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...And Way More Reaction to Cancer/Feelings Discussion

25 Aug

Hello again, good people.
Well, here it is, our blog format at last!  The participation in this Feelings-Don’t-Effect-Cancer-Outcomes discussion - as evidenced by comments, scoldings, applause, personal stories, thoughtful introspection and sheer traffic - has gone beyond anything we’ve ever seen in this forum before. This is great!  Add your comments directly, by all means.  And please  feel free to forward this page to anyone you think could use it - someone with cancer, their well-meaning family/friends or a health professional acting too much like the "positivity police".

We re-posted most of the comments we had permission to show you below. And for those of you who came in late, I reported on a study mentioned in the Harvard Health Letter that found that feelings had no effect on cancer outcomes. The initial response was a lot of very upset people. This second wave of emails, posted below, does a great job of amplifying what I was trying to say and provides more layers and sophistication to the discussion. Let us know what works and what doesn't and we'll keep tweaking this new feature. (After this week, you'll be able to respond to each individual comment... but this week, since we manually transferred them, you can't.)

Take a look at the reader responses and you’ll get the general idea.

And on a personal note of my own for this discussion (and to assure you that I'm not just talking theoretically here), I should say that when my husband suddenly found himself struggling with a murderously aggressive, stage 4 lung cancer 4 years ago, we were both keenly aware of the statistics, but did not feel limited by them. Always idealistic in a realistic way, my husband adopted this motto with typical energy and enthusiasm: "Hope for the best; plan for the worst".

And indeed, we tried the best allopathic medicine along with every credible CAM therapy. He swallowed tons of excellent nutritional supplements, got his docs on board with every holistic protocol- he even put up with listening to guided imagery CDs (which he basically couldn't stand - it was the family joke) and gave the whole thing his focused, energetic best. He owned his feelings - always did. This went from being pretty discouraged and baffled by the experience of not feeling well for the first time in his life; to feeling pumped and hopeful after experiences like meeting with the singularly impressive Keith Block MD in Evanston ("This guy has the tools to give me a shot".)

He kept on working and teaching and planning up until his last week, as if he’d be around for decades. He also planned his funeral, got me set up with financial advice, set up some foundations to continue his powerful work, and tied up every loose end he could think of. The guy was a class act. He made it easier for everyone he left behind - a multitude of family, friends, colleagues and all the countless people he’d helped in the past and would help in the future, thanks to the insane number of scholarships and foundations he put in place during his illness.

All of that was his idea of being "positive". He died a role model and a hero, 4 months after his diagnosis. I would suggest that it’s maturity and wisdom to understand that sometimes you do everything "right" and you still don’t get the outcome you want. But there’s still comfort in knowing you gave it your best shot.

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