The co-authors of Invasion of the Prostate Snatchers, blog alternate posts weekly. We invite you to post your comments.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Activating the Mind/Body Connection


Once you have found a medical team you trust, and have decided which treatment option is best for you (and that may be no immediate treatment), the single most important thing you can do is take an active role in your own recovery.  Respected psychiatrist and cancer researcher Dr. David Spiegel wrote, “Medicine has focused so much on attacking the tumor that it has tended to ignore the body coping with the tumor, and the social and psychological variables that influence the somatic response to tumor invasion.”

As your immune system is the most powerful defense your body has against cancer, it is your task to do everything you can to support it. We all know that exercise and proper diet contribute to general good health and, therefore, to a healthy immune system. And most cancer survivors agree that vitamins and herbal supplements support maximum immune function and have made them a part of their recovery program. But your task doesn’t stop there.

Research in the field of psychoneuroimmunology attests to the central role our emotions play in supporting our immune system and promoting healing. What you think and feel can directly impact your health. And it is generally agreed that the most potent immune suppressor is chronic emotional stress that floods the body with adrenaline and cortisone derivatives that interfere with the immune system’s ability to seek out and destroy cancer cells. Of course this is a Catch 22, because a cancer diagnosis inevitably triggers a roller coaster of negative emotions—fear, anger, anxiety, resentment, grief, despair—all of which, when held onto, act to suppress the immune system. You can’t expect to prevent these negative feelings. The trick is to acknowledge them, and then refuse to get stuck in them.

Blood tests have shown strikingly improved immune function among people who emote, and even those who confide their feelings to a diary show better immune function. Having an intimate group of supportive friends, or simply meeting with others in a support group once a week can improve your chance of recovery. Practicing simple meditation and visualization (there are dozens of pre-recorded guided imagery and relaxation tapes available) supports your immune system and promotes healing. And then there’s my favorite immune booster: laughter. When you laugh, natural killer cells increase, as do T cells and B cells that make disease-fighting anti-bodies. So whatever other supplements you take, be sure to include laughter.

Above all, the will to live, a sense of optimism, and your belief in your chosen treatment play a huge role in your recovery.  Combining the will to live with hope—the deeply confident expectation that you can beat this cancer—has a profound healing effect.

No comments: