At the Emotional Health Centre, Therapy House, 6 Tuckey Street, Cork city we help with cancer
In a major study of breast cancer patients in England, researchers classified the women according to the way they responded to the diagnosis of breast cancer. They found four distinct approaches to the disease among the women they interviewed.
Some women rejected with complete denial that any of the signs of their disease were serious. The denial was so complete that some patients told the researchers after mastectomies that their breasts had been removed only “as a precaution”. Other women took the attitude that they could personally fight and defeat the disease. They tried to find out everything they could about breast cancer in order to conquer it. A third group acknowledged that they had cancer, accepted the diagnosis stoically, and made no effort to find out anything more about the disease. The last group reacted by simply giving up. They felt totally powerless to improve their condition and resigned themselves to an early death.
There were dramatic differences in survival rates of the four groups. 75% of the patients who responded to their diagnosis with either denial of the existence of the disease or a firm fighting spirit were alive and well 5 years later. Only 35% of the other women, those who either accepted their fate stoically or gave up completely, were still alive at the time. The patients in those two groups accounted for 88% of the women who had died 5 years later.
Findings about the importance of the mind’s role in disease have led Dr O. Carl Simonton and his wife, Stephanie Matthews-Simonton, to set up a program for terminal cancer patients. At the Simonton Cancer Counselling Centre patients practice imagery in conjunction with traditional cancer treatments. They visualize their white blood cells swarming over and gobbling up their cancer cells. Apparently it works. A study at Pennsylvania State University shoed that healthy hypnotized peole could raise their per-minute white-blood-cell count as much as 40%.
The Simonton’s also have their patients “imagine” good cells taking over and, in their mind’s eye, picture themselves as healthy and free of disease. They report that over a 4 year period they worked with 159 patients with diagnosis of incurable cancer. At the end of that period, 63 were still alive, having survived an average of 24. 4 months after this diagnosis. That was more than twice the national norm for similar cancer patients. Even the patients who had died lived one and a half times longer than ordinary patients. Of the patients who were alive, some 40% were either improving or had no evidence of the disease whatsoever. when you consider that 100% of those patients had been told they had incurable cancer, you get some idea of the importance of the mind in healing
Imagery is particularly important when working with cancer patients and while the therapist may, at times, formulate specific imageries for the patient having some trouble initiating their own, it is vitally important that the patient also be allowed and encouraged to supply their own personal imagery. And a patient’s imagery can be as varied as their fingerprints.
One patients with a supposedly incurable brain tumour visualized his brain as the solar system, his tumour as an evil invading planet and himself as the leader of the space squadron fighting a successful battle against the tumour. The imagery worked fine for him – within five months the tumour had disappeared, without benefit of any other therapy. One woman saw her cancer cells as garbage, and since she didn’t want to burden her white cells with anything nasty, she used pigs to eat up the garbage. Another woman turned her household chores into healing imageries by imagining that dishwashing suds were washing away her disease. One man imagined a great ocean wave, with foaming whitecaps, continually sloshing over his cancer. One woman imagined her immune system as the hero of an opera in which it and her cancer cells sang arias at each other until the hero prevailed. Another woman “felt” her immune system as a rushing stream washing over her. It is best to allow the subconscious mind to choose the appropriate imagery. The Hypnotherapist will incorporate suggestions for this purpose.
There is also some very strong evidence that hypnosis can help to significantly ameliorate the effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Both guided imagery and direct suggestion are effective in this regard. Evidence also exists that such therapy can be made more effective and side effects minimized by making the patient a partner in the decision to undergo the therapy. When the physician presents such therapy as an ultimatum and/or the patient agrees to the therapy because they are afraid of what might happen if they don’t, healing can be compromised and side effects intensified. The patient must be helped to approach the chemotherapy or radiation therapy out of positive motivation. It’s estimated that people who share and talk with their physicians – and who choose their therapies for positive reasons – have a fourth to a tenth of the side effects of people who just silently submit to treatment because their doctors or spouses told them they had to.
Functions of the Immune System
Hypnotherapy has a proven track record to effect the immune system through the nervous system by suggestion.
The purpose of the immune system is to destroy anything which threatens the body, e.g. bacteria, fungi, viruses, parasites.
Immune system needs to recognise when foreign material is actually good for the body, e.g. food, and to not attack it.
