Someone once said that for every disease on the planet there is somebody who healed it naturally. The sudden, unexplained disappearance of a fatal disease – for example stage 4 cancer – is a phenomenon going back into the mists of time. Scientists generally gloss over these rare cases, and often prefer to discount them as fake. Stephen Barrett, a retired psychiatrist, operates Quackwatch. He states “most testimonials for quack cancer remedies are based on faulty original diagnosis or simultaneous administration of effective treatment”.
But most spontaneous remissions of cancer occur when doctors have written the patient off. The case of Anita Moorjani is now world famous. Expected to die of cancer within hours, a spiritual experience led to her being up and walking about within weeks of the death-bed experience. This experience, she claims, revealed the repressed emotions that had caused her cancer. Her book Dying to be me contains copies of her medical records.
Another famous case is that of Alice Epstein, a mathematician and sociologist. In 1985, when she was in her fifties, she was diagnosed with cancer of the kidney, but after having her left kidney removed was told one month later the cancer had spread to both her lungs and she had only two to three months to live. Epstein believed she had a ‘cancer-prone personality’. Like Moorjani, she suppressed her own needs in order to please others, and so turned to psychotherapy and spirituality to begin work on her difficulty expressing anger and depression. At the same time she refused medical treatment for her lung cancer. Six weeks after beginning therapy her tumours began to shrink and had gone before the year was over. She lived until she was 86 and died in 2013.
A third case is that of John Matzke. Diagnosed with fatal skin cancer age 30, he refused treatment and withdrew from normal life, spending a month hiking, eating healthily and meditating, particularly the form of meditation that involved imagining his body destroying the cancer cells. His scan later showed the cancer shrinking until it had disappeared. Matzke died of a brain tumour 18 years later, but this is still an interesting case because doctors spotted white rings around his skin tumours, which is known as a halo sign. This is considered to be evidence that the immune system is attacking the cancer cells. Something caused Matzke’s immune system to kick into action.
The immune system has been recognised to be the key to spontaneous remission for centuries. In the 1700s doctors noticed that some cancer patients who suffered serious infections recovered from their cancer shortly afterwards. However, infecting cancer sufferers with disease – at the time syphilis, gangrene – often resulted in the patients dying from the infections rather than the cancer. Nowadays by the time a cancer patient is near death, the immune system is so compromised – often as a result of chemotherapy – any infection is likely to hasten death even more.
Normally cancer cells are dealt with fast in a healthy body. Cancers have to trick the body’s defense systems in order to grow to the point where they are a threat. Spontaneous remission of terminal disease remains, however, a rare phenomenon. The question is, are these cases flukes, or is there some pattern to them?
In 1987, Drs van Baalan, de Vries and Gondrie published research listing the factors instrumental in bringing about spontaneous remission of cancer. Likewise Dr Kelly Turner, a PhD who trained at Harvard and UC Berkeley, interviewed people all over the world who had experienced remission from Stage 4 cancer. Many of them had chosen to refuse Western medical treatment. She found a common thread in all of their stories:
1. Taking a natural remedy such as herbs or vitamins.
All the special remedies differed, but the one common factor was the belief the remedy worked. Stephen Barrett describes the placebo effect as one of the reasons why quack treatments work, but if the placebo effect cures cancer, then this is not quackery.
2. Change of diet.
Poor diet puts the body under stress. With a healthy diet the body can devote all its resources to fighting disease.
3. Positive emotions.
Joy and happiness are not the immediate emotions that spring to mind when faced with a cancer diagnosis and this is probably partly why spontaneous remission is so rare. Having the self-mastery to change one’s thoughts about an illness and to nip negative emotions in the bud is a powerful tool that can reverse fatal disease. Optimism and happiness activate healing hormones such as oxytocin, dopamine, nitric oxide and endorphins. This activates the body’s natural anti-cancer system.
4. Using intuition to take decisions.
It takes guts to go against medical advice. Of course most medical advice is sound and it doesn’t take guts to carry on smoking or refusing to exercise, but when faced with a fatal disease choosing to consult one’s own intuition is seen as a risky business. Most people simply hand their bodies over to the doctors and relinquish any personal responsibility for their condition. Taking charge of one’s body and health and – even more importantly – taking responsibility is an attitude that has a preventative effect but can also turn the body around even when death is imminent.
This is a difficult one. Deathbed conversions are rare these days, and one wonders if the majority of those in the past were not rooted in fear of the stories told from the pulpit. But feeling a connection to the human race, to the earth and the divine, whatever we understand that to be, has been found again and again to be instrumental in the cure of disease. However, praying for a cure needs to be combined with …
6. Releasing repressed emotions
Repressed emotions are perceived by the amygdala as a threat, and activate the fight-or-flight response, filling the body with stress hormones and deactivating the immune system. Anger, grief, resentment and guilt are particularly bad, as are pessimism, a sense of victimhood and paranoia. Some experts have also suggested cancer is caused by an unresolvable conflict. Examples include wishing for something to happen but fearing the consequences, desiring something intensely that will be hurtful or shocking to someone whose opinion we value, and a psychological insight that threatens the ego and the assumptions of a lifetime. For example, a strong catholic who believes divorce is a sin but who is unhappy in his/her marriage, or a proud or narcissistic person faced with evidence they made a business or parenting mistake, or falling in love with someone else while still loving one’s partner. Sometimes addressing and resolving such conflicts is a matter of life and death. In such cases therapy, meditation and other helpful treatments such as EFT can be the first step to avoiding or overcoming illness. Anita Moorjani’s explanation of her spectacular return from the brink of death is a ‘meeting’ with her late father while unconscious, who released her to live her life as she wished.
To date the scientific evidence that mind-body connections might induce self-healing is limited. Nonetheless, evidence is growing that the mind plays a powerful role in both the development of cancer and its treatment.
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