In this revolutionary book the Simontons profile the typical "cancer personality": how an individual's reactions to stress and other emotional factors can contribute to the onset and progress of cancer -- and how positive expectations, self-awareness, and self-care can contribute to survival. This book offers the same self-help techniques the Simonton's patients have used to successfully to reinforce usual medical treatment -- techniques for learning positive attitudes, relaxation, visualization, goal setting, managing pain, exercise, and building an emotional support system.
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Sold by:||Random House|
|File size:||3 MB|
About the Author
James Creighton, PhD, is a psychotherapist and coauthor of Getting Well Again, with O. Carl Simonton, MD, and Stephanie Matthews Simonton.
Stephanie Matthews Simonton is a psychotherapist. She is the co-author of Getting Well Again and the author of The Healing Family.
Read an Excerpt
The Mind-Body Connection: A Psychological Approach to Cancer Treatment
Everyone participates in his or her health or illness at all times.
This book will show people with cancer or other serious illnesses how they can participate in getting well again. It will also show those who are not ill how they can participate in maintaining their health.
We use the word participate to indicate the vital role you play in creating your own level of health. Most of us assume that healing is something done to us, that if we have a medical problem our responsibility is simply to get to a physician who will then heal us. That’s true to a degree, but it is only part of the story.
We all participate in our own health through our beliefs, our feelings, and our attitudes toward life, as well as in more direct ways, such as through exercise and diet. In addition, our response to medical treatment is influenced by our beliefs about the effectiveness of the treatment and by the confidence we have in the medical team.
This book in no way minimizes the role of the physician and other health professionals engaged in medical treatment. Rather, Getting Well Again will describe what you can do in conjunction with medical treatment to gain the health you deserve.
Understanding how much you can participate in your health or illness is a significant first step for everyone in getting well. For many of our patients it is the critically important step. It may well be for you, too.
We are Carl and Stephanie Simonton, and we operate the Cancer Counseling and Research Center in Dallas, Texas. Carl, the medical director of the center, is a radiation oncologist, a physician specializing in the treatment of cancer. Stephanie is director of counseling and is trained in psychology.
Most of our patients, who come to us from all over the country, have received a “medically incurable” diagnosis from their doctors. According to national cancer statistics, they have an average life expectancy of one year. When these people believe that only medical treatment can help them—but their physicians have said that medicine is no longer of much avail and that they probably have only a few months to live—they feel doomed, trapped, helpless, and usually fulfill the doctors’ expectations. But if patients mobilize their own resources and actively participate in their recovery, they may well exceed their life expectancy and significantly alter the quality of life.
The ideas and techniques described in this book are the approach we employ at our Cancer Counseling and Research Center to show cancer patients how they can participate in getting well again and live a rewarding and fulfilling life.
THE STARTING POINT: THE “WILL TO LIVE”
Why do some patients recover their health and others die, when the diagnosis is the same for both? Carl became interested in this problem while he was completing his residency as a cancer specialist at the University of Oregon Medical School. There he noticed that patients who stated they wanted to live would often act as if they did not. There were lung cancer patients who refused to stop smoking, liver cancer patients who wouldn’t cut down on alcohol, and others who wouldn’t show up for treatment regularly.
In many cases, these were people whose medical prognosis indicated that, with treatment, they could look forward to many more years of life. Yet while they affirmed again and again that they had countless reasons to live, these patients showed a greater apathy, depression, and attitude of giving up than did a number of others diagnosed with terminal disease.
In the latter category was a small group of patients who had been sent home after minimal treatment, with little expectation that they would live to see their first follow-up appointment. Yet several years later, they were still arriving for their annual or semiannual examinations, remaining in quite good health, and inexplicably beating the statistics.
When Carl asked them to account for their good health they would frequently give such answers as, “I can’t die until my son graduates from college,” or “They need me too much at work,” or “I won’t die until I’ve solved the problem with my daughter.” The common thread running through these replies was the belief that they exerted some influence over the course of their disease. The essential difference between these patients and those who would not cooperate was in their attitude toward their disease and their positive stance toward life. The patients who continued to do well, for one reason or another, had a stronger “will to live.” This discovery fascinated us.
Stephanie, whose background was in motivational counseling, had an interest in unusual achievers—those people who in business seemed destined to go to the top. She had studied the behavior of exceptional performers and had taught the principles of that behavior to average achievers. It seemed reasonable to study cancer patients in the same way—to learn what those who were doing well had in common, and how they differed from those who were doing poorly.
