October 24, 2007
Contradictions in the Media - Opinion
Yesterday, these three articles appeared in the media:
Healthy Lifestyle Will Boost Your Immune System Better Than a Handful of Supplements
Happy Thoughts Help People Cope With Fear of Dying
Exercise And Psychological Counseling Could Ease Cancer-related Fatigue
Look at these articles from the day before:
Emotions Not Factor In Cancer Survival
Emotional Wellbeing Has No Effect On Cancer Survival, New Study
Cancer not affected by emotions
Emotions do not affect cancer survival
Emotions do not affect cancer survival: study
Emotions do not affect cancer survival: study - Yahoo! News
These articles from two days ago were all dealing with the same study.
Mainstream media was very quick to pick up on this one study and display
the bad news as fact. I can personally attest to how outcome is
affected by attitude - for myself and as a witness to others'
struggles. From my own experience, this study is absurd.
What the "debunkers" of the role that the placebo effect and emotions
play on healing do not seem to realize is that these things can serve as
catalysts in sick people to spark them to find the treatments that do
work for them specifically and to take charge of their own health.
Without hope, people have nothing. In clinical trials, people passively
take whatever the doctor - or researcher - prescribes for them.
They are not learning to listen to their bodies and to see what
is having an effect and what isn't . They are giving up their own power
to a trial. I once attended The College of Integrative Medicine here in
Tucson and was asked to participate in a feedback session. It turned
out to be a very informative session - not because I learned anything in
particular about how effective the program was. It was fascinating to
hear other people's impressions of their treatments. At the college,
you're given a proposal of treatments to try - I was given an outline
including everything from acupuncture to journaling to Watsu (a physical
therapy form of swimming and muscle manipulation). Every recommendation is personalized. People were at this feedback session who had
different results with their treatment programs - some thought it was
working wonders while others thought that there was absolutely no
effect. One hundred percent of the people (based upon my subjective and
unscientifitc observation) who said they were getting better were taking
charge of their own health and well being and doing what they felt
worked for them, while all of the people who attested to no improvement
or to getting worse were taking what I like to call the "fix me"
approach to wellness. They were taking a very passive approach and were
extremely negative in the way they spoke - many of them spoke about
monetary issues or some other excuse which was preventing them from
healing. They would never know why they weren't getting better. They
simply weren't. Very often, they were too depressed to try anything to
heal. When I was getting well, I remember walking back and forth in my
home and touching each door - front and back - fifty to one hundred
times each day. This cost me nothing but provided my legs with much
needed exercise and support. I had hope and the belief and
determination that I would get better. Without that, I never would have
gotten myself out of bed each day to perform these exercises or any of
the other things I tried on my journey to recovery. I never would have
gotten out of bed.
I can personally attest to witnessing people not recovering from a
chronic or debilitating illness. They all had one thing in common.
They entrusted someone else with their own health and "knew" in their
hearts that they were either dying or getting worse. When I've seen
allopathic (Western) medicine working, it's when the "patient" is
certain of his or her eventual recovery from whatever the doctors did in
response to whatever was ailing them. They were all told that the
prognosis for their recovery was excellent if they followed a certain
protocol. In other words, it was ultimately up to them to get better.
They seemed to know it and did something about it.
My single mother had hip replacement surgery which I was unable to
attend or to help her in person. She chose a recovery facility which
doubled as a nursing home. For days, she was doing poorly. I even
received a letter from the facility talking about payment for her
permanent relocation there.
I received another letter from an aunt telling me to come home. My
mother was only taking three steps and was failing. I called her on the
phone, explaining to her that she was in a nursing home (she hadn't
realized this fully before) and that she was going to stay there without
ever seeing her home again unless she worked like crazy to recover and
get out of there. The next day, she took thirty steps. Eventually, she
did get out of there and returned to her home where she lives to this
The point to this story is that I have seen the power of the "placebo"
effect in action, and it isn't only in the miraculous power found in the
belief of a sugar pill. It lies in its power to make us work - and work
hard - to improve. To need to get better. What scientists and
researchers seem to equate to a sugar pill is the craziest form of
hubris, akin to an obese person watching an exercise program from the
comfort of her couch in the belief that she will lose weight. Do I
believe in the power of the mind to heal? Do I believe the mind can make
a difference in our wellness and healing? Absolutely. This is what I
always say: Thought minus action equals nothing. But thought plus
action equals the world. Excuse me, I have some more healing to do.