In pregnancy the female’s body has to adapt to invasion by non-self entities, sperm and foetus.
In auto-immune diseases, the body’s defence system turns on the patient’s body itself.
Blood, sweat, tears and tissue fluids have various biochemically active anti-bug substance (properdin, beta lysins, proteins, peptides and polyamines).
The skin is a natural barrier to infection. Friendly bacteria on the skin’s surface prevent invasion by less friendly ones. A wound therefore opens us to the risk of infection.
Bodily orifices to enable us to take in food, water and air have special skin secretions to protect the. The mucus membranes of the nose and respiratory tract have cilia (microscopic hairs) to protect them. Influenza bugs interfere with the sweeping movements of the cilia.
Accidity and the normal peristalsis of the gut prevent much bacterial overgrowth, but can be damaged by food poisoning bugs.
Most bugs which could harm us are fussy about temperature, so raising the temperature of the body can cause some of them to die off. Macrophages and other immune cells work better at higher temperatures, which is why fever often accompanies infection.
The immune system is located throughout the body. Many cells are located in the thymus, the base of the neck; the spleen, below and behind the stomach; the lymph nodes, in the armpits, groin and behind the ears; the bone marrow; the tonsils; the appendix and other parts of the gut.
Immune cells are also found in the blood. These are the white blood cells (Ieucocytes). They are carried in the bloodstream to where they are needed when an area of tissue is injured or infected.
Lymphocytes can be divided into B-lymphocytes, T-lymphocytes and natural killer cells. These latter cells can spontaneously kill certain virus-infected or cancerous cells.
Something which is foreign to the body and generates a specific immune response is called an antibody generator, known as an ‘antigen’.
Antigens are attacked by antibodies. These are a type of protein molecule called the immunoglobulins. Each antibody is unique to one particular antigen to which it responds, it starts to produce multiple copies of itself. These proliferating cells then secrete antibodies into the blood, which attacks the antigen. The whole mixture is then gobbled up by phagocytes.
Another type of immunity, cell-mediated immunity, attacks antigens inside the cells, e.g. viruses. It is also responsible for the bodys response to transplanted organs and to tumour. Its T-lymphocytes kill the target cells.
T-lymphocytes multiply and transform themselves into sub-groups with specific functions. Cytotoxic T-cells attack the antigen, then suppressor T-cells and helper T-cells become involved. Helper T-cells also stimulate B-lymphocytes to produce antibodies.
The immune system learns how to adapt to antigens and knows how to respond to antigens when it meets them again. Hence it is possible to present the immune system with a weak or partial bacterium or virus for illnesses such as polio, typhoid or tetanus.
Sleep deprivation, stress and aging can all interfere with the functioning of the immune system and make it partially ineffective.
In AIDS, the HIV destroys the bodys helper T-lymphocytes and thus allows other infections such as tuberculosis, kaposis sarcoma and pneumonia to take hold.
Autoimmune disorders e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, diabetes melatus, pernicious anaemia, ulcerative colitis and Crohns disease happens when B-lymphocytes manufacture antibodies against other cells in the same body. The ‘friendly fire’ phenomenon.
The Mind and Immunity
The central nervous system and the brain, the endocrine system and the immune system interact with each other to ensure the survival of the whole body.
The immune system detects the presence of antigens that are in the body and sends information to the central nervous system, and also lets it know how the immune system is responding to the threat posed by the antigen.
The brain can also send messages to the immune system which alters the function of the immune system.
The pathways along which messages are sent are either electrical, using nerve connection, or chemical, using hormones and neuro-peptides.
The bone marrow is connected to the central nervous system by nerves emanating from the spinal nerve in that part of the body. At least half of the network of nerve connections in the spleen transmit information to and from the brain.
Chemical messengers – immunotransmitters also act on the endocrine and central nervous system.
One of the chemical messengers, noradrenaline, can help the production of antibodies in the various immune tissues.
Cytokines are messenger molecules which act on the central nervous system and endocrine system and when released by the activated immune cells they can affect the body’s hormones and psychological state, e.g. after infection cytokine interleukin (IL – 1) acts on the brain to induce slow wave sleep and loss of appetite, (IL-6) induces fever by putting the body’s thermostat on a higher setting.
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