If the difference between the patient who regains his health and the one who does not is in part a matter of attitude toward the disease and belief that he could somehow influence it, then, we wondered, how could we influence patients’ beliefs in that positive direction? Might we be able to apply techniques from motivational psychology to induce and enhance a “will to live”? Beginning in 1969, we began looking at all the possibilities, exploring such diverse psychological techniques as encounter groups, group therapy, meditation, mental imagery, positive thinking, motivational techniques, “mind development” courses like Silva Mind Control and Mind Dynamics, and biofeedback.
From our study of biofeedback, we learned that certain techniques were enabling people to influence their own internal body processes, such as heart rate and blood pressure. An important aspect of biofeedback, called visual imagery, was also a principal component of other techniques we had studied. The more we learned about the process, the more intrigued we became.
Essentially, the visual imagery process involved a period of relaxation, during which the patient would mentally picture a desired goal or result. With the cancer patient, this would mean his attempting to visualize the cancer, the treatment destroying it and, most importantly, his body’s natural defenses helping him recover. After discussion with two leading biofeedback researchers, Drs. Joe Kamiya and Elmer Green, of the Menninger Clinic, we decided to use visual imagery techniques with cancer patients.
THE FIRST PATIENT: A DRAMATIC EXAMPLE
The first patient with whom an attempt was made to apply our developing theories was a sixty-one-year-old man who came to the medical school in 1971 with a form of throat cancer that carried a grave prognosis. He was very weak, his weight had dropped from 130 to 98 pounds, he could barely swallow his own saliva, and was having difficulty breathing. There was less than a 5 percent chance that he would survive five years. Indeed, the medical school doctors had seriously debated whether to treat him at all, since it was distinctly possible that therapy would only make him more miserable without significantly diminishing his cancer.
Carl went into the examining room determined to help this man actively participate in his treatment. This was a case that justified using exceptional measures. Carl began treating the patient by explaining how the patient himself could influence the course of his own disease. Carl then outlined a program of relaxation and mental imagery based on the research we had been accumulating. The man was to set aside three, five-to-fifteen-minute periods during the day—in the morning on arising, at noon after lunch, and at night before going to bed. During these periods he was first to compose himself by sitting quietly and concentrating on the muscles of his body, starting with his head and going all the way to his feet, telling each muscle group to relax. Then, in this more relaxed state, he was to picture himself in a pleasant, quiet place—sitting under a tree, by a creek, or anywhere that suited his fancy, so long as it was pleasurable. Following this he was to imagine his cancer vividly in whatever form it seemed to take.
Next, Carl asked him to picture his treatment, radiation therapy, as consisting of millions of tiny bullets of energy that would hit all the cells, both normal and cancerous, in their path. Because the cancer cells were weaker and more confused than the normal cells, they would not be able to repair the damage, Carl suggested, and so the normal cells would remain healthy while the cancer cells would die.
Carl then asked the patient to form a mental picture of the last and most important step—his body’s white blood cells coming in, swarming over the cancer cells, picking up and carrying off the dead and dying ones, flushing them out of his body through his liver and kidneys. In his mind’s eye he was to visualize his cancer decreasing in size and his health returning to normal. After he completed each such exercise, he was to go about whatever he had to do the rest of the day.
What happened was beyond any of Carl’s previous experience in treating cancer patients with purely physical intervention. The radiation therapy worked exceptionally well, and the man showed almost no negative reaction to the radiation on his skin or in the mucous membranes in his mouth and throat. Halfway through treatment he was able to eat again. He gained strength and weight. The cancer progressively disappeared.
During the course of treatment—both the radiation therapy and the mental imagery—the patient reported missing only one mental imagery session on a day when he went for a drive with a friend and was caught in a traffic jam. He was most upset, both with himself and with his friend, for in missing just that one session he felt his control over his condition was slipping away.
Treating this patient in this way was very exciting, but it was also somewhat frightening. The possibilities for methods of healing that seemed to be opening up before us went beyond anything that Carl’s formal medical education had prepared him for.
The patient continued to progress until finally, two months later, he showed no signs of cancer. The strength of his conviction that he could influence the course of his own illness was evident when, close to the end of his treatment, he said to Car): “Doctor, in the beginning I needed you in order to get well. Now I think you could disappear and I could still make it on my own.”