Visualizing the Dissolving and Healing of Your Cancer Cells May Boost Healing
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. To help spread awareness of the physical, mental, and emotional challenges of the disease and its treatments, and to support those who are living with cancer now, Circle + Bloom’s guided visualization for cancer program is 25% OFF through 10/31.
Close your eyes. What do you think your breast cancer cells look like? It doesn’t need to be a medically accurate image – allow your intuition to guide you to a mental picture of what the cancer cells in your body look like. Their size, shape, color, and maybe even their “personality traits.”
Creating this image and related feelings in your mind can be your first step in regaining a sense of control over your own body, and helping to support your body’s natural healing functions in a very real and tangible way.
Practicing mental imagery is the very beginning of guided visualization – a practice that has been scientifically shown to directly result in positive health benefits for people with cancer diagnoses (as well as other conditions ranging from infertility, to heart disease, high blood pressure, stress, and more).
My Cancer Story: From Loss to Learning
I became interested in the potential healing power of guided visualizations following the deaths of my parents – both from cancer. My dad passed away when I was 12 from a brain tumor, and when I was 25 my mom died from stomach cancer. Could a more wholesome approach to their physical and emotional health have changed things? I don’t know the answer to this question, but I have to admit that it’s a big reason why my focus is in self-healing and using the other 95% of your brain.
Driven by these immense losses, I dove into research about cancer and the various treatments currently available. Combined with my own experiences with infertility, I kept returning to the idea that meditation and guided visualization offered the potential to improve both ailments.
Based on my own experiences and those of many, many women I have worked with over the past 10 years through Circle + Bloom, I have come to believe strongly that you can change your body with your thoughts.
By using your brain’s visualization capability – and “seeing” what your body should be doing – you become the director of your body to help it restore its own health and balance.
How Visualization Can Affect Your Body
You’ve probably heard of the placebo effect. Essentially, it’s a cure that originates in the mind. When a person takes what they think is a real drug to alleviate various symptoms, the results can be exactly the same whether that pill was a real pharmaceutical or a simple sugar pill. This tells is that the mind is a very powerful organ in the body.
Related to the placebo effect is the power of visualization. If you picture a juicy piece of fruit in your mind, your mouth will begin to salivate. Your mind has the ability to affect physical responses in your body.
Combined with meditation and relaxation exercises, visualization can help you lower stress and feel a sense of empowerment. You are an active participant in your life and body, and the way it experiences the world. You cannot control everything, but you can control how you respond to your diagnosis and experience.
The positive effects of visualization can release of endorphins, or happy chemicals, in your system that can help boost your immune system.
The Power of Visualization on Cancer
In a small study from Oregon Health and Science University in 2002, 25 women with stage one and two breast cancer were led through individual hypnotic-guided imagery sessions. During the sessions, the women were encouraged to imagine certain kinds of protective immune system cells — called natural killer cells — finding, destroying, and removing cancer cells.
Researchers measured the women’s immune function and emotional state three times: before the program began, after the eight-week program, and three months after the program ended. After combining these results, researchers found that the women had much less depression and higher natural killer cell counts.
Supported by Top Cancer Researchers
When I set out to create a guided visualization program specifically for cancer, I teamed up with several compassionate experts to help inform and guide the programs. Together we created visualizations that can help your body find the balance it needs for self-healing.
One of the most influential experts in the creation of our Circle+Bloom guided meditations for cancer is Dr. Bernie Siegel. Bernie retired from practice at Yale as an Assistant Clinical Professor of General and Pediatric Surgery in 1989. He is well-known for his approach to healing, which is focused around emotional health and well-being, and his emphasis on the power of guided visualization to heal.
In his book, “Love, Medicine, and Miracles,” he explains his belief that, “Unconditional love is the most powerful stimulant of the immune system. The truth is: love heals. Miracles happen to exceptional patients every day—patients who have the courage to love, those who have the courage to work with their doctors to participate in and influence their own recovery.”
Bernie leads the way in the belief that personal lifestyle changes, personal empowerment, and healing of the individual’s life can directly result in physical, spiritual and psychological benefits.
An Introduction to Guided Imagery for Cancer
Most people are familiar with the idea of meditation, even if they’ve never tried it. But if guided visualization is new to you, it may be tough to wrap your head around exactly what it is.
Here is a very general, basic idea of how a guided visualization might go. Our Circle + Bloom programs go into much more detailed imagery and are typically 20 minutes in length. But this can give you an idea of a starting point:
- Notice how you feel, including the physical discomfort and uncomfortable emotions like fear, anxiety, anger.
- Accept how you feel right now. Be kind to yourself. No matter how you feel and where you are, it is ok.
- Imagine the cancer cells in your body. Picture what you think they look like, and where they are in your body.
- Then picture your immune system and the medical treatments removing the cancer cells. What does this look like to you? Try to focus on a positive imagery, rather than destructive imagery. Imagine the cancer cells dissolving, or shriveling up, or floating away.
- See your own healthy cells becoming stronger.
- Picture all of the cancer cells leaving your body forever.
- See your body healing, stronger, healthy, and thriving.
As you listen, you will learn how to use focused concentration, guided imagery, deep relaxation, and other mind–tools to control the reactions and responses of your body.
While this example is very broad, one of the keys to successful guided visualization is to be as specific as possible. This is why our Circle + Bloom Healing from Cancer Program includes distinct sessions for the many phases of cancer treatment and recovery, including chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, immunotherapy, and angiogenesis.
How could guided imagery scripts differ for each of these different phases? In the next post this month about guided visualization for cancer treatment, we will talk through how visualization can support your health and immune system through the different phases of cancer treatment.
Don’t forget: In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness month, Circle + Bloom’s guided visualization for cancer program is 25% OFF through the month of October.
With love & gratitude,