Psychological intervention reduces risk of cancer recurrence

After experiencing cancer and it's allopathic treatments, most people are often left wondering- "What just happened?" I am a psychologist as well as a cancer survivor, and many cancer survivors, like myself, have difficulty psychologically integrating their cancer experience. Most of the survivors I have worked with actually reportthe time immediately following completion of cancer treatments to be the most psychologically difficult.

Many survivors feel uneasy returning to their "normal" routines after cancer, as the cancer experience is akin to taking the blue pill in The Matrix or going through a medicinal tribal initiation. You're unplugged, and once you are unplugged, a return to the "real" world without guidance, can feel meaningless. Work can seem pointless, even ridiculous, and friends and family may seem very far away.

Cancer survivors may also feel angry. Many survivors are left with side effects, life long secondary illnesses, infertility, scars, and other disabilities. Psychotherapy can help cancer survivors disentangle their cancer experience, help them make sense of what has happened, reach acceptance, integration and move beyond cancer.

Additionally, after cancer, people often struggle with fears of cancer recurrence. At one end of the fear spectrum, these thoughts of cancer recurrence can be described as intrusive, obsessive and debilitating. At the other end of the fear spectrum - is denial, refusing to think about or even talk about cancer, and physically taking poor care of oneself. The origin of the word FEAR is to revere or respect. A healthy amount of reverence and respect for one's body mind and spirit - is a good thing and can be embraced. It can serve as a pointer to become increasingly mindful and lovingly conscious of how you choose to live. Psychotherapy with someone who understands the process of the cancer experience and beyond is a great first step.

The slide below (from Brian D. Lawenda, MD) shows just how important this type of after cancer plan can be. 227 cancer survivors were randomized to either regular follow-up care (medical assessments, mamograms, scans etc) or psychological intervention (stress reduction techniques, coping skills, strategies to increase social support etc... for a total of 26 sessions by psychologists over a period of 12 months). Patients were followed at time of this paper ELEVEN years! Most studies do not dream of such long term follow-up. The results showed that the patients who received psychological intervention had fewer cancer recurrences (45% ) and fewer cancer deaths (59%) than the patients who simply went for regular cancer treatment follow-up.

I share this study with you not to say, "hey, you better get into therapy or you will have a recurrence". But rather to say, "Welcome my friend, you have had a profound experience, let's use it to take you to new heights. Let's go for Post traumatic growth instead of Post traumatic stress. Don't go back to sleep". As Rachel Naomi Remen has stated, critical illnesses like cancer give us the opportunity to shift our consciousness and see life with "new eyes". Getting Unplugged is a good thing, but it will usually feel scary and disorienting. If this is what you are feeling- you are right where you're supposed to be. Trust the process and get a guide or mentor to help you see with your sparkling new eyes.

Love and Light to you,

Dr. Regina