Thanks to having to find a way to co-exist with prostate cancer for nearly a quarter of a century, I found myself enrolled in “Stress 101.” And as I don’t have Mark’s scientific background, my take on how to alleviate the inevitable stress of dealing with this disease revolves mainly around mind-body interaction; in particular, the ways in which our chronic fears and concerns inhibit immune function and thus jeopardize our recovery.
Around three thousand years ago, King Solomon declared that, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” And I learned from Mark that the “wet” part of the bones—otherwise known as the bone marrow—is where the immune system is located.
In Invasion of the Prostate Snatchers I reported that, due to my refusal to redo a botched biopsy, there was no “proof positive” that I had prostate cancer. So, despite a urologist’s report evaluating the lump in my prostate as “suspicious for well-differentiated adenocarcinoma,” I returned to my home on Maui where I spent nine peaceful years enjoying my life. I had no idea at the time that those worry-free years in upcountry Maui supported and even strengthened my immune system. I am now convinced that they helped to keep the cancer dormant, on hold.
But then a series of life circumstances left me chronically stressed and depressed. I began to worry that perhaps I had been a fool not committing to treatment. And sure enough, that was when my PSA began to climb and the tumor began to grow.
My ignorance about the immune system at that time was monumental, but when I started to find out what makes it tick, I realized that my brain was constantly sending my immune system chemical messages which, for better or worse, influenced its ability to function. There is no doubt that good nutrition and staying physically active play a role in supporting a healthy immune system. My problem was I have never been big on raw foods, low carbs or a high intake of leafy greens. And I have an aversion to most forms of exercise. So I decided to focus on “romancing” my immune system by sending it benign signals.
In my next blog I will go further into what I have termed positive emotional-chemical text messages.