Delia's Book

Delia's Book

by Ph.D. Catherine Anne Held


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781449029982
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 12/08/2009
Pages: 80
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.19(d)

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Delia's Book

Guidance for Cancer Healing
By Catherine Anne Held


Copyright © 2009 Catherine Anne Held, Ph.D.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4490-2998-2

Chapter One


"There is no such thing as false hope." Elizabeth J. Clark, Ph.D., M.S.W.

Purpose of the Book

Welcome. If you are reading this, you probably either have cancer or love someone with cancer. Your life may have recently been turned upside down, or you may have been on this journey for a long time. I am writing this book for you, because I have learned a lot about cancer healing and I want to share it with you and your loved ones. The purpose of this book is to give you practical and spiritual tools that you can use from today forward to improve your mental outlook and chances for recovery, and to reduce the side effects often associated with conventional medical treatments for cancer. I want you to have the best possible quality of life, wherever you are on your medical journey, and I encourage you to share these guiding principles with your physicians, health care practitioners and caregivers.

You are not alone-there are many other people that have navigated the cancer journey. I call this Delia's Book because much of the material is from ten years of learning about healing from my dear friend Delia. Together we combine herextensive medical knowledge as a doctor and experiences as a patient, with my background as a trauma therapist and professional hands-on healer. This is the book we dreamed about writing together to help you and others navigate the cancer journey with more hope, better health, and more clarity. The amount of information about cancer and healing available is overwhelming. It is our hope that this book provides some guiding principles that will help guide your path.

Each chapter has a simple core idea, which I encourage you to read at your own speed. At the end of many of the chapters are practical suggestions. You may want to "try on" one of these ideas each week or month, and even share them with your support group. You may also want to skip directly to a specific section such as "Practical Tips for Surviving the Hospital, or the "Resource List." Take what fits and use it-there is no "wrong" way to use the material. I encourage you to write in the margins, and wrestle with the information. How does your experience compare? Is this information helpful?

About Delia

Delia Pratt was a doctor, a mom, a wife, and a teacher. She loved roller-blading, making art, and getting up in the middle of the night to watch meteor showers. When her son was 6 years old, Delia was diagnosed with uterine sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, and given less than two years to live. Delia lived for twelve more years, long enough to see her son grow up and go off to college. Delia was an important contributor to a worldwide grassroots network of women with the same disease, which also included family members and physicians. At the time she died, there was only one other known case of another woman living as long as she did with the disease. So how did she outlive her diagnosis by ten years?

In 1996, I met Delia Pratt at a simplicity class given by the activist Methodist church we both attended. I had noticed Delia before-she wore beautiful purple and turquoise batik blouses and skirts-but I didn't know much about her. At less than five feet tall, she presented a colorful contrast to her tall psychologist husband. She was one of the few married women in the congregation that had kept her maiden name.

In the class, I was attracted to Delia immediately. Delia voiced her opinions with no hesitation, and her insights showed a keen and incisive mind, and grasp of larger political issues. I admired her clarity and ability to speak her mind. We were drawn to the class for the same reason-we were concerned about the impact of materialism on our children and the environment. As spiritual seekers on a common quest, we sought simplicity in an increasingly complex world.

Delia was a Fighter

Delia knew what it was like to grow up "dirt poor" from her Cherokee roots. Her family did not have much money, and when she first applied to medical school she was rejected. Even once she was admitted to medical school, she fought against daily prejudice, as patients and medical personnel assumed she was "just a nurse" because of her gender and her size. As a young girl she learned how to "inflate herself like a puffer fish" to avoid being bullied or beaten up by bigger kids because she was both short and the minister's daughter. As feisty and tenacious as she was, even Delia found herself susceptible to allowing panic and hopelessness to visit. She learned simple ways to get herself out of feeling overwhelmed so she could maximize her health.

Delia was a Teaching Doctor

Professionally Delia worked with the very lowest-income patients as well as their physicians, treating them all with great respect. She was a teaching doctor who trained family residents (doctors) at our local hospital. She had a wealth of conventional medical knowledge, and was also well-versed in what is called complementary medicine. Delia spoke plainly, in easy-to-understand medical terms and could break down complex concepts into simple ideas. For example, when my father was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, Delia assured me that the condition was grossly misnamed and that people often lived with the condition for many years. A much less-alarming way to think of it, she told me, was that he had a "faulty pump." When I shared that with my dad, he relaxed visibly and was suddenly much better equipped to respond to his condition.

At the time that Delia and I first met, I had just become a hands-on healer. A spontaneous healing song that had come to me two years earlier had sent me on a journey of discovery and learning about hands-on healing. When I learned that Delia had cancer, prayer led me to offer my services to her, and we started a remarkable healing journey together. We also became very close friends. Her support and encouragement helped me during my own difficult life passages of divorce and the deaths of loved ones.

