- Question from Miracle Baby: Is there a proven theory between mind/body connection in regard to imagery and 'thinking healthy thoughts'?
- Answers - Mitch Golant There is a lot of research being done in this area. Proven is too strong. We are not there yet. Where we are is that there is a mind/body connection - that our attitudes and actions impact our physiology. Is there a one to one correlation? No, we don't know that. However, that doesn't preclude us from taking the actions and behaviors and consciously applying the attitudes that we believe are valuable. If you believe prayer reduces stress, then for God's sake, pray. In the same token, if you believe exercise is valuable to reducing stress, then exercise. It is the consciousness of thinking about that connection that seems to be important. There is a body of research that believes that you can change some of the ways your brain reactions to stress. It is not a cure for cancer, but along the way you surely can improve the quality of your life a lot, and that matters. And if you are happier because your quality of life has improved, then perhaps your will to live will increase - and that just may have an impact on the immune function.
- Marisa Weiss, M.D. If you have never thought about or tried these interventions like support groups, talk therapy, and relaxation, I think it is worth opening your mind up to some of these methods of mindfulness because there may be an opportunity there for you that you have not been able to take advantage of so far. Many of my patients are skeptical about these types of things. It is frustrating for me because I want to help them and they are looking for help. But my job is to help them open their minds up to the possibility that there are things worth trying that may bring 'magic' (or just simple comfort) into their lives.
- Mitch Golant What we have learned at the Wellness Community is that what helps people make that adjustment is addressing the three psychostressors that people with cancer face - loss of aloneness, loss of control, and loss of hope. When people are unwilling to try, they are talking about a sense of hopelessness, and hopelessness always implies helplessness - that there is nothing they can do. Through support - being with others in a similar situation to themselves - you see that they are coping, they are changing, they are taking charge of things that can take charge of. When they see those changes, they see that the other persons are no different than themselves, and that helps.
- Marisa Weiss, M.D. What has been exciting for me is to see people learn new skills and learn new tools for managing many of the challenges in their lives, not just breast cancer. I find that learning how to meditate, learning yoga, learning how to talk to people in a group, are really tools that they can bring with them well beyond the breast cancer experience.
I should add that there is actually a body of research that talks about the impact of such steps on not only improving the quality of life, but enhancing survivorship. A study at Stanford University revealed that women with metastatic cancer who were in a medically-associated support group lived twice as long as those not in a support group. The women lived 38 months in the support group versus 18 months in the group that did not receive support. What is important is that the group provided several ways to enhance not only living longer, but living better. One thing that the group provided was the idea of goal reappraisal - re-evaluating your life through other people's stories. They improved their relationship with their families and friends. They found ways to reduce stress through meditation and relaxation. They faced their deepest and darkest fears. The process of connecting with each other and dealing with all of those issues helped them, not only in living longer but in living better.
The Wellness Community provides these methods as well. We often think of the program as a water fountain - drink from us as we provide education programs, relaxation, and support groups, all at no charge, because we want women with breast cancer (and all cancer) to get as much help as they can in their fight for recovery.
Marisa Weiss, M.D.
The discussion boards at www.breastcancer.org are open all the time and are available for a safe and comfortable interchange between other users of the site.
Editor's Note: The Wellness Community is now known as The Cancer Support Community.
On Wednesday, September 19, 2001, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Stress and Your Immune System. Mitch Golant, Ph.D. and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answered your questions on how stress affects your treatment, and what you can do to boost your immune system.
The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.
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