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Excerpted from Minding the Body, Mending the Mind by Joan Borysenko. Copyright 1988 by Joan Borysenko. Excerpted by permission of Random House, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"Numerous studies have shown that attitude may be a mechanism of profound importance in determining the course of at least some cancers."

Joan BorysenkoMinding the Body, Mending the Mind, Part 2

In the late 1950s, Dr. Bruno Klopfer was treating a patient with an advanced, widespread lymphoma, a serious cancer of the immune system. The now discredited drug Krebiozen was being touted at the time as a potential cure, and shortly after Dr. Klopfer administered the drug, the patient's cancerous growths "melted like snowballs." The patient was released from the hospital, apparently free of disease. A few months later, when newspapers began to carry accounts of the worthlessness of the drug, the patient's tumors promptly recurred. Suspecting that the agent at work was the patient's belief, Klopfer announced that he would give him a specially prepared, more active form of the drug. in fact, he treated his patient with distilled water, yet once again the tumors melted away. In a few more months definitive studies were published showing beyond a doubt that Krebiozen was worthless. The patient became disillusioned, his tumors reappeared, and he quickly died.

Patients of the same age, sex, and physical status undergoing the same therapy often fare very differently with the same cancer. While an average time of survival can be determined, some people live much longer than expected and others die far more quickly than predicted. Numerous studies have shown that attitude may be a mechanism of profound importance in determining the course of at least some cancers.

In one study done by Dr. Steven Greer and his collaborators at the King's College Hospital in England, the attitude of fifty-seven women treated with mastectomy for early-stage breast cancer was related to survival ten years later. Of the women who faced the disease with a fighting spirit or whose denial was so strong that they believed there was no disease, fifty-five percent were alive and well after ten years. Among the women who felt hopeless and helpless or who stoically accepted their fate, only twenty-two percent were alive after ten years.

A study done by Dr. Yujiro Ikemi and his colleagues in Kyoto, Japan, centered on a small group of survivors from cancers usually considered incurable. The patients all told a similar story. Their reaction to the diagnosis was one of sincere gratitude for whatever life they might have remaining. They focused on the glass as half full rather than half empty. The cancer had appeared in all five patients at a time of severe existential crisis. The patients had refrained their crises as an opportunity to resolve the issues that led up to them. They were challenged by, and accepted responsibility for, their situations. Finally, all the patients completely and sincerely committed themselves to the will of God.

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