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Miracles can happen

Miracles can happen

Photo: Virgin Mary

In one out of every 60,000 to 100,000 cases – according to reputable projections – you will note a spontaneous recovery in cancers. What is behind this statistic are healing processes which indeed appear like miracles: a giant stomach tumor disappears in an old man, to whom doctors didn’t give a fighting chance anymore. The patient and his adoring wife attribute the recovery to daily fresh-squeezed orange juice – an indicator that perhaps faith and trust play an important role.

Or another unbelievable, yet authentic story: A 68-year old farmer is diagnosed with advanced, highly malignant lymphoma with an extremely poor prognosis. After complications during chemotherapy, the treatment is stopped. Two years later the farmer comes to the hospital and is completely free of cancer, without having undergone any further treatments. The man, who according to physicians has a sunny disposition, lives far into his nineties and in some instances still does heavy physical farming work for many more years.

A research study of 120,000 Norwegian women, published in 2008, provides an important clue that spontaneous remissions in cancer are far more frequent than is commonly assumed. In this study, the breast cancer rate in women who underwent mammography screening at regular intervals was compared to the cancer rate in women who did not undergo screenings. Paradoxically, across all age groups of those women who went to the precautionary screenings, about 20 percent more cancer incidences occurred in this group than in the control group. This result is explained by the fact that 20 percent of all breast cancers regress on their own.

That which cannot, must not be
Despite such spectacular references, it is generally considered little worthwhile to further engage in learning about the phenomenon of self-healing. What’s more: many mainstream physicians vehemently deny that spontaneous healing of cancers actually exists. The emotionality, in which this discussion is carried out, if it is actually permitted, leads one to assume that this subject touches sensitive areas of traditional medical thinking. The fact that the phenomenon of self-healing might even have something to do with the psyche is completely out of the question for many hardliners.

Meanwhile the currently booming science – psychoneuroimmunology – delivers more and more proof on how close the connections between the psyche and the immune system are. It is obvious, that the strategies of cancer patients with spontaneous remissions in overcoming their disease should be examined carefully. Where this has been done, most notably one thing was discovered: there is not one specific winner type.

The few systematic studies on cancer patients with documented spontaneous remission discerned four different types who overcome the disease:

  • The challenger-type views the cancer as an enemy he wants to defeat

  • The Why-Me-type intensively looks into his own lifestyle for possible reasons for the cancer and tries to chang

  • The I-am-in-God’s mercy-type takes comfort in his strong religious belief and puts his fate in God’s hands

  • The entangled-type does not deal with his illness at all, because his fears don’t allow him to or because he is dealing with other existential questions

All of these strategies – in all their differences – appear to have one thing in common: All four types don’t give up on themselves, but stay active in their lives in one way or another. They have hope.

Careful about giving a negative prognosis
What can be deduced from this? Obviously not the idea, that positive thinking during cancer can work wonders. Hope has something to do with deeply experienced purpose and cannot be created by positive thinking slogans that people love to tout these days. Yet realistic information about the fact that spontaneous remissions do happen can be used to give patients with advanced cancer courage and help them in coping with their disease. At least that is how the few reputable health professionals who have dealt with this topic see it.

And so they advise their colleagues to be very careful when they deliver a prognosis. A prognosis is nothing but a statistical average, and is time and again proven to be wrong based on unexpected disease outcomes. For patients who often are confronted with negative predictions, this can prove fatal. Hope is being destroyed and self-healing powers are perhaps impeded. You just never know.

Suggested literature: Herbert Kappauf, Wunder sind möglich (Miracles are possible), Herder 2003 (Herbert Kappauf, M.D, currently is a practicing oncologist in Starnberg and has researched spontaneous healing in cancer patients at the University Hospital Nürnberg)

Ulrike Viegener

(Translated by Elena O'Meara)


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