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MagazineNovember 2005 (Vol. 16 Issue 8)Main feature

Take responsibility for your illness and your treatment and your life

Take responsibility for your illness and your treatment and your life. In one study of nine patients who survived confirmed diagnoses of terminal cancer, all assumed responsibility for the disease (J Hum Psychol, 1989; 29: 59-83).

Meditate. University of Wisconsin professor of psychology Richard Davidson has recently demonstrated that just a few weeks of meditation measurably raises the immune system. Furthermore, his studies of Tibetan monks also show that meditation increases those electrical firings in the brain thought to be consistent with a joyous frame of mind (NeuroReport, 2000; 11:1581-5; Psychosom Med, 2003; 65: 564-70).

Affirmations. These verbalised statements cleanse your mind of negativity and fear by autosuggestion, to lay the ground for expected positive outcomes. The idea is that constant repetition of a statement, usually stated as fact ("I am healthy and well"; "I have always been healthy and well") seeds the unconscious.

Visualise. Visualisation is the knack of using internal imagery to create a desired outcome. The techniques developed by Dr Bernie Siegal and Dr Carl Simonton have the patient actively imagine the cancer cells as a metaphorical drama, Forgive and Reconcile. In study after study of spontaneous regression of cancer, the patient has a huge psychological shift: a religious convention, a reconciliation, a new partner or marriage (Am Soc Psychosom Dent Med, 1983; 30: 151-5).

Meet in cancer groups, to discuss your problems and get emotional support.

Choose a doctor who believes it is possible for you to recover. You want someone who also believes you are not automatically terminal.

Live your dream. Lawrence LeShan believes that cancer patients are road-blocked in their quest to live their true identity, so they live lives of obligation, not 'enthusiasm and joy'. What is your real life purpose? If you're not doing it, start now to 'sing your special song'.

Try neurolinguistic programming (NLP). This technique can help to 'reprogramme' your mind with positive thoughts, expectations and attitudes.

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