Invasive ductal carcinoma. Oncologist. Tamoxifen. Adjuvant therapy. Metastasis. Before getting cancer, I would have thought these words to be part of a foreign language. Now they are part of my every day vocabulary. They are not pretty words, and some of them, I will admit, (like metastasis) scare the living daylights out of me! There is one word, however, that I am happy to have learned from my cancer experience: Psychoneuroimmunology. Ahh, don’t ya just love how it rolls off your tongue. Psychoneuroimmunology (pronounced “kale”….just kiddin’) is the study of the interaction between psychological processes, and the nervous and immune systems of the body. In other words, it is the study of the mind-body connection.
Many best-selling books have been written about the mind-body connection: Love, Medicine and Miracles (Bernie Siegel, M.D); The Power of Positive Thinking (Norman Vincent Peale); and You Can Heal Your Life (Louise Hay), are among my favourites. Both Siegel and Hay propose that cancer can be caused by underlying psychological factors. Hay says that cancer is caused by holding on to resentment, which eats away at the spirit as cancer eats away at the body. I think she has a good point. One of the questions that Dr. Siegel asks his patients is “What happened to you in the two years leading up to your diagnosis?” He believes that traumatic life events can serve as precursors to cancer. That makes sense to me. In the two years leading up to my diagnosis, I was under stress, and lots of it!
Some people take offence to this way of thinking. “Are you saying that I caused my own cancer?” Well, not exactly, but how you live your life, how you cope with stress, and even your personality type play a role in creating an environment in your body in which cancer can grow. Here is the good news: if your mind can play a role in making you sick, it can also play a role in healing you. BINGO! That’s why I love this new word, psychoneuroimmunology (I just had to say it again). It is the reason why meditation, prayer, visualizations, affirmations, forgiveness exercises and gardening are an important part of my healing plan.
Tip: If you are going to read only one book on your cancer journey, make it Love, Medicine and Miracles.