As the years went on, and she outlived her diagnosis, Delia discovered ways to maximize the chances of receiving quality care and quality of life. Major factors that contributed to Delia's longevity and quality of care included using complementary medicine and spiritual practices. Energy healing and spiritual practices helped to reduce the side effects of conventional medical treatment, and enhance her spirit and well-being. They also helped her to hone her intuitive and choice-making abilities.

Guiding Questions

This book is a response to the following questions:

What allowed Delia to survive for twelve years instead of two years?

What can we learn from Delia about living with cancer and terminal illness?

What are practical tips and techniques that can help us increase our own capacities for self-healing and navigating the medical system?

Delia was in a unique position-as a doctor, as a researcher open to alternatives, and as a cancer patient with an incurable illness-to learn and share her findings. Delia was a master teacher who was passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge. In this book, I share with you some of the techniques and tips that helped Delia and can help you, too. Our hope is that this information helps you to find joy, healing and comfort.

Chapter Two

Turbulent Times: Delia's Diagnosis and Treatment

"But I can't have cancer-I do yoga." A cancer patient

When Delia was first diagnosed, it came as a shock. As a teaching physician at the local community hospital, she was no stranger to death and serious illness-for others. Between her work and her family, Delia had an active and busy life. She had a good diet, exercised regularly, and did "all the right stuff." Delia had introduced mind-body medicine to the residents she trained with her psychologist husband's assistance. Her diagnosis of uterine leiomyosarcoma was pronounced as a death sentence. Cancer had started in the muscular wall of her uterus. Only about 5% of cancers of the uterus are sarcomas, and the rarity made it hard to find treatment. In a market-driven medical system, most research trials are instituted by pharmaceutical companies hoping to develop and sell a new medicine. Because the market for a rare disease is quite small, there can be little incentive to fund research in rare conditions and diseases. Four people in every million are diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma. Throughout the years, Delia had to become her own expert on her disease because the longer she lived, her medical path became more uncharted. Her physicians simply did not know what would work because she continued to beat the odds.

The Importance of Mind-Body Medicines and the Power of Belief

Delia's ability to withstand her illness for as long as she did is a testament to her focus on mind-body medicines and spiritual disciplines as much as to medical procedures. Delia's first response was resistance. She saw "death sentence" in her doctors's eyes when they examined her. Delia knew in her gut that just by being in the presence of doctors and medical professionals that thought she had less than two years to live was dangerous to her immediate well-being. She accessed every means possible-conventional, complementary, and spiritual-to battle her disease, to shore up her own inner strength, and beat the odds.

Delia sensed that their powerful thought forms were too strong and could "win out" if she let them. She was already battling her own internalized medical training and knowledge about the course of the disease. Just as she had been a fierce advocate for others, Delia had to become a fierce advocate for herself, by employing every resource available-even when she was sick and tired, and felt hopelessness try to sink in.

Sifting through Alternatives

After a lifetime of focusing on the needs of others, Delia suddenly had to focus her energies on her own healing. She learned everything she could about her disease and medical treatments, tried different mind-body techniques, and rallied the power of prayer. She investigated vitamin and nutritional supplements, herbal remedies, Qi Gong, acupuncture, and other forms of complementary medicine as well as conventional medicine. She researched the use of Tibetan bowls and sound healing in healing cancer and purchased several crystal bowls which she played for herself. She exercised and spent time in nature when she was able. Delia also became the foremost expert on her own illness.

Delia's last twelve years were not easy. Her life was often a roller-coaster of medical procedures. There were hopes that were crushed when doctors were unable to read and understand her scans properly. A misread scan could delay treatment or prevent her from participating in a clinical trial. Many of the cancer drugs used to treat her illness made her sick and weak for weeks and months on end. When she was at her sickest, she was faced with huge medical bills and mountains of insurance paperwork. During the course of her illness, Delia had a dozen surgeries, which were often experimental and far from home. Yet, remarkably, Delia made time for what was most important and for those activities that brought her joy.

Pulled from the Brink of Death

Delia participated in an experimental procedure in Philadelphia at a university hospital. During the operation, Delia's insides were opened up and treated with special lasers. She almost died after being exposed to second degree burns internally. Delia's body ballooned with fluids in reaction to the severe internal burns, causing fluids to fill her lungs, and pressure to build on her heart and other systems. Her husband Michael called to California to initiate a prayer chain because she was very close to death. In addition to receiving prayers, she was able to pull through with the help of a talented massage therapist who used aromatherapy (special scented oils) and special massage techniques to relieve the pressure of the built-up fluids. Delia recovered. She had no doubt that prayers on her behalf enabled her to pull through this emergency.

