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April 12, 2005

Popping Cancer Reflection: The Power of Positive Thinking.

No, I'm not talking about that Robert Schuller nonsense.

Schuller was, and may still be for all I know, a popular pastor who preached a thinly-veiled prosperity gospel that said if you think positive thoughts, if you visualize what you want, the Lord will give it to you. Be good, think happy thoughts, and ask for whatever you want.

Of course, that sells to people in need (specifically, those viewers at home who are likely to mail you their life savings), but in reality it doesn't pan out.

I, for instance, am hardly a saint, but I've been through more crap in my 36 years than any of the sins I've committed could justify. No amount of positive thinking or clean living kept me from getting cancer.

Anyway, that's not the kind of positive thinking power I'm talking about.

I'm talking about HEALING once the damage has been done. People get cancer; that's how the world works. So here I am, with cancer. I have two choices: I can get gloomy and depressed and just take what comes or I can be positive and pro-active. I'm here to say that there really is a difference.

I'm here to say that my belief is that your state of mind, your thoughts and beliefs, can have a direct bearing on your course of healing.

Here I quote Bernie Siegel, M.D. from his book How to Live between Office Visits:

Laughter and joy can mean a healing, life-enhancing message going to every cell in your body, whereas shame, guilt and despair can lead to destructive messages. Your emotions are chemical. It is exciting to understand that specific thoughts can create changes in the body. When you are happy, your body knows it. When you're depressed and feeling hopeless, your body also knows that. And when I refer to your body I mean your bone marrow, the lining of your blood vessels, your liver. Every organ participates in the happiness or sadness. Consciousness and knowledge occur at the cell membrane. (Candace Pert, a neuro-physiologist, has done work with neuropeptides and in essence feels that awareness and consciousness will ultimately be located at the cell membrane.)

We know that the happy individual has a different set of neuropeptides (hormones) circulating from those of the person who is depressed, angry or anxious. Our nervous system and other organ systems through these neuropeptides are communicating with every cell in our bodies. Our gut feelings, how we deal with life, how many white blood cells we produce, how rapidly a wound heals - all of these are linked.

Or as Tim Robbins' character in The Shawshank Redemption puts it, "It comes down to a simple choice: get busy livin' or get busy dyin'"

You don't have to agree that putting away my sad movies for now or not reading depressing books or steering clear of the negative and violent and thuggish images on MTV will help with my healing, but if you do disagree, don't rain on my parade.

I believe I can beat these sarcomas, despite what doctors say. I believe that I can assist my body in healing by thinking positive thoughts and that positive imagery can help direct the poisons put in my veins to the areas that need healing. I believe that "beating" cancer doesn't have to mean going to war, but working for healing.

That's what I mean by the power of positive thinking in my life.

As always, somebody else has already said it better. I leave you with a quote from Francis Hodgson Burnett in The Secret Garden:

One of the new things people began to find out in the last century was that thoughts - just mere thoughts - are as powerful as electric batteries - as good for one as sunlight is, or as bad for one as poison. To let a sad thought or a bad one get into your mind is as dangerous as letting a scarlet fever germ get into your body. If you let it stay there after it has got in you may never get over it as long as you live.

This is why some people die at peace, and some die scared. Positive thinking can heal, and can re-define healing when necessary. Healing for me might mean removing the cancer from my body. Healing might mean getting over something I'm angry about or mending fences with someone I have a grudge against. One day, it might mean closing cirles and dying on my own terms. This is the power of positive thinking.

Posted by Dan at April 12, 2005 07:31 PM

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That was beautiful. Its an amazing outlook. My mother was diagnosed with cancer last year and now is finally done with treatment. She's doing well and overall, healed quickly. Im convinced it was because she never played the "why me" game. I never saw her cry (except when I would) and rarely got down. I know her overall positive attitude, and the support she recieved, was what got her through the treatment. Good luck to ya! I'll send some positive thoughts your way!

Posted by: LB at April 12, 2005 08:54 PM

I'm sending positive energy your way, Dan. Someday scientists will understand how prayer works -- because it really does. Sounds like they're already beginning to understand how positive thinking works.
Maybe someday along with the meds, doctors will prescribe the Marx Brothers...Calvin and Hobbes...PG Wodehouse...watching puppies.
Good luck tomorrow

Posted by: chava at April 12, 2005 09:32 PM

I can actually watch the puppies now! Some dear friends from church who read the website ponied up the money and bought me a real live DVD copy of Puppy Bowl.

You are allowed to be jealous now.

Posted by: Dan at April 12, 2005 10:06 PM

Yes! Thank you very much for being a kindred spirit. 10 years ago I was told that I had MS. Essentially I was told that they (the physicians) were very sorry for me and that I should go home and die now. After the shock wore off, I read a few books and had made up my mind by the end of the week to fight. Fight, fight, fight and never dive into the doomed thinking that I should dig a hole and pull the dirt in over myself. Flash forward to 2005, I've married, changed jobs, bought a home, two dogs and produced a set of wonderful twin children. I'm still going strong and enjoy hauling the kids to church with me. Happiness and prayer may be the ultimate Lorenzo's Oil.

Posted by: mdmhvonpa at April 13, 2005 03:35 PM

Hi, I got here via Sheila. Good luck with the chemo. And may I say that Dr. Bernie has neglected to mention one of the most uplifting healing aids out there (pun intended): gay movies! Seriously, there's nothing like gay pride to make you feel like it's all worth it, whatever *it* is. They don't even have to have "I Will Survive" in the soundtrack (although that helps ;-) Cheers.

Posted by: Sylvia at April 14, 2005 12:51 AM

absolutely writhing with jealosy. But I forgot to mention the Muppets.
My daughter says I'm not allowed to watch the Muppets with anyone but my children because I enjoy them too much and it's embarassing.

ooh - I know what's great laughter therapy! The Reduced Shakespeare Company - they do the complete works of Shakespeare in about an hour and half - it's hysterical

Posted by: Chava at April 14, 2005 02:15 PM

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