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The Mind's Role in Healing Cancer

From entrepreneur, philanthropist and cancer survivor Richard A. Bloch.

An American Health Magazine article states, “How you feel about yourself affects your physical well-being. Researchers now recognize that a sense of purpose, a positive outlook and the feeling of being in control of one’s life may help prevent illness, from cancer to the common cold.

“The notion that attitudes affect health is almost as old as medicine. But it’s taken the re-emergence of certain humanistic values in medicine for doctors to put science to work charting exactly how the mind influences the body and vice versa.

“They are finding that attitude and state-of- mind can alter the responsiveness of nerve cells to a variety of chemicals that relay messages throughout the brain and nervous system. Further, chemical messengers of mood and motivation in the brain communicate with cells in the immune system responsible for countering invasion by tumors and microorganisms…

“It may be a long time before anyone draws a complete picture of the mind’s effect on the body. But this much is known: we each have a larger role than ever imagined in combating illness.”

The body has an immune system. One of the theories is that part of the immune system is the thymus gland located in your chest directly behind the breast bone. The thymus gland has two specific functions. First of all, it creates 12 to 15 different hormones. These hormones travel throughout the body looking for cancer cells.

When they find the type of cell that they recognize, they do not harm the cell but attach themselves to it and send back a signal to the thymus gland. In response to this signal, the thymus gland dispatches a natural killer cell (NK cell) that goes directly to this hormone and kills the cell. It then returns to the thymus gland ready to be sent out again.

One thought is that the thymus gland can be controlled by the brain in that during a time of trauma or depression, the brain will reduce the function of the thymus gland. During this period of reduced function, cancer cells, which are supposed to occur normally in each person some six times a year, are allowed to divide and multiply. When the trauma or depression is over, the thymus gland will resume normal operating. By this time, the cancer has had a chance to multiply and establish itself to the point where the NK cells are incapable of destroying it. At this point, we have cancer.


Two cancer treatment specialists rationalized that if the mind played a function in causing cancer, why couldn’t the mind be trained to help treat the cancer. They started a clinic in 1976 and brought 150 cancer patients there. These were not normal cancer patients, though. They had two unique qualities. First, they were terminal because their doctor said they were going to die from their cancer. Second, they could have no possible medical treatments such as chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, hyperthermia, immunotherapy, etc. These people were going to die from their cancer.

They taught these people two things. First, they taught these people to relax. Not just superficially, but a way down deep relaxation. It is a scientifically proven fact that tumors grow faster in mice under stress. What is the dangerous part about your cancer? The fact that it will continue to grow! If your cancer never grew from where it is, you could live for another 100 years with it. If, by relaxing, you could slow down the growth of your tumor, you would be better off.

Second, they taught these people to visualize their cancer and think it away. Sound silly? Some two years later, when Annette and I read about them in the newspaper, of the initial group of 150 terminal cancer patients using only their minds to think away the cancer, some 10% were totally free of cancer. Another approximately 10% were dramatically improved. A third 10% had their cancer stabilized. My wife and I made up our minds that if I had a 30% chance of staying alive instead of none, we were going to go there.

As it was, the doctors felt that they could successfully treat me. However, I used the relaxation and imagery in conjunction with the medical treatments. I cannot say that it is what cured me, but I can state without any question that it made me feel better; I believe it helped, and I positively know it did not hurt me. I would never recommend this in lieu of medicine but only in addition to everything else your doctor wants you to do.


Relaxation and imagery, as the name implies, is a two-step process. It is felt that imagery can be much more effective only after relaxation has been successfully established. Relaxation is not a state of being that you hope or wish for; it is the result of a specific set of physical acts. If you follow the prescribed recommendations, you will end up relaxed. Several methods are suggested. Some people are more receptive to one method than another. Try each several times and then use the method with which you feel the most comfortable and which does the best job for you.

Both meditation and relaxation are highly effective natural ways to handle stress. While both have the effect of getting you deeply calm and relaxed, the real benefits are in the rest of the day when this calm spreads into other phases of your activities. This calm state is the direct opposite of stress. Your breathing slows, your heartbeat is quiet, your metabolism lowers and your body recuperates during this period. The effects are gradual, but the more you practice, the greater they will be.

In discussing these theories with doctors, I have found that those outstanding physicians whose primary interest is the recovery of the patient, who insist on an independent second opinion, who seek help from major cancer centers and refer their patients to qualified specialists, are staunch believers in this form of therapy in addition to medicine.