Question for Bernie
I come from the Czech Republic and I have read some of your books, which I am really grateful for. I started reading them because I have been a friend to many cancer patients. However, my challenge is a different one. I live with cerebral palsy. I find it difficult to say I suffer from it. I simply take it as a challenge and live.
However, I would like to try and do something about the CP. I have been participating in an intensive physiotherapy program that seems to be really revolutionary, and I seem to be doing so much better.
Anyway, I got to a point where I walk with the same speed as a healthy person of my age. The walking, however, looks, well, palsied.
Do you think that imagery might help me with influencing the movement to look more natural? I have never had any experience with walking the usual way, so I find it very difficult to change my disabled way, however, I would like to try. Where do you think I should start?
I would like to say that I can easily live with my CP—that it does not really stop me from doing what I do. I teach, sing, organize charity workshops and concerts, and so on. However, I would like to experiment a little and see what happens.
Have you got any idea of where and how I could start? I have never worked with imagery before, so I am at a bit of a loss. Can you help me somehow?
Yes, you can visualize yourself doing everything in a normal way from riding a bike to playing tennis and more; your body will believe what you picture and you can reprogram your brain.
I am copying your question to a friend who is with a company called Bemer to see if they can help. They make a mat which creates electromagnetic fields which can help you too.
Go ahead and get started with the imagery training now.
Question for Bernie
Thank you for such a quick response. I did not expect an answer directly from you and it is so great to know you really live what you write about. It is true encouragement for me. I feel like I should share a bit of my story, if you don’t mind. It might help others.
Four years ago, I decided to have a foot surgery due to my problems with pain after standing for longer periods of time. When I did this, I could not stand on the day after. I decided I did not want this life. I wanted to do something about it. However, I developed reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD). It hurt so much! I tried to tell my doctor, but she only told me that the pain would go away and that it was nothing to be concerned about. I could not stand at all due to terrible pain.
My mum kept telling me I was not tough enough with myself and that I should stop being such a princess. I prayed and exercised, I organized some charity events, and I finally got better. However, I felt really exhausted. I didn’t feel like doing anything for myself. I felt I needed somebody to care for me, not to just treat me.
Two weeks ago I wanted to participate in a musical therapy course, but they told me that it was unsuitable for somebody so disabled because it involved a lot of body work. It was very difficult for me to accept as I had a difficult time with the therapy program I am in.
You see, I was offered the place because the doctors wanted to test if the program used for stroke patients would work for somebody with Cerebral Palsy as well. It consists of Botox injections and then prolonged stretching of the spastic muscles. I spend over one hour every day doing my stretches. I stretch each of the muscles for more than ten minutes each time.
I earn my living as a freelancer teaching adults English and singing. I love my job, but it has weird working hours—early mornings and late nights at different schools. So it is a happy but busy life.
Anyway, I started in the program, exercised during the nights, was extremely tired, but found that physically I was getting better. However, my doctors were very strict with me. I was very honest with them and admitted when I did not manage to do my stretches (maybe once every two weeks), so I felt that it could not have influenced the results at all.
My doctors were very angry with me, though, and I wept feeling that they saw me as an object of scientific interest, touched only for medical purposes because I was a peculiar case, sort of like an insect to be studied and looked at. This became even more evident when I was refused a place at the musical therapy course for the reason that there was too much body work which I could not be expected to handle.
I was supposed to ask for a new Botox date, but I did not manage to get it because the hospital decided not to administer it during the summer. I called them every week for almost two months and they always said they did not know anything about the date. Finally they stopped administering it. When my doctor heard that I did not get the appointment, she was very angry with me for not calling in earlier. It was at this point that I almost gave up.
Then I decided to try and make up for the Botox just by relaxing in a hot bath before doing the exercise. And guess what happened… it worked, and it surprised everybody! I prayed in the tub, and I started to listen to my favorite gospel songs during the stretches. Suddenly I could enjoy the time because the hot water relieved some of the pain caused by the stretches.
I have often worked with imagery when learning or teaching how to sing, so I think it should work for my movement as well. That’s why I wrote to you, and I would like to thank you once more for responding so quickly. It gives me hope that things can work out for me—that my dreams are possible and they can happen. After four years, you helped me feel like fighting again! Thank you.
You are very welcome—it is always inspirational to work with someone so determined and so positive. Keep me informed of your progress.
Question for Bernie
I think your books are wonderful, and I hope you can help me with a specific problem. Five years ago I had Stage II breast cancer and my parents died within the year. Then my son got married and my brother stopped speaking to me.
I know I’ve been up and down a lot over this time, and I think it has affected my marriage of 42 years. Yesterday I was devastated to find out that my husband is in contact with his first girlfriend and they seem wildly in love again. He doesn’t know that I know, and she lives in a different country, so it’s all phone and email.
I really want to survive my cancer. I want to be compassionate to everyone, but this problem in my marriage is stopping me from sleeping and has put up an invisible wedge between us. How do I cope with this in the best way? I am determined to live, but I am afraid of what this stress is doing to me. Thank you.
You decide what you think—no one else controls your choice of what to focus on, so start working on meditation and loving yourself. You can survive, and you can strengthen your immune system with an unquestioning belief in yourself.
Replace the love you missed as a child or in your adult life by putting up pictures of yourself as a child and as an adult around your home. Every time you look at one of those pictures, tell that little girl or grown woman that you love her, and that she is strong, healthy, loving, and taking care of herself to stay well.
Gather your family around and tell them you are going to be a “love warrior” who won’t allow family members to pull away from each other. You are going to create a healing environment for your family because the bottom line in all families is that every single member needs the loving connection to one another to stay well and be happy. Part of that healing environment comes from open communication, without judgment and criticism—but instead, with acceptance.
Use love as your weapon. When they upset you, say “I love you” to them. Suggest that everyone try to do that rather than reacting by saying something hurtful. There may be much to work through among family members, but if everyone lives up to just one rule—to respect each other as living beings—you can begin to work through problems with positive communication. You can all learn not to engage in conversations that only support your own agenda and block open understanding of everyone’s point of view.
If you apply these suggestions to your communication with your husband, you can make him feel safe enough to really open up so you can understand what he is thinking and feeling. From that point, as long as you maintain an honest respect for each other, both of you will have equal input into whatever the future holds.
Men cause problems because in many cultures they have trouble dealing with feelings. To avoid the complexity and emotional ups and downs of human feelings, men will choose to DO things rather than FEEL things.
Ask your hubby how he is doing and listen to him. Don’t make judgments about what he says—just tell him you are grateful that he trusts you and will tell you how he is doing. Sometimes it is very hard to just listen, but by showing with your body language rather than words that you are paying close attention to what he says and really want to hear him, he will relax and move closer. This also lets him listen to what he is saying—to hear himself. This will help him discover the right thing to do for your future together.
I hope this helps—keep me informed on how you are doing, but start right now with an unshakable resolve to love yourself. Focus on the present—we all really have only today.