Cancer Education and Study Group
Dr. Gabor Mate’, famously asks his audiences, “how many of you have been to a specialist within the past year?” Almost everyone raises their hands. He would then ask them “how many of your specialists asked you whether you had childhood trauma?” Almost nobody raises their hands.
Despite significant amounts of research and data in the area of mind-body connection and its association with many serious acute and chronic illnesses including cancer, treatment of underlying traumas has not made its way to mainstream Western Medicine.
These underlying traumas, each have their own signature and affect different organs accordingly. There are copious publications showing association of cancer with trauma, stress and triggering life events. What is even more concerning is that just being diagnosed with cancer and undergoing the required harsh treatments, is a traumatic event in and of itself.
Being diagnosed with a lift-threatening illness, forces us to face the unpopular concept of our mortality. Trying to understand very difficult medical and technical concepts regarding treatments such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiation therapy, is overwhelming. To read and sign informed consents listing a long list of possible side effects of treatment is a frightening experience. Experiencing loss of a body part (e.g. hair loss, mastectomy, amputation, etc.) or bodily functions (e.g. a colostomy bag, impotence, incontinence, etc.), would affect our body image and who we are.
One would experience deep grief for the loss of their health and would experience all associated feelings such as shock and denial, bargaining, guilt, anger, depression in order to reach acceptance. The long duration of treatments and/or loss of function might affect our livelihood and jobs. Whether it is loss of income, going on disability or the sheer overwhelming cost of treatments (even with insurance, the co-pays and deductibles and out-of-pocket costs would add up to a significant amount).
Once the treatments end, often patients go into a panic state because they feel they are no longer doing anything about the cancer. Follow-up tests and follow-up appointments are overwhelming because patients would often imagine worst case scenarios while waiting for the results of the tests.
The numbers provided by health professionals in terms of survival rates or risk of recurrence, would create fear and unfortunately, as result of past traumas, patients might anticipate the worst. Just as a couple gets pregnant (re: “we are pregnant”), the entire family “gets cancer”. That is, being diagnosed with cancer affects every member of the family.
Those with strong family history of cancer or having a mutated gene putting them at higher risk of developing cancer, would either result in taking prophylactic measures (such as double mastectomies and/or removing ovaries in patients with BRCA mutation) or very close observation (more frequent mammograms, colonoscopies, blood tests, etc.). The prophylactic measures are traumatic in and of themselves. Increased frequency of screening, would enhance anxiety and anticipation of being diagnosed with cancer.
At the same time, the cancer survivors or those with a genetic mutation, worry about the risk of cancer in their children, parents, siblings and other blood relatives. Caregivers feel overwhelmed by the feeling of helplessness. Every member of the family, tried to hide their own feelings of fear and helplessness to protect the other family members.
Patients and their family members might develop depression. Going through therapy or taking antidepressants is like placing a Band-Aid on an unhealed wound. It does not resolve the underlying traumas. It only masks and suppresses them.
Dealing with childhood, adulthood and post-diagnosis traumas, is a powerful complementary treatment to the standard of care. The underlying issues which led us to developing these serious illnesses must be addressed or we may be at risk of a recurrence, developing another cancer or other life-threatening and chronic illnesses.
Cancer Education and Study Group is a supportive community of everyone who has been touched by cancer in one way or another. We would study the data and publications scientifically supporting the connection between our traumas and illnesses. Also, through a twelve-week program called Thriving through Trauma: Reclaiming Your Joy through Cancer Trauma, we use a groundbreaking technique called MAP (Make Anything Possible) to remove the negative emotions attached to our life events. By neutralizing these negative emotions, we would turn our traumas into wisdom. By healing our traumas, we would reconnect with our authentic selves and invite the joy and health back to our lives.
There are hundreds of experts in the area, which makes choosing the caregiver that is right for you much harder. As members of the oncology community, Hart to Heart Cancer Consultants are in a position to provide referrals to the cancer specialists that best fit your individual needs and personalized care.
Hart to Heart Cancer Consultants offer speaking engagements in the community. Please contact us with your invitation.