In the 2019 Sundance awarding-winning movie The Farewell by director Lulu Wang, there is a powerful scene where the uncle expresses a common Chinese philosophy about cancer: “People don’t die of cancer — they die of the fear.” This dialogue occurs between the granddaughter of the diagnosed grandmother, and her uncle. The family has chosen NOT to tell the aging grandmother that she has Stage 4 Lung cancer. That it is the family’s responsibility to “carry her” through her journey, without telling her the extent of the dis-ease.
That statement in the movie is a powerful truth that is expressed in the Asian culture. Being afraid is common when you first discover you have cancer. There are ways that you can gently manage your emotions, however, so that they become your allies, not your enemies, on your healing journey. (PS – This movie is a “must watch”! Spoiler alert – it has a happy ending which supports how powerful your mindset can be.)
Science Confirms Emotions Play a Part in Healing
“Many years ago as a young doctor, I personally felt the hopelessness of terminal cancer as I walked beside my father in his own diagnosis and treatment,” says Dr. Tony Jimenez, founder of the Hope for Cancer Centers and author of the book Hope for Cancer: 7 Principles to Remove Fear and Empower Your Healing Journey. “I wanted nothing more than to help him heal. So I began seeking a deeper understanding of cancer. I wanted to understand its causes and I wanted to find its cure. What I found was that our greatest hope of overcoming cancer was in combining the physical, mental and emotional aspects of healing…”
Dr. Jimenez is right on with in this statement. Now there is a strong and growing list of evidence-based research studies to support it. Other visionary natural health advocates say the same thing. In his enlightening new book Regenerate, Sayer Ji (Green Med Info) explains the connection between doctor-instigated fear brought on by a cancer diagnosis and both suicide and heart attack.
“Cancer patients were 5.6 times more likely to die from heart-related causes, such as heart attack, in the days after receiving a positive cancer diagnosis—not from the cancer but from the heartbreak and devastation wrought by the news,” he says, citing a 2012 Swedish study.
This connection was seen especially within the first 12 weeks after diagnosis. It was also most prevalent in those individuals that had received a “terminal” diagnosis.
“…That the divinations of the doctor have the power to predict a person’s imminent demise shows us how the words and rituals of Western medicine create potentially harmful power dynamics between physician and patient.”
Dr. Lisa Rankin, author of Mind Over Medicine, compares the power that doctors have on patient outcomes to the “nocebo effect.” In a recent blog, she cites a double-blind trial where 25% of the volunteers who were warned of certain side effects from a drug actually experienced them, even though they were given only sugar pills.
Negative Emotions Feed Cancer
There is another piece of the mind-body-emotions connection concerning cancer that occurs at the microscopic level.
Cancer cells “advertise,” so to speak, for adrenaline by putting out what are called adrenergic receptors. These receptors respond to the overabundance of stress hormones (also called catecholamine hormones) that naturally occurs during stress.
The result, which has been documented by a handful of studies so far, is poor treatment results when using chemotherapy and poor prognosis in general. In some cancers, the overabundance of adrenaline can even lead to an increased expression of certain oncogenes and mechanisms that ensure cancer cell survival.
What Can You Do About It
Your body can heal faster and in more profound ways than ever before when it is placed in an environment that it can do so. I have written many articles in the past about the power of the relaxation response. In fact, making the slightest change to lifestyle and diet can often slant the body towards healing. A study led by Dr. Dean Ornish found that simple lifestyle/dietary changes helped to up-regulate 48 tumor-suppressing genes and down-regulate over 400 tumor-promoting ones!
Take Time Every Day to Turn Fear into Healing
When I first began my second healing journey with Breast Cancer, I often woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat reacting to the subconscious fear, as well as the shock and “disappointment” in my myself.
Eventually, as I dove into the work of healing, the fear turned to gratitude, hope and a firm conviction that I was doing all that I could to turn things around.
This is what I wish for you, but you have to take it one step at a time. The power of this path lies in the little actions you take every day. Here are five such steps you can start today:
#1 Have a Healing Plan that works for you.
Your worries will lessen when you know that you are doing all that you can to be proactive about your healing. Few of us are 100% confident that all of the choices we have made along the way are the “correct” ones. What we can do, however, is the best we can to put a protocol plan in place that we can feel confident in, based on own research, the consultation of healing professionals we respect and our own intuitive “gut” feeling about our own bodies. A great place to start to get the general information you will need can be found in the new edition of my Heal Breast Cancer Naturally book.
#2 Get support.
Surround yourself with individuals who will support you in whatever decisions you make. These individuals don’t necessarily have to be your closest family members and friends (and many times, they are not). Hundreds of women have found a supportive, like-minded community through the 7 Essentials System™ Healing Diva retreats, one-one coaching, group coaching and other support services.
#3 Do your emotional work.
If you have fears that linger or turn into anxiety, depression or hopelessness, they may be connected to unresolved traumas. Trauma can be created by the experience of the cancer diagnosis itself, or may have been formed years ago. The good news is that there are a LOT of modalities out there that can assist you in healing them, and the chronic stress that accompanies them. Emotional Freedom Technique (i.e. Tapping) and EMDR are two proven techniques.
#4 Connect to a source of inspiration larger than you.
Studies have found that those who have some kind of regular spiritual practice such as prayer have significantly decreased stress responses in general.
#5 Do activities you enjoy.
Take up a hobby you have always wanted to try. Watch a funny movie. Enjoy a good belly laugh with a friend. Pet a cat. Take a dog for a walk. Paint a picture. Dance to a piece of music. Curl up with a good book and a hot cup of tea. Volunteer. Take the time to really enjoy life, unplug from your worries and reconnect to the beauty of life every day.
#6 Practice gratitude every day.
Take the time to appreciate all the good things in your life right now. Write them down in a gratitude journey.
If you do this practice and the others mentioned every day, feelings of gratitude, hope and faith in your body’s ability to heal will begin to grow exponentially within you. What’s more, your Healthy Breast journey will more successful and better for it overall.
Dr. Veronique Desaulniers, better known as Dr. V, is the founder of The 7 Essentials System ™, a step-by-step guide that teaches you exactly how to prevent and heal Breast Cancer Naturally. To get your F.R.E.E. 7-day mini e-course, and to receive her weekly action steps and inspiring articles on the power of Natural Medicine, visit https://breastcancerco.wpengine.com/.