The Triumphant Patient: Become an Exceptional Patient in the Face of Life-Threatening Illness

The Triumphant Patient: Become an Exceptional Patient in the Face of Life-Threatening Illness

by Greg Anderson

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All the information and compassion a cancer patient in search of spiritual answers needs

Your doctor has given you, or a loved one, frightening medical news. You face surgery, difficult treatment, and questionable outcomes. What does this mean? What can you do? Fear and uncertainty dominate your thoughts, and that’s where this book comes


All the information and compassion a cancer patient in search of spiritual answers needs

Your doctor has given you, or a loved one, frightening medical news. You face surgery, difficult treatment, and questionable outcomes. What does this mean? What can you do? Fear and uncertainty dominate your thoughts, and that’s where this book comes in: a dose of soul medicine, a tonic for frightened and weary spirits. Focusing on personal growth, the book explains personal spiritual choice and helps patients find meaning in illness.
Anderson is an expert in the field of healing, and has conducted numerous seminars and retreats for the terminally ill and their families.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
The Triumphant Patient inspires, instructs, gives hope, and it heals.” —Bernie S. Siegel, M.D.
The Triumphant Patient is an inspirational classic.” —Abigail “Dear Abby” Van Buren
“This book is an absolute inspiration.” —Dr. Robert H. Schuller

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Open Road Integrated Media LLC
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The Triumphant Patient

Becoming an Exceptional Patient in the Face of Life-Threatening Illness

By Greg Anderson


Copyright © 1992 Greg Anderson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-1119-8



The woman was devastated.

Her doctor had just told her she had a life-threatening illness. He used the word terminal and said there was nothing more he could do.

"You have perhaps a year," he said. "I can't say for sure. I'm sorry. We'll do our best to make you comfortable."

She was in shock. It was a death sentence. She was going to die!

And there was nothing she could do, nothing anyone could do.

At times she was numb. She just sat in a chair, not moving or speaking. She couldn't eat. She was exhausted, but she couldn't sleep for more than a few minutes at a time.

The future was so bleak.

"Everything is okay," she told herself. "There must have been a mistake. That's it! The tests were wrong. They were somebody else's tests! It's not me. No! It's not me!"

But the doctor said the tests weren't wrong. He said no one had made a mistake. She couldn't believe him. She just couldn't believe it was true.

"Okay," she said, "maybe the tests weren't wrong, but the prognosis is. The problem really isn't what they said it is! Or, even if it is, it's not as serious as they think. Yes, that's right. It's not serious. It will soon go away."

She did try to keep her spirits up, but it was so hard. A constant mental chatter badgered her every minute, and she couldn't turn it off.

What about her family? Will her husband be okay? What will happen to the children? What about the house? Who will take care of things? "Will they miss me? Oh, God! They'll forget me!"

The worst part was the fear. How does it feel to die? Does it hurt? Will it hurt more than she can stand? If it gets really bad, will everyone leave her to die alone?

She was a prisoner—a prisoner of fear and illness and death, a prisoner of all the thoughts in her mind. Panic was her constant companion. She was overwhelmed by it.

And she couldn't control the weeping. Without warning the tears would begin, and they didn't stop until she was completely spent. No one understood. No one could understand, not even those who loved her. One minute she wanted to die, to just get it over with. The next she wanted to live, for her life to return to normal.

She was isolated, cut off from life and hope. No one had ever experienced such desolation and despair. There was no hope. And soon there would be no life.

She withdrew from her family, thinking that would make her death easier for them. But her family resisted. They said they wanted to help her. They said they loved her. They said they needed her. They said they wanted her to live.

Angrily she ordered them out. "Go away," she screamed. "Leave me alone. You're just trying to cheer me up!"

They left her alone, tiptoeing around, speaking softly to each other, trying not to upset her. And they looked at her with sadness in their eyes.

The depression was overpowering—spiraling, dark, all-consuming depression. She felt like she was already dead. Sometimes she hoped it would be over quickly.

