Two years before I faced cancer, I had M.E., sometimes called “yuppy ‘flu”—a crazy name, as any one who has had it will agree. It is neither yuppy, nor is it ‘flu. Anyway, during that time, I read a fascinating book. I’ve forgotten the title long ago, but I still remember an exercise suggested by the author. I encourage you to try it yourself.
Sit quietly and relaxed in a comfortable chair, and close your eyes. In your imagination, see yourself getting up and moving down the corridor to your kitchen. Stand in the kitchen, looking around at the familiar things. Notice the position of the stove, the sink, the window. Look to see if the door is open or closed. Is there a microwave? Look at the various appliances. Note any pictures or wall hangings.
Look at the fridge for a few moments, then imagine yourself walking across to it. Take a hold of the hard metal handle, pull the door open and feel the cool draught of air coming from within. Look inside at the racks and the shelves. See the contents. Notice the milk, the cheese, see the containers of stored food-stuffs. Take a moment or two to notice everything in the fridge. Near the front, notice a big juicy orange, freshly cut in half. Reach for it, feeling the hard, pitted skin of the rind. As you turn it over slowly, look at the beautifully formed segments, now cut in half and swimming in fresh juice. Hold one half of the orange up to your face, smell its pungent fragrance. Lift it to your mouth and prepare to take a bite. Stop your daydream! Open your eyes.
What is your mouth doing? Is it perhaps watering? I did this exercise for the first time while lying in the bath and felt astounded by the way my mouth swam with saliva. Many years before, as a student nurse, I learned of experiments done with a patient with the gastric mucosa somehow exposed. Every time the patient got angry, the mucosa secreted extra acid. As a result of this, the doctors recognised the effect of anger on the digestive system, and particularly on the formation of gastric ulcers.
Now, through this simple experiment of the orange, I saw again the tremendous influence of the emotions and the imagination on the human body. When I tried to share this with other Christians they were horrified. “You are getting into scary territory for a Christian. You should know better.” “You are delving into mysticism.” “This is new age teaching What nonsense! I wasn’t chanting or burning incense. I was simply using my God-given imagination.
I noticed the same people that objected to what I said were the same ones that were telling me to “Stay positive.” “Focus on getting well!” “See yourself as healthy!” How could I do that, without using my imagination? The Bible says, For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.* (Proverbs 23:7 KJV)
The placebo effect is well known in medical circles, where about one-third of patients show improvement if they are taking medication that they believe to hold the solution to their problems—even if their pills hold no active ingredients. Through all my reading I became convinced that my emotions had a key role to play in my healing. And so I put them to work in the various stages of treatment, with a marked effect.
As I faced my first chemotherapy, I concentrated on the liquid that dripped into my vein. I refused to think of it as “poison” to my body, but rather as a formidable army that fought to recover my body from the evils of cancer. I saw it seeking out cancer cells and destroying them. I lay with a book in my hands and pretended to read, as I visualised the chemo moving through my body, destroying cancer cells and restoring my body to health and wholeness. What area of your life could use a bit of creative thinking today? Have you already tried this yourself?