Q & A with Bernie – July 21, 2014

Question for Bernie

I contacted you five years ago when I had my second mastectomy.  Two nodes were involved and they took eight.  I had a 75% chance of it not returning if I did nothing and it only went up into the 80’s if I did chemo.

I decided to decline the chemo and now five years later I’m still going with no evidence of a recurrence.  I recently had a bone scan and it only turned up arthritis which was not a surprise for an almost 74 year old.

Thank you for all you have done for me and for all the other cancer patients you have helped.

Bernie’s Answer

As I often say, it is a pleasure to coach a talented performer.  Keep doing the things you are doing because your body is clearly getting the message that you love it and the life you lead.


Question for Bernie

My Dad has terminal brain cancer (lymphoma) and recently fell.  He is paralyzed on his right side and unable to talk.  Can you give me any ideas or suggestions as to what direction to go?  We are all SO distressed.

Bernie’s Answer

Ask him to blink his eyes once for YES and twice for NO.  Test whether he understands that by asking him if he can do that.  If he does understand he should blink once.  Then, if he can communicate with you using this method,

  • ask him to think of himself in an all-white room, then
  • ask him if he would feel happy, and
  • if he blinks once for YES, then
  • you will know that the all-white room represents a place of peace, and he is ready to leave his body

There are times when leaving our body is the best treatment and allows us to be perfect again.

Let him know that if he needs to go, you can all handle it, and will be happy thinking about him whole and perfect again.

In my own experience, my dad’s words were, “I need to get out of here.”  My mom said, “Okay,” and he died surrounded by loved ones with my mom telling stories, which made him laugh.

He died laughing and looking wonderful, so talk about your memories with your father if he wants to go to the peace of the all-white room. He will hear you, and the memory of his leaving his body will be a good one for you and for him, just as it was for me and my father.


Question for Bernie

In the fledgling days of Community Health Care Physicians at Yale, I was brought in at age 20, a few weeks after giving birth to my first child. After a prolonged hospitalization and many transfusions, Yale sent me home. The night I got home, I hemorrhaged from my bowels terribly. My OB/GYN told me not to worry about it, and to come back in to CHCP in the morning. I told you when I got to the ER, after my family was told to make arrangements for my child, that I was going to survive, that I would prove you all wrong, and would live to 110 until my son didn’t need me anymore. You wouldn’t let them quit working on me in the ER based on what I told you even though it looked grim for my survival.

Thank you—my belief in the power of the mind over the body started then. I am now 58 years old and have been diagnosed with no less than 13 autoimmune diseases as well, as breast cancer and other serious health conditions. I have survived it all and fight daily to make the ripe old age of 110. If it weren’t for you and the other team members of Siegel Seltzer Graham and McCulloch, I wouldn’t be writing this email. This thank you has been a long time coming, but I want you to know that every night before I lay my head down and say my prayers, I thank the Lord for giving me some of the finest doctors in the world.

In those days, much wasn’t known about Crohn’s disease or its treatments. But you all gave me the best of your expertise and I am forever grateful. Through it all I have kept a positive and upbeat attitude, never letting diagnosis after diagnosis as they came along in my life break my resilience and determination to make 110 years young. Recently while visiting my cancer doctor, I broke down into tears, and then started laughing. She said, “With all you have gone through it is OK to cry, if anyone deserves to it is you.” I picked my chin up and smiled at her and said, “You know doc, there is one diagnosis I would like to add to all the ones I have received.” She looked at me horrified, then, saw my smile. I said, “I would like to have the diagnosis of hypochondriac. You see, I look at it this way, if I could just have that diagnosis then everything else would have just been a bad dream.”

Thank you, Dr. Siegel, for the gift of life, a positive attitude, and the chance to finally thank you for your insight, perseverance in saving my life that day in the ER, and for writing such wonderful books, which have supported me and many, many more people during times of duress. I, too, someday would like to write a book about my life, because it has been a roller coaster of ups and downs, diagnosis after diagnosis, hospitalization after hospitalization, and more bumps in the road then most humans could endure. But endure I have, and much of that has been because I have a strong conviction about giving your word to someone. I gave you my word when I was just 20 years old that I would be here on earth until I was 110, and I don’t have any plans on going back on it for another 52 years at least. Not everyone sticks by an ill person, but I have taken those lumps too and am still standing.

Thank you for helping me find the will to survive and for guiding me from afar for all these years.

Warmest Regards—oh hell, you deserve more than that—I’m sending you my gratitude and

Bernie’s Answer

Bless you.  You had the talent and we’ll all come to your birthday party.

I want you to take these words to heart—live your authentic life and not just for your daughter. You are much more than a mother—you are a teacher who instructs those fortunate enough to be around you by your example.

Getting the anger out about having to ride that roller coaster is really important.  Writing a book would be a good way to start.   By the way, I am still running support groups in Woodbridge.

Peace and love,