One day she went for a walk, and she looked at the people she passed. They were laughing and having a good time with their families and friends. There was a woman, a grandmother, pushing a baby in a stroller. She was talking to the baby, her voice warm and loving and happy. The baby laughed and clapped her hands in response.

"I'll never see my grandchildren," the woman thought, and a great sadness came over her.

Then gradually the sadness became anger and the anger turned to rage. "This isn't fair! I deserve to see my grandchildren. I've been a good person—it's not fair for me to die.

"Look at all these people—they're well. And I'm dying. Why do they deserve better than I do? I want to live too."

Resentment burned inside her.

She'd been betrayed by life, and by God ... if there really was a God. And these thoughts began to show in her every action and word.

Sometimes she was rude; sometimes she lashed out with anger; sometimes she wouldn't speak at all. She didn't like herself when she did these things, but she couldn't help herself.

It was all so difficult. Nothing mattered anymore.

"Is this all there is?" she wondered. "You're born; you live a while; and you die. And that's it?"

She'd always thought there would be more time. After the children were grown, she'd ...

When her husband got a promotion and they moved, she'd ... When she had more time, she'd ... But there wasn't going to be more time.

One day her friend Grace called. In a friendly way Grace chatted about many things and it was nice. For a few minutes the woman thought about something other than herself. But eventually Grace mentioned "the illness." That was the way the woman thought of it—"the illness," as if it had a life of its own and was somehow disconnected from her—and she always dreaded the time someone would mention it.

Usually people would say they were sorry and try to reassure her that a miracle would come along and make things right. She knew they were trying to help, but it didn't help. It only made her angry and then the hopelessness and depression would be worse than ever.

But this time was different. Grace didn't say those things that showed she didn't understand and that seemed so patronizing.

"I don't know how you feel," she said, "but I know someone who does. He's lived through circumstances that are very similar to yours. I think he might help you. Would you like to meet him?"

The woman hesitated. No, she resisted. In a way she didn't want to let anyone in. In a way she was comfortable with her isolation. She doubted that anyone had ever felt the way she did, and she was skeptical that anyone could truly understand how she felt. Most of all she believed that no one could help. As much as she wanted people to understand her pain and to help her, she no longer wanted to talk about it with anyone. But she didn't want simply to be brave and endure it. She wanted someone to take this problem away and make her well. She wanted to wake up and find it had all been a bad dream.

"Who is this person?" she asked.

"They call him the Triumphant Patient," Grace answered.

"The Triumphant Patient?" the woman laughed mockingly. "That's the most ridiculous name I've ever heard. What kind of person is this Triumphant Patient?"

"I know it sounds strange," Grace said. "But I assure you that he is quite real. He has learned some valuable principles about wellness that have helped him and others he has worked with to live life to the fullest. He has a whole network of other triumphant patients and they've all been through experiences like yours. I think it is something you might want to explore.

"Let me give you his number. Then, someday when you are feeling particularly down, you can give him a call. Take the number and keep it by your phone just in case."

"Well," said the woman. "I guess it wouldn't hurt."

As she wrote the number on a card, she thought about what Grace had said. She had said, "It's something you might want to explore," and that was different from anything anyone else had ever said to her. Her doctor said she must do this and that. Her family frequently tried to impose on her their ideas of how she should behave, even though they were gentle about it. Her other friends and acquaintances also had their own ideas of what she should do.

But Grace had said "explore." That meant she had a choice.

As she put the card on the wall by the phone, she was fairly certain she'd never call the Triumphant Patient. She was almost embarrassed by the idea. It seemed ridiculous to think for even a second that he could understand and help. Besides, she didn't want to get her hopes up just to be disappointed.

For several days she found herself thinking again about Grace's call. When she passed the phone, she'd notice that the card was there, waiting. A couple of times she read the number and even put her hand on the receiver. But she didn't pick it up. She was afraid. Yet she couldn't get her friend's words out of her mind, "It's something you might want to explore."

Finally, before she could change her mind, she dialed the number. She'd just see what he had to say. It certainly couldn't make things worse.

