The doctor said it was stage 4, now the test says he is cancer-free!
A few months ago, my officemate looked scared. The doctor was straightforward when he declared “you have stage 4 cancer.” My officemate went to see another doctor for a second opinion. This time, she’s warm and reassuring lady. She comforted my friend, “ There’s still something we can do together. Let’s do our best while we keep praying to God. And don’t worry too much, it’s only stage 3b.”
My friend underwent chemotherapy and took the right medicines. A few days ago, he came to my room happily waving a test result sheet concluding there is no more cancer in any part of his body. I asked him if he had troubled sleep in the days before this finding. He admitted that he and his caring wife always slept well. They just followed the advice I gave him which is to “offer praise to God every time you felt worry or fear.” That was what St. Paul did when he was in jail with Silas.
I was sure that the attitude of the doctor also made a difference.
Believe and get healed
The medical community is constantly examining these two concepts: placebo and nocebo.
A placebo is just a sugar and water pill. Or a saline injection. It has absolutely no medical property but it is proven and well-documented to cure sick people! It works purely on people’s belief that they were given real medicine.
Dr. Lissa Rankin is just one of the many physicians who have written books about how the mind heals the body. In the book "Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You can Heal Yourself," Dr. Rankin mentioned how placebos have been proven to work in numerous studies. For example, “When given placebos, bald men grow hair, blood pressure drops, warts disappear, ulcers heal, stomach acid levels decrease, colon inflammation decreases, cholesterol levels drop, jaw muscles relax…” She also cited the case in which 71% of patients got better after a fake (placebo) surgery on their injured knees.
The rate of healing by placebo is very high and it is recognized by the medical community.
When a new drug is being tested, drug companies are required to prove it is better than a placebo. Half the patients are given the real medicine and half are given a placebo. For ethical reasons of “informed consent”, the test subjects must be told that what they’ve been given was possibly a real drug or possibly a placebo. Dr. Rankin argues that the efficacy of a placebo would be significantly higher if the patients didn’t have any doubt that they got the real medicine, even if it was just a sugar pill or a saline injection.
How Stress Makes Us Sick
Stress is what we feel when we are angry, worried, anxious, sad, jealous or scared. In these states of mind, the brain thinks that we are either going to fight or to run away because we inherited these responses from our ancestors. So, the brain supplies more energy to the legs and the limbs, the body parts we use when fighting and running. As a result, energy is taken away from our immune system. The “grounded” immune system cannot repair tissues and organs, it cannot stop the growth of cancerous cells and infections. In this state of constant alert, the heart beats faster, blood vessels are constricted. There is also an overproduction of the body chemicals cortisol and adrenaline which are harmful to the body when in excess. This condition is called the stress response. It may also cause us to lose sleep, appetite and the capacity to feel joy.
Think Sick, Feel Sick
The nocebo effect is the opposite of the placebo effect. It is anything that makes us feel sicker. It may be, for example, a doctor coldly saying you have only six months to live,
it may be a news report saying that your medicine has been found ineffective, or you’ve been told you’ve been cursed through voodoo, etc. These threats create more stress to exacerbate your illness.
Dr. Rankin cited a finding by Dr. Herbert Benson, Harvard professor and president of the Mind/Body Medical Institute. Dr. Benson reported, “Those who were convinced they were going to die (in surgery) usually did.”
“Similarly, women who believed they were prone to heart disease were four times more likely to die. It’s not because these women had poorer diets, higher blood pressure, higher cholesterol…” Their only difference with the healthier group of women was their own negative beliefs about their health. Dr. Benson noted that 90% of visits to the doctor are caused by stress.
My mother was a hypochondriac. She suspected everything to be cancer-causing. She eventually died of cancer even though it's so rare in her family.
How Love Heals
The warmth of the doctor and the nurses contribute a lot to the healing process. If they reassure us that they will do everything medically possible for us, that there’s so much hope, they elicit the relaxation response which is the opposite of the stress response. Dr. Rankin wrote, "When the conscious forebrain thinks positive thoughts and feels things like love, connection, intimacy, pleasure, and hope, the hypothalamus stops triggering the stress response.”
Dr. Bruce H. Lipton quoted Dr. Bernie Siegel who reported in The New York Times, “Scientific studies of longevity, medical and mental health, happiness and even wisdom point to supportive relationships as the most robust predictor of these positive attributes in our lives across the life span.”
Doctors we trust and like seem to increase the efficacy of drugs.
The Biology of Belief
Dr. Lipton is a stem cell biologist and an awarded scientist. In his famous book "The Biology of Belief," he cited “epigenetic” research in which it was proven that “brain cells translate the mind’s perceptions (beliefs) of the world into complementary and unique chemical profiles that, when secreted into the blood, control the fate of the body’s 50 trillion cells. “When we change our beliefs, we change our body.
Dr. Lipton reassured that the relaxation response can be induced by yoga, deep breathing and prayer. And also love, which is “the polar opposite of fear.” But he advised that for belief to change our health, we must be able to reprogram our “autopilot,” the subconscious mind, which is “more than a million times more powerful than the conscious mind.”
The subconscious has so much influence over our body because it is the one that “directs” all processes inside our body without us even becoming aware of it.
To empower our subconscious, we must be consistent and constant in our positive thoughts as we leave no room for doubt. Dr. Joseph Murphy, in the landmark book "The Power of the Subconscious Mind," likened the subconscious to a fertile patch of soil. The conscious mind will plant the seeds of belief, and the subconscious will work on its own to make the seeds grow and bear fruit.
Dr. Murphy believes that one way to implant positive seeds in our subconscious is to pray with confidence.
That ’s also how we’ve been taught to pray. “Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24).
Jesus’ healing ministry emphasized the power of belief when he said “Your faith has healed you” (Mark 5:34). We were also warned against disease-causing negativity in “Anxiety wears down the heart but a kind word cheers it up” (Proverbs 12:25) and “ A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 7:22 ).
God is so awesome, He created a human body that can heal if we believe, think only good thoughts, have no fear and worry, and follow the commandment to love one another.
But we must not forget the other reminder that our body is God's temple that we should take care of (Corinthians 3:16-17).
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About the Author:
Robert Labayen spent 22 years in advertising prior to joining ABS-CBN in 2004. He was VP-Creative Director at Saatchi & Saatchi and Executive Creative Director at J. Walter Thompson, two of the country's leading ad agencies. He is currently the Head of Creative Communications Management at ABS-CBN. His job involves inspiring people to be their best. He is a writer, painter and songwriter.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.