Sunday, November 11, 2007

Cancer and Emotions: A Recent Study Finds That There is No Connection

''A fighting spirit has its advantages, but one of them is not, apparently, cancer survival,'' said James C. Coyne, lead author of a study from the University of Pennsylvania in which more than 1,000 patients with head and neck cancer were followed. ''We looked at whether exceptionally high emotional well-being or exceptionally low emotional well-being had an effect. We found absolutely no evidence for either.'' They conclude that the power of the mind has been overestimated in the fight against cancer. One commentator added that cancer patients can feel relieved that their negative feelings are not culpable, and that they should not feel responsible for their cancer.

I have lived on both sides of this debate. I certainly want no responsibility for having caused my pain syndrome, but I do want to believe that my emotions, one of the realms in which I can exert some control, can influence my body. Without that, I feel even more helpless -- a kidnapped passenger on a runaway train bound for darkness.

And if their result is valid -- and applies beyond cancer -- how can I explain those nights when I'm laying in bed
bent double with pain, clutching a heating pad like it's a life preserver, diving deeper into the pain/fear/constriction/pain cycle - and I ask Richard to stroke my hair and rest his hand on my forehead. That simple act brings me to a different realm of feeling where I am soothed, comforted, connected. I bring that state back to the pain and tell it -"So there! What are you gonna do now?" And not always, but often, it's the pain that cringes and weakens, not me


therapydoc said...

Between you and me, it's a big relief.

Judy said...

I am amazed at their findings really. I always thought emotion played a huge role in cancer recovery. As far as CRPS , we know that emotions and stress play a very real role in how well we feel. I know personally that I can make my own pain flare tremendously when I am negatively emotional, stessed out or just plain having a bad day. The difficult part is trying to keep your emotional state " above the water line" when life itself throws you stress curveballs everyday. I imagine the key is having balance and not veering too far over that line in either direction. Talking it and doing it are two very different things indeed :) I am happy that for patients with cancer they no longer have to blame their emotions for causing their illness to worsen. It would be a wonderful thing for CRPS patients if this were also the case.