His voice was kind and gentle, and listening to him did make her feel more calm. When he suggested they get together to talk in person the next afternoon, she agreed.

In a small way, she was encouraged. She decided she would listen to him; she would try to be open. In fact, she realized she was looking forward to meeting the Triumphant Patient.



The next afternoon, as she approached the home of the Triumphant Patient, the woman's mind was a muddle of conflicting emotions. She was embarrassed and she felt vulnerable.

"Why am I here?" she asked herself. "What could this man possibly know?" Her doctor had said there was no hope for her, so why subject herself to something that wouldn't help anyway?

She wanted to turn back and slip away. It would be easy to get in her car and simply go home. Yes, that would be easier. She would go home. And what would she do when she got there? Just get in bed and wait to die? Accept her fate in silence? Give in to the depression and despair?

Well, how long could it take to meet this man and hear what he had to say? An hour? She had precious little time left, but she could spare an hour, especially since there wasn't anything else to do. If she went home she'd only have to deal with the depression and the loneliness.

In the short conversation she'd had with this man, the one her friend had called the Triumphant Patient, she had sensed something different about him. Maybe he did know something that would help.

"Good afternoon," he said as he held open the door to his home. "Welcome. Please come in."

Immediately the woman sensed warmth. She was very comfortable with the pleasant manner, easy smile, and honesty of the man she had come to visit—the Triumphant Patient. She wasn't certain why, but she felt like an equal, and for the longest time she hadn't felt equal to anyone.

The man led her to a deck at the rear of the house where there was a lovely view and refreshments awaited them. He asked her to make herself comfortable. Then he began to talk with her, his manner friendly and unhurried.

Before long, he asked the woman to briefly describe her illness and the prognosis. But he didn't ask her to dwell on the details and technicalities of her illness. Instead he gently asked about her interpretation of her physical problems.

"Do you believe this prognosis?" he asked. "Do you feel the doctors' 'terminal' diagnosis is correct?" "How much confidence do you have in your medical team?" "Do you sense there is anything you can do to help yourself?"

He asked her questions, but not in a threatening way. He was compassionate. The way he asked the questions demonstrated that he understood and cared. His wisdom reassured her.

"Share with me your true feelings about your medical team," he said. He was skillful at bringing out someone's emotions. And he did it without effort or threat.

She was surprised to hear herself sharing her true feelings about her doctors and nurses and technicians. "They certainly have what seems to be the latest technology," she said, "but sometimes, when I leave there, I feel like I have just been through enemy territory."

"Tell me what you mean," he responded.

"I have to fight for every bit of information. It makes me so damned mad!" She was shocked at her own language. She seldom used those kinds of words. Suddenly she realized that she was very angry at her doctor.

"Whenever I go to that office, I have to wait. I understand that they probably have some unforeseen things interrupt their schedule. But always? Every time I go?

"No way! Don't they have any consideration for my time and my schedule? They don't seem to. And I hate it."

She was surprised at herself again. Her anger was intense. She realized she was leaning forward and gripping the arms of her chair. Her whole body was tense.

The Triumphant Patient sat quietly, observing her reactions.

"It's not just the waiting though, it's that they don't tell me anything and I can't fully understand what they are doing.

"For example, a couple of weeks ago I had a test. It was excruciating. I had to swallow an awful-tasting chalky solution and keep it down while they took X-rays. It was awful, and I threw up. But when I asked the technician why I needed this done, she simply said, 'The doctor ordered it.'

"It was terrible. And I felt so degraded and humiliated. They didn't seem to care that I was hurting or that I was frightened. Mostly I felt like an object—that I wasn't supposed to have feelings."

She wiped tears from her eyes.

"I believe I understand," he said. "It is difficult to have confidence in a medical team that lacks compassion. Yet a medical team in whom you have confidence is fundamental to getting well. May I share with you some of my experience?"

She nodded and leaned back, trying to relax and compose herself.

"I had to 'dismiss' a doctor from my team."

"You can do that?" she asked, incredulous.

