Stories of two of my patients exemplify the dramatic power of love and hope, or lack of it. A 19-year-old woman who had been diagnosed with cancer of the small intestine came to see me in late 1975. The course of chemotherapy she had already been given offered no positive results. Under these conditions, her prognosis was death within 3 to 6 months. The doctors had given up hope.
This girl was a member of the USA Olympic team, which in eight months was participating in the Olympic Games in Montréal. She came to me because she did not accept the prognosis of her doctors, and she told me that under no circumstances would she miss the competition.
As you can imagine, she began her treatment with a lot of faith and discipline. The results were indeed amazing. In all truth, our results with patients with this type of tumor are poor. But her determination and tenacity stimulated her defenses so powerfully that they destroyed her tumor.
I believe the treatment only served as an emotional reinforcement. All she needed was somebody to give her hope, somebody to show interest and love. As of the writing of this post, the patient is alive and healthy.
I also remember a middle aged woman with breast cancer who came to me after having her left breast removed. Her cancer had metastasized into her bones and lungs. Conventional therapy had failed, and her doctor sent her home to die.
At the start of our treatment, the remains of her former beauty could only be faintly seen. She looked like a skeleton. All of this was the result of aggressive and not successful treatments with chemotherapy.
Little by little she began to improve. Her hair grew back, she gained weight and the beauty of her face reappeared. In six months, she was a new person. Although surgical mutilation had dealt her a painful blow, she overcame it.
Once her husband saw that she was strong enough to deal with it, he asked her for a divorce. This is a devastating event under any circumstances, but in this case she interpreted it as a rejection of her mutilated body. Within three weeks, she experienced an explosion of tumors.
Although she came back to see me, she confessed that the loss of her husband’s love represented the the worst kind of rejection to her. Life had lost meaning. No human power could change her perspective. Her immune system gave up and the tumors took advantage of the open doors and she succumbed to her disease.