Steve Petrow is a columnist on modern manners and an all-round terrific writer. This is his personal story, which first appeared in the Washington Post on May 26, where he talks about how he conquered the family tradition of excessive worry over things that might happen, with the help of a smart therapist, some guided imagery and a new mantra. Here it is verbatim:
Last fall, at precisely the same hour my 81-year-old mother was being handed a lung cancer diagnosis at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, my 84-year-old father was calling 911 for a pesky nosebleed. An ambulance rushed him to the emergency room of another hospital, where he was promptly turned away; it doesn’t admit patients for run-of-the-mill maladies such as nosebleeds. Uptown with my mother, I knew I’d lost the battle of helping Dad manage his anxiety.
It’s been a long struggle. Ten springs ago, Dad saw five neurologists, including the world-famous Oliver Sacks, because no one could tell him why he had increasing difficulty with his articulation and balance. Soon after, he e-mailed me: “I have some sort of degeneration in the cerebellum, cause unknown, no treatment, no cure. Thank God it’s so slow moving.”
Researchers from the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust in London, UK, compared the efficacy of reflexology vs. aromatherapy massage for ameliorating stated symptoms of concern in cancer patients.
Adult oncology patients in this non-blinded, randomized study were randomized to either four aromatherapy massage or four reflexology sessions. MYCaW scores were taken at baseline and completion; VAS relaxation scores were gathered pre and post-sessions.
Measuring instruments consisted of unpaired t-tests for the primary outcome; analysis of variance tests for repeated measures for VAS (relaxation); descriptive statistics (means and 95% confidence intervals) and content analysis for patient comments.
Researchers from the Utah Center for Exploring Mind-Body Interactions at the University of Utah Medical School in Salt Lake City conducted a randomized, controlled trial to see whether two mind-body interventions – Mind-Body Bridging (MBB) and Mindfulness Meditation (MM) could improve sleep disturbances and other symptoms in posttreatment cancer survivors, as compared to sleep hygiene education (SHE) as an active control.
Fifty-seven cancer survivors with clinically significant self-reported sleep disturbance were randomly assigned to receive MBB, MM, or SHE. All interventions were conducted in three sessions, once per week. Patient-reported outcomes were assessed via the Medical Outcomes Study Sleep Scale and other indicators of psychosocial functioning relevant to quality of life, stress, depression, mindfulness, self-compassion, and well-being.
A woman is shocked to learn that her “benign” lump is a stage two cancerous thyroid gland, and endures the added distress of hypothyroidism while she undergoes treatment.
But imagery helps her enormously. Here are her own words:
That "benign" lump was actually a malignant tumor, stage two. The shock of that, not to mention the severe hypothyroidism I had to endure during treatment in the weeks following the surgery was miserable. I'd never been so tired or in so much pain in my life.
A friend recommended the "cancer pack" and the vivid imageries, visualizations and guided meditations helped enormously.
For periods after listening to the program, I had enough energy to function and was even able to keep a positive outlook (for the most part) throughout the process.
Thank you for the wonderful program -- I'm going to order the relaxation programs shortly to deal with excess stress in my life. God bless.
Researchers from the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, compared the effectiveness of 2 evidence-based group interventions to help stressed breast cancer survivors cope - mindfulness-based cancer recovery (MBCR) and classic, supportive-expressive group therapy (SET).
This multisite, randomized controlled trial assigned 271 distressed survivors of stage I - III breast cancer to one of the two group interventions 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 post-intervention by blinded assessors. Primary outcome measures were mood and diurnal salivary cortisol slopes. Secondary outcomes were stress symptoms, quality of life and social support.
Investigators from San Diego State University (SDSU) & University of California, San Diego (UCSD), conducted a meta-analysis to examine the effects of randomized, controlled yoga interventions on self-reported fatigue in cancer patients and survivors. The online electronic databases, PubMed and PsycINFO, were used to search for peer-reviewed research articles reporting on randomized, controlled studies.
The main outcome of interest was change in fatigue from pre- to post-intervention. Interventions of any length were included in the analysis. Risk of bias using the format of the Cochrane Collaboration's tool for assessing risk of bias was also examined across studies.
Ten articles met the inclusion criteria and involved a total of 583 participants who were predominantly female, breast cancer survivors.
I was given your audio for surgery and also for cancer. Following 9 hours of surgery for Stage IV ovarian cancer, I also had 10 months of chemotherapy.
I listened to the cancer imagery twice a day, every day – once to the guided imagery track and once to the affirmations. I believe this was a critical piece of my healing.
I am now cancer-free and am watching the Bernie Siegel video, Affirmations for Living Beyond Cancer. I plan to continue my devotional regime, using these titles, as I am confident that this ongoing work on my part will be critical in keeping me cancer-free. I intend to live a very long, long time.
Thank you for creating these resources. I’m delighted that they are being used in more and more hospitals and other settings.
We got this really interesting question from a woman last week, and it’s something we’ve heard before. So we thought this would be a good place to post it. She’s not obsessed with fear of cancer, just wants to know if it might do her some long-term good. Check it out.
Would it be a good preventative therapy for me to listen daily to your Meditation for Cancer CD?
Or would I be putting thoughts in my head?
I am not really obsessed at all about it, but at age 60, I would like to heal any start of cancer cells.
My mother had breast cancer, and I've also lost a close friend to cancer, and am close to another who is in remission, so it is on my mind.
We posted this note and poem by the indomitable and multi-talented Margaret Dubay Mikus years ago, and recently came across it again – it sure is worth posting again.
Since the time she wrote this, she has gone on to further flesh out her exquisite Full Blooming website, where she inspires and empowers scores of people in tough circumstances, temporarily in need of a little extra hope and moxie.
Here it is again:
A poet with a PhD in molecular genetics, has a recurrence of breast cancer and finds out she carries the “breast cancer gene”, the BRCA2 mutation, and, after much deliberation, opts for a bilateral mastectomy, plus removal of her ovaries and Fallopian tubes. We don’t have the space here to tell the whole story of her amazing, courageous, bumpy ride, but we can publish her wonderful poem and her thank you letter to friends, family and caregivers after her surgery. You can learn more about Margaret Dubay Mikus and enjoy her inspiring poetry and photography here.
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison conducted a pilot randomized controlled trial to assess the initial efficacy of a patient-controlled cognitive-behavioral (CB) intervention for the pain, fatigue, and sleep disturbance symptom cluster that often accompanies advanced cancer treatment.
Eighty-six patients with advanced lung, prostate, colorectal, or gynecologic cancers, receiving treatment at a comprehensive cancer center, were stratified by recruitment clinics (chemotherapy and radiation therapy) and randomized to the intervention or control groups.
Forty-three patients were assigned to receive training in and use of up to 12 relaxation, guided imagery or distraction exercises, delivered via an MP3 player for two weeks during cancer treatment.
Forty-three patients were assigned to a waitlist control condition for the same two week period. Outcomes included symptom cluster severity and overall symptom interference with daily life, measured at baseline (Time 1) and two weeks later (Time 2).