Almost all cancer patients remember the moment of their diagnosis, and this is true for me as well. Yet even in the frenetic setting of the emergency room, I received the words “You have advanced lung cancer” as part of a new pathway that could lead me to deeper wholeness. The reason I was able to accept the diagnosis in this spirit is that since 1989, I have been reading and rereading Love, Medicine and Miracles, and the vision of this book has become part of my genetic code. Bernie Siegel’s own experiences and revelations had long-ago awakened in me the truth that whatever life gives us is a chance for us to grow and become more whole.
What was crucial for me in the cancer journey was finding doctors who are open to the mind-body connection. I found great medical wisdom and support at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine, where nutrition, meditation, and envisioning are part of the overall treatment plan.
From my work at the Benson-Henry Institute flowed an invitation to speak at a Mind-Body Resiliency conference for doctors and other caregivers at Harvard Medical School regarding the power of the patient-doctor relationship. I was able to share that when doctors have been positive, humane, and hopeful, my immune system has flourished, and I am able to then go forth renewed and energized to give love to all those in my life. When doctors have been negative, my immune system has become depressed, causing physical problems to manifest. Painful encounters between doctors and patients induce stress, whereby chemicals are released in the body that impede the function of white blood cells — and we need those white blood cells to function properly, as they are relevant to helping the body prevent cancer cell proliferation.
Every patient-doctor encounter is an opening to an I-Thou relationship, where both parties can receive healing energy. Since my diagnosis, I have discovered a pathway that is as real as any cellular pathway within the body, and that is, when a caregiver is kind and empathetic and positive, the immune system of a patient is strengthened, thus allowing the body to be more receptive to medical intervention.
This past winter, I heard of a lama who healed himself from gangrene through meditation. Herein lies yet another example of hope, just as all the examples of hope in Love, Medicine, and Miracles: that we can actively participate in our lives, including our illnesses, and that we can do all we can to support our bodies in the most positive way possible, including finding doctors who believe in us, care for us, and want us to thrive. In doing this, we become even more fully alive and fully human.
As Bernie Siegel would say, Peace, Love, and Healing.
Nila J. Webster ([email protected])