One of Delia's greatest joys was to be in nature, which she had to forgo for this difficult experimental procedure. After the operation, she was unable to be in direct sunlight for six weeks. Even at home she had to wear a veil and stay away from the light coming in the windows. Later she learned that at the time of the treatment her doctors thought that the treatment might not be effective, yet proceeded anyway in the interest of research. Throughout the years, Delia came close to death many times and yet bounced back time and time again, often having already said her "final" goodbyes.

The rest of this book is devoted to the techniques that helped Delia outlive her diagnosis by ten years and live to watch her six-year old son grow into a man.

Chapter Three

Don't Take it Personally and Managed Care

"Don't take anything personally." Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements

In fifteen years of working with trauma survivors and cancer patients, two of the most troubling thoughts are that 1) I am alone, and 2) The gods have singled me out to suffer because I am somehow unworthy. The antidote to both these ideas lies in gaining a bigger perspective that puts our problems in the context of a much larger picture. Because Delia went through so many operations and medical procedures over an extended period of time, she was subject to many mistakes. Her response was to became a mental health athlete. She knew that her emotional and mental state was one of the most important tools in her toolbox, one of the few things she could control, and that her very survival depended on it.

One of the biggest factors in stress management is how much control we have (or assume we have) over our lives. As a doctor, Delia felt angry and betrayed at the worsening of the medical care system due to managed care. The system itself created an environment where avoidable mistakes were made. Some of the breakdowns include severe nursing and staffing shortages, delays in treatment because of multiple doctors involved, scans and test samples lost in the system, and insurance dictating medical treatment.

At a major medical teaching hospital, Delia reported to a resident that she had symptoms of a life-threatening pulmonary embolism, and yet she was not treated for it for twenty-four hours.

A hospital resident once removed all of Delia's intravenous tubes that had provided her with fluids and pain relief. She was left in wracking pain.

A botched surgery left Delia with impaired bowel function for her remaining life.

Delia had so many surgeries to her abdominal area that her skin was not able to knit together enough to hold her insides in without bandaging.

These errors are symptomatic of a medical system that is troubled and Delia's experiences underscore the importance of having an advocate help you to receive the care you need (See Chapters 14 and 15). The key is to understand that many problems are not of our making, which can ease some of our distress. A common response with cancer diagnosis and treatment is to blame ourselves when things go awry. This attitude can lead to a sense of being powerless, and we may become victims. Alternatively, our anger can consume so much energy that there may be little energy left over to problem solve and recover our heath.

Don't Take Anything Personally

In psychology, we talk about the concept of "re-framing," which is the idea that if we can think about what has happened to us in different terms, it can ease much suffering. Delia's form of re-framing was using the concept, "Don't take anything personally," from Don Miguel Ruiz' The Four Agreements. In his book, Ruiz lays out four guidelines (or agreements) designed for human happiness. His second agreement, "Don't take anything personally," helped Delia to understand that there were bigger forces at work that contributed to her suffering but that she did not necessarily cause. She was able to see the "bigger picture." Of course it feels pretty personal when your bowels can't function because of a botched surgery, or you use all of your energy to travel several hours and then are left waiting for an appointment that could be handled by phone.

Anger: Friend or Foe?

"Don't take anything personally," helped Delia to understand that stewing in the mistakes and injustice of it all did not contribute to her greatest health and happiness. When there were mistakes, delays, and frustrations, Delia learned to confront them or let them go. She needed all of her energies for healing. She learned to do all she could on her end to make things smoother, such as confirming that scans had been sent to the right doctor before a consult, and getting insurance approvals.


Excerpted from Delia's Book by Catherine Anne Held Copyright © 2009 by Catherine Anne Held, Ph.D.. Excerpted by permission.
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.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Introduction....................1
Chapter 2: Turbulent Times: Delia's Diagnosis and Treatment....................5
Chapter 3: Don't Take it Personally and Managed Care....................9
Chapter 4: The Shadow Side of Positive Thinking....................13
Chapter 5: Am I Living or Dying?....................17
Chapter 6: Imagination as Medicine....................21
Chapter 7: Intuition as Navigation System....................27
Chapter 8: Opening to New Spiritual Possibilities....................31
Chapter 9: Get Support....................35
Chapter 10: Ask for What You Need....................39
Chapter 11: The Joy Factor and Radical Self Care....................43
Chapter 12: When You Are Up to Your Waist in Alligators....................47
Chapter 13: Complementary Medicine....................49
Chapter 14: Caregiver 101....................55
Chapter 15: Practical Tips for Managing the Hospital....................59
Chapter 16: Conclusion....................63
About Catherine Anne Held, Ph.D....................69

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