnal cortisol profiles than the control condition.

Citation: Linda E. Carlson, Richard Doll, Joanne Stephen, Peter Faris, Rie Tamagawa, Elaine Drysdale and Michael Speca. Randomized controlled trial of Mindfulness-based cancer recovery versus supportive expressive group therapy for distressed survivors of breast cancer. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2013 Sep 1;31 (25): pp. 3119-26.

]]> (Belleruth Naparstek) Hot Research Thu, 02 Apr 2015 00:00:00 -0400