"Of course you can. Doctors work for you; you don't work for them. You are the one in charge of your team members. And I didn't have confidence in all of my team.

"So I fired my surgeon. And I went about assembling a team I trusted. I had tests retaken.

I got second opinions. At one point, I even had a third opinion."

"I can't do that," she said. "My insurance won't cover it."

"Neither did mine. So I paid for it out of my own pocket. I wasn't going to let the lack of insurance coverage stand in my way. I was ready to take charge!"

The woman couldn't help but notice the man's determination as he recalled his experience. This is a person who was strong when he needed to be strong, she thought. She felt great respect for him.

"And I didn't do it so much because of the technical diagnosis," he continued. "I did it to boost my confidence. It gave me peace of mind. I studied. I worked. In a real sense I became an expert on my illness. I even researched and suggested a new way to administer treatment."

She was surprised. "They let you make decisions?"

"I certainly contributed," he said with a smile. "After all, who had a vested interest? I did! It is a patient's duty to take charge.

"I insisted that all information be shared with me, and in a timely manner. I demanded explanations for each and every test. I wanted to understand all treatments. And I took personal responsibility for my wellness. This generated a great deal of hope in what was initially described to me as a hopeless situation."

"That might've been easy for you to do," said the woman. "But it's not the same with me. My situation is different."

"Tell me why," said the Triumphant Patient.

Tears came to her eyes, and panic and self-pity were evident on her face.

"I'm going to die. It's hopeless." And the tears came, the uncontrollable weeping she had been fighting for some time to avoid. The man brought some tissues to her and waited quietly until she was spent.

"I'm sorry I can't control my emotions," she whispered. "This happens so often. Forgive me for crying."

"Don't apologize for the tears," he soothed. "They are nothing to be embarrassed about. Tears are a natural way of releasing emotions. I think of them as God's method of cleansing the soul.

"But more important than the tears," he continued, "is your response to what your doctors told you. Few things are more sensitive and delicate than the psychological and emotional environment in which a patient is treated. In your case, you've been done a real disservice. What your doctor told you has caused you to despair."

Still wiping away her tears, the woman shook her head. "It's hopeless. A year! I can't believe it! I had so much to do. Is this all there is to life? There must be more."

And again she began to sob.

The Triumphant Patient realized that restoring the woman's hope was the first task.

Without hope, there would be no triumphant outcome. Softly, quietly, gently, he began.

"As unfair to you as the doctor's words were, I want you to realize now that you have a choice in how to respond to them.

"Some people respond by stoically accepting the prognosis. When you ask these people how they're doing, they say, 'fine' and force a grin. But you know that inside they're not fine.

"Other people respond with fear and panic. Sometimes the situation creates emotional hysteria. Their worlds come crashing in around them. You may be feeling some of this."

She nodded.

"A third choice, the triumphant response, is proactive. Triumphant patients refuse to be victims. Instead, they take charge of their own care. They insist that they have full information so they can participate in their wellness programs. And they use health challenges as opportunities for personal growth.

"There are different levels of wellness that triumphant patients address. On the physical level there is conventional medical treatment. They form healing partnerships with their medical teams and take very active roles in their treatment.


Excerpted from The Triumphant Patient by Greg Anderson. Copyright © 1992 Greg Anderson. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Greg Anderson is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading wellness authorities, and is the founder of Cancer Recovery Foundation International, a global affiliation of national organizations whose mission is to help people prevent and survive cancer.

Cancer Recovery Foundation focuses on the human services side of cancer. It does not fund clinical research or medical treatments. The foundation provides adults with training and support for implementing whole-person cancer prevention and survival strategies. Children with cancer and their families are served through the Children’s Project. The foundation has established affiliates in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, and France. 

Greg Anderson was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer in 1984. He was given thirty days to live. Refusing to accept the hopelessness of this prognosis, he went searching for people who had lived despite their doctors telling them they were “terminal.” His findings from interviews with over 16,000 cancer survivors form the strategies and action points for what has become an international cancer survival movement.

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