Back in 1990, I got chemo every Wednesday and that evening we would take our girls to Shoney’s Restaurant for supper because kids 12 and under (of which we had three!) were free. I was always pretty nauseous, so while my family enjoyed the buffet, I sipped a cup of cream of broccoli soup and ate saltines.
A couple weeks after I finished treatment, we decided to go to Shoney’s again. I was anticipating being able to enjoy the array of food, but guess what? The memory of all those stomach-churning weeks made me feel so nauseous I thought I was going to be sick just standing at the buffet! (And it took me years to be able to eat cream of broccoli soup again!)
Our oncology office had a teenage boy who used to come in for treatment and each time–before he even got a drop of chemo–he would puke. No amount of anti-nausea medicine ahead of time ever prevented it. And I also know a cancer survivor who got nauseous when she saw her oncologist at the mall! (Glad that wasn’t true for me because my oncologist and his wife became our best friends!)
Obviously, the connection between mind and body is real. But our mind’s influence on our body can be positive as well as negative. And while I don’t believe our thoughts can guarantee a better outcome for our health, I do believe they can influence it. Psychologist and author Dr. William Backus says people dealing with illness need to remember three facts:
Your beliefs create your thoughts.
Your thoughts generate feelings.
Your feelings affect your body’s healing systems.
“Psychoneuroimmunology” is the fancy label attached to the subject of mind-body healing, which is being studied increasingly by therapists and researchers, who even have discovered a hard-wire connection between the body’s immune system and the brain’s central nervous system.
So, if your brain has the ability to send messages to your immune system cells, “what you believe and tell yourself can become a powerful medication in your personal pharmacy,” according to Dr. Backus.
He advocates not just positive-thinking, but telling ourselves the truth about our situation. He has gathered many examples of truthful healing beliefs embraced by those who have survived life-threatening illnesses. Here are a few—I hope you, too, can add them to your mind’s pharmacy:
- “I refuse to believe my diagnosis is an automatic death sentence.
- I believe treatment is effective against this illness, especially the skillful efforts of scientific medicine combined with my strategies for replacing lying thoughts with the truth.
- I believe my hormones and immune system were created to be on the side of my healing and can work to overcome this illness.
- I believe God is on the side of my healing because His unbreakable Word says so.
- I believe I am personally responsible for my treatment and for managing it.
- I believe hope is a choice. I choose hope, not hopelessness.
- I believe I’m on earth to share hope, and joy with others. I’m here to love others, regardless of my physical condition.
- I believe that God’s will is good. I believe that He loves me and wants only the best for me—no matter what He is allowing me to experience right now.
- I can recover from this illness and live a rich, productive life. But whether I recover or not, I am going to leave this life someday regardless. Until then I can live a full life of service every day for as long as I am given.” William Backus, The Healing Power of the Christian Mind (Minneapolis: Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 1996) 96.
Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the LORD and turn away from evil. Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones. Proverbs 3:7-8
My child, pay attention to what I say. Listen carefully to my words. Don’t lost sight of them. Let them penetrate deep into your heart, for they bring life to those who find them, and healing to their whole body. Proverbs 4:20-22
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