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The Vital Intangibles

Paul Edwards

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Ralph H Blum is a prostate cancer survivor who is the co-author of a book "The Invasion of the Prostate Snatchers" and a blog of the same name.  His co-author, Dr Mark Scholz, is an eminent American medical oncologist who has specialised exclusively in the treatment of prostate cancer since 1995. 


Ralph has kindly given us permission to publish this article from their blog.  I wish I could write like this!


After living with prostate cancer for over two decades, there are some things that really stick in my mind as a “need to know” for anyone newly diagnosed with the disease. The most relevant of these is the major impact you can have on your own healing.

Greg Anderson who, after surviving “terminal” lung cancer, founded the Cancer Recovery Foundation, once said, “Retaining a medical team without doing everything you can to help yourself is like attempting to walk with one stilt.”

Your doctors will primarily be focused on attacking the tumor.  It is your responsibility to support your mind, body, spirit—and your immune system.  When I was first diagnosed, my ignorance about the immune system was monumental.  Since then I’ve learned that my brain is constantly sending my immune system chemical messages which, for better or worse, influence its ability to function effectively.

A diagnosis of cancer tends to be overwhelming, and can generate feelings of disempowering fear and of loss of control. These responses have a negative physiological impact on the immune system. So reclaiming a sense of being in charge of your own life and health is an important foundation of the healing process.

There is growing evidence that creating high levels of well-being with proper nutrition, adequate exercise, stress management and emotional support is as necessary to your recovery as whichever cancer treatment you choose.

After understanding your diagnosis you will have several treatment options.  Depending on the results of your pathology report, your doctor will recommend what he considers to be the best treatment program for you.  But you need to play the central role in this decision.  A passive, “Whatever you say, doc,” attitude will not serve you.

Before you commit to any treatment it is essential that you thoroughly research it, and are convinced that it is the right treatment for you.  It is equally essential that you follow it with conviction, with the belief that it will be successful.  Hope, optimism, and excited belief are the great intangibles.  The correlation between belief in treatment and effectiveness of treatment is extremely high.

Remember: Your medical team will be addressing just one part of your cancer journey.  It is up to you to focus on your general health, and to examine your attitudes and your beliefs.  According to a relatively new field of health psychology called “illness representation,” your beliefs and expectations really do impact the outcome of the disease.

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