I just got off the phone with a distant relative of one of my clients. Through tears she admitted she didn’t know why she called. Over the course of the phone call her unspoken plea was to influence me to convince her loved-one to take a particular course of action against their disease process. She wanted to convey to me her deepest fears for this person’s health, as well as her opinion as to what this person should be doing. I’m not at liberty to share anything with this relative, but spoke to her with stories from Please Dance at My Funeral: A Celebration of Life.
Dr. Norman Cousins wrote The Anatomy of An Illness, in which he discusses his own disease that had no known treatment cure. “He improved the quality of what time he had left to live because of his self-empowerment and positive attitude. He emphasized that belief in recovery is so important, and that all the medical intervention should not over shadow the role of the patient.”
Years ago, a client called me when her mother was diagnosed with cancer. She pleaded with her mother to consider alternatives to what the mother’s physician had recommended. When I asked what her mother wanted to do, the client spelled out the surgeries and follow-up treatments. “This wasn’t the choice the daughter wanted for her mother, nor was she very happy with my response. I urged my client to refrain from telling her mother that her choices were wrong.” I asked my client to get behind her mother’s choice if her mother believed this was the course of action necessary for her survival. “When we are surrounded with a negative and judgmental environment, our beliefs can be undermined, and the success of our healing process can become compromised.”
Rather than succumbing to helplessness because we can’t convince them to do what we want, we can offer our loved one our love, our support, a shoulder to lean on, our ability to deeply listen, and to do so unconditionally, regardless if the choices and beliefs of the patient are not aligned with what we might choose for our self.
What we believe impacts our reality.
“In the early 1980s, Dr. Bernie Siegel lectured often around Yale, and other Connecticut locations, before he finished his first book and became the famous oncologist and author he is today. He used to talk for hours, and show slides of pictures that were drawn by his patients which depicted their attitudes about their cancer.
One of the significant things I remember about his talks was his emphasis on people’s reactions to their illness. At this point he often became animated, yet very sad, as he spoke of encouraging his patients to make changes in their lives appropriate to the stress, or conditions, which probably contributed to the onset of their cancer.
Sometimes these suggestions would be to get a divorce, to leave a job, to move out of a relationship, or to stand up to a boss or family member. He offered support an understanding to patients who needed to make a choice to improve their health, to allow them a second chance at healing—survival. The majority of his patient’s responses were: I can’t leave my job, Doc. Just cut out the cancer. It would disrupt my family too much to get a divorce, I just can’t I’ll take my chances on survival.”
“A general surgeon who understood this connection between the body and emotions, and with years of surgical experience, once sadly expressed that by removing certain organs or tissues, he had eliminated the body’s voice that was attempting to communicate the presence of some deeper emotional or spiritual concern which had been ignored, and needed attention.”
Albert Schweitzer said, “The greatest discovery of any generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.”
The resolution and healing of our inner being is within our control, and this may also bring a cure to the physical body. But if it does not, we are not guilty of failure. Although we are intimately involved with our sickness and health, we are not in charge of what ultimately happens, no matter what we do. We can affect our attitudes and behavior, we can work on emotions and repressed fears, and we can develop forgiveness and loving kindness. But the result of this goes beyond our personal dominion. We should not feel, at any time, that we are a failure if our healing falls below our expectations; and we should never be put in a position of feeling that we have failed our doctors or our family for not fulfilling their expectations.
Regardless of which treatment is chosen, healing is an inside job. Prior to any decisions, one needs to become informed and understand the options and probable outcomes. After weighing the pros and cons, take into consideration what resonates with you…with your heart and mind. What options stand out that feels right to you and that you can believe in whole-heartedly.
Disease is a life altering experience. To tend to our disease while going about our days as if nothing has changed is not conducive to healing. Like the examples Dr. Bernie Siegel gave, if there is nothing in our lives we are willing to change to improve our state of health, then we have made no effort to listen to what our body is trying to communicate. If we continue to ignore our body’s plea to eliminate stressors or life style which has caused imbalance, then we have not made any effort to alter the disease’s course of impact on the body.
Genuinely relinquish your fears for your loved-one, surround them with light and love for the best possible care and guidance, and continue to lift them up for their highest and best outcome.
- July 2014 Newsletter – Adjusting to Assisted Living
- September 2014 Newsletter — How to Stay Out of the Ruts