Waging a War Against Cancer Versus Healing Your Life

by Bernie Siegel, MD

Mother Teresa, when asked to attend an anti–war rally refused, responding to those requesting her attendance by saying, “But if you ever have a peace rally let me know and I will attend.”

We are not killers, consciously or unconsciously, and yet when you listen to the language of medicine you hear words like; poison, blast, kill, amputate, destroy, eliminate, assault and more. Unfortunately doctors are not taught how to communicate with patients and so our words and the words given to patients to read induce negative side affects. The words are coming from an authority and have an hypnotic influence. They tell you all the things which can go wrong but do not tell you what can go right. So wordswordsword are swordswordswords. Yes, they become swords which can kill or cure as a scalpel can. If we told patients that their treatment was therapeutic and then explained there were side effects but they do not happen to every patient you would go home with a different feeling and option then being told all the side effects and none of the benefits. When given placebos patients have had their hair fall out and tumors shrink because they were told that is what would happen.

We also have to remember that all the side effects of cancer are not bad. There are blessings to be found in every curse. When accepting your mortality redirects your life and helps you to heal your life and find the ability to love you will understand what I mean.

Dave, a Quaker and friend of mine with cancer, went to see his oncologist. His oncologist said to him. “I am going to kill your cancer.” Dave answered, “I’m a Quaker. I don’t kill anything.” And he walked out the door. Dave lived for twelve years doing alternative therapies. I do a lot of work with drawings and imagery and tried to get Dave to think of his immune system as soldiers or police cleaning out the cancer but Dave could not work with those aggressive images. His drawing shows his white cells carrying his cancer cells away. He wouldn’t hurt anything.

When we focus on waging a war or fighting a battle versus healing our lives and bodies we are interfering with the healing process. Another patient I know had a large mediastinal tumor and she was told by someone to image her white blood cells as dogs eating it up. Nothing happened. One day she shared that she was not comfortable being aggressive and saw her tumor as a block of ice with God’s light melting it and then it literally began to melt away.

I also see in these drawings people showing God as the source of radiation therapy and in the operating room, or holding them in the palm of His hand while they receive a bone marrow transplant. Studies show these patients are more likely to survive and have fewer side effects. I have also seen the horrendous side effects of radiation upon a woman who said, “When they put me in the room and shut the door it reminded me of the gas chamber in the concentration camp I had been in.”

When our minds and bodies are involved in a battle and a war our response is one of protection. That means we are prepared to run for our lives as our blood is diverted to parts of our brain and bodies which help us to escape. Stress hormone levels are elevated and immune function is suppressed during this time.

When we are involved in healing and see life as a labor pain of self birthing then the side effects are diminished and our body is reprogrammed to grow and heal as the stress level is reduced and immune function enhanced. What impressed me years ago and has kept me involved in mind body work is learning from the people who don’t die when they are supposed to.

Women live longer than men with the same cancers and so do married men compared to single men. The reason is not female hormones and sleeping with them but their relationships and connections. I knew a mother of nine who said, “I have nine kids and I can’t die until they are all married and out of the house.” Twenty three years later her ninth kid left home and her cancer came back. It amazed me that she could do that but sad that when she wasn’t a mother her life had no meaning. What I want everyone to do is find your unique, authentic self and not live a role or a life imposed upon you by others.

Another patient of mine was a landscaper who developed stomach cancer when he retired. He delayed surgery, because it was spring time, to go home and make the world beautiful, “So if I die I’ll leave a beautiful world.” When I told him post-operatively that I couldn’t remove all the cancer and he needn’t chemotherapy and perhaps radiation he said, “You forgot something. It’s still spring time; I am going home to make the world beautiful. So if I die I’ll leave a beautiful world.” John died at age ninety-four with no sign of cancer.

These were people who were living each day and not involved in avoiding dying. They accepted their mortality and lived meaningful lives. How many of us truly do what feels good for us to do and are capable of saying no to things that we do not want to do?

When you heal your life and find peace of mind your body gets the message too. Everything I am saying is scientific. We are capable of genetic changes and spontaneous reversals just as bacteria, viruses and plants do to resist antibiotics, vaccines and environmental changes. Our genes become active in response to the internal environment. Most women with a gene for breast cancer do not develop it. Twin sisters with the gene for breast cancer do not both develop the disease. The sister more likely to do so is the one who internalizes her anger and spends her life pleasing her parents and everyone else.

I am not saying this to place blame but to awaken you to the choices you have in your life. We are changed internally by the way we act. If I put you in a play, as an actor, I can enhance your health in a comedy and damage it in a tragedy. I know two patients who tired of their therapy, went home with extensive cancer and “Left their troubles to God.” And their cancers disappeared. No wars just peace.

So go and find what is right for you as treatment for your disease. If you are afraid of dying then do everything everyone suggests. If it is doing what is right for you and what brings you peace then go with it and know you will have fewer side effects when you decide which labor pains are worthwhile and of your choosing. I meet people who hate vegetables and would prefer chemotherapy as treatment so they can enjoy their meals at home with the family. The choice of the road to healing is yours.

Remember we all die some day and if you do things to not die you will be very bitter when you get to Heaven. The way to beat cancer is related to how you live your life and the experience and what you teach others. None of us will live forever. Death is neither a failure nor losing the battle though again, the way most doctors talk you would think it is. Let me close with a poem sent to me.

Nine months seems like a long time
I watch my body change
Tired I sit staring out at life
Books and music transport me beyond my body
Nine months finally passI give birth to my child
All the discomfort and pain is now justified

Chemotherapy and radiation
Twelve months seems like a long time
I watch my body change
Tired I sit staring out at life
Books and music transport me beyond my body
Twelve months finally pass
I give birth to myself
All the discomfort and pain is now justified

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