When Angelina Jolie declared that she underwent a double mastectomy because of the results of genetic testing for breast cancer, women in large numbers went to their doctors asking for similar tests. Sales for these genetic tests skyrocketed. The discussion and controversy over this approach to testing and treatment continues. Although raising awareness about a health concern can be a good thing, is following a movie star’s health actions a rational way to make decisions about our own?
- “Just the mention of breast cancer makes women anxious. Receiving a diagnosis, women go into a tailspin of fear. They are in terror. This level of suffering is so not necessary,” says Dr. Nelie Johnson, a family physician and healing consultant in Maple Ridge. Understandably, they immediately think of the ramifications of that diagnosis and what it may mean for their families.
- In her practice, seeing the deep distress and sense of helplessness in women diagnosed with breast and other cancers, Dr. Johnson recognized a need to expand the focus beyond the physical and to see the disease in a wider context. She began to see the connection between deep patterns of stress and emotional trauma and the development of cancer. Her experience also indicates that sometimes just the intense fear of getting cancer can be a causative factor.
Dr. Johnson shared a real life story of a young 31-year-old man in her practice, who was diagnosed with stomach cancer. She made sure he received prompt full medical treatment with surgery, chemo and radiation. Even then his oncologist gave him at best one year to live. Today, 15 years later, he is alive, well, and cancer-free. He had medical treatment, but also did inner emotional clearing and healed troubling aspects of relationships with himself, his wife and within his family.
“I have learned that diseases such as cancer are a call to return to wellness through letting go where we are knowingly and unknowingly holding on to toxic emotions and thoughts of guilt, bitterness, deep hurt, powerlessness, feeling inadequate, abandoned or rejected, to name a few,” says Dr. Johnson.
Treatment approaches that clearly recognize the thinking or emotions that actually underlie the illness and need to be addressed to help the patient find health – such as Dr. Johnson’s – are not yet common. Yet, the more we understand the underlying mental, emotional and spiritual nature of health, the deeper this understanding will become, and maybe the very nature of diagnosis will change. Acknowledgement of this connection will move us beyond simply coping or fighting with the disease, to providing both preventative and curative solutions for body, mind and spirit.
Over a century ago, Christian healer and health researcher Mary Baker Eddy observed this connection. She wrote, “Ignorant that the human mind governs the body, its phenomenon, the invalid may unwittingly add more fear to the mental reservoir already overflowing with that emotion.”
Eddy’s research and experiences in seeking answers to her own health needs eventually led her to a deeper understanding of the role a person’s conscious connection to the divine could play in healing these deep-seated human beliefs, and therefore the illnesses.
The practice of turning to a deeper, spiritual resource seems increasingly natural for many people, including me. Thinking of a somewhat smaller “c” word, I recently came down with a heavy cold. Rather than pushing through my work, I took time to pray – to feel that conscious connection with the divine.