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Alan G. TMS and cancer

Discussion in 'Ask a TMS Therapist' started by lorrie, Dec 23, 2014.

  1. lorrie

    lorrie New Member

    This question was submitted via our Ask a TMS Therapist program. To submit your question, click here.

    A friend was just diagnosed with stage 2 pancreatic cancer, and pretty much told to get his affairs in order. He is trying a new treatment and is hopeful.

    Amidst the zillions of messages telling him to FIGHT FIGHT, I wrote from my newly awakened heart and said don't FIGHT. Just thank it for the lessons and say "run along now, cheerio, happy trails." He liked my comment.

    My husband has been a cancer survivor for 45 years. He is going to work the programs with me. A tiny, quickly removed spot came back this year. Not the original. A side effect from the crude 1970 chemotherapy.

    Question. Does this sound well...like the right thing to say?
  2. Alan Gordon LCSW

    Alan Gordon LCSW TMS Therapist

    Hi Lori,
    Thank you for the very important question.

    Cancer is not TMS. TMS, at least as I see it, is when the mind and the brain collude to generate physical symptoms for a specific psychological purpose, often to serve as a vessel of preoccupation. Once that purpose is no longer being served (it is no longer a vessel of preoccupation, or the difficult-to-tolerate emotions the symptoms are keeping you from are no longer difficult to tolerate) the symptoms dissipate.

    Although things like stress, emotions, etc. can have a very real impact on whether cancer develops, its presence is not serving a psychological purpose in the way that TMS symptoms typically do.

    Viruses are similar in this way. You may increase your susceptibility to getting a cold by drinking heavily, not eating healthy, getting minimal sleep, and generating a lot of stress, but once you have the virus, it runs it course.

    Not everything is TMS. I've overcome 22 different symptoms and have as strong a mind-body connection as anyone I've worked with, but when I get a bacterial infection, I take antibiotics; if I ever get diabetes, I'd take insulin; and if I ever develop a malignant tumor, I'd get chemo.

    TMS refers to the onset of physical symptoms without evidence of pathological processes, but when there is the development of a pathological process in the body, it needs to be taken seriously.

    All that being said, reducing stress and honing a positive attitude can have an impact on beating cancer. They've done studies to that effect. So reducing the level of preoccupation around the disease will help, just not in the same way it helps with getting rid of back pain.


    Any advice or information provided here does not and is not intended to be and should not be taken to constitute specific professional or psychological advice given to any group or individual. This general advice is provided with the guidance that any person who believes that they may be suffering from any medical, psychological, or mindbody condition should seek professional advice from a qualified, registered/licensed physician and/or psychotherapist who has the opportunity to meet with the patient, take a history, possibly examine the patient, review medical and/or mental health records, and provide specific advice and/or treatment based on their experience diagnosing and treating that condition or range of conditions. No general advice provided here should be taken to replace or in any way contradict advice provided by a qualified, registered/licensed physician and/or psychotherapist who has the opportunity to meet with the patient, take a history, possibly examine the patient, review medical and/or mental health records, and provide specific advice and/or treatment based on their experience diagnosing and treating that condition or range of conditions.

    The general advice and information provided in this format is for informational purposes only and cannot serve as a way to screen for, identify, or diagnose depression, anxiety, or other psychological conditions. If you feel you may be suffering from any of these conditions please contact a licensed mental health practitioner for an in-person consultation.

    Questions may be edited for brevity and/or readability.

  3. chickenbone

    chickenbone Well known member

    Very well said, Alan. My husband treated cancer for many, many years at a major university hospital. He is a huge supporter of the TMS philosophy, but does not believe in a direct connection between cancer and TMS. He agrees with you that a healthy emotional state can contribute to overall healing.
    plum, Mala and Forest like this.
  4. mike2014

    mike2014 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Very well said Alan. cancer doesn't fall under the TMS definition laid out by Dr Sarno. However, it possiliblily does under the wider spectrum of 'mindbody' illnesses, you may wish to read books by Dr Gabor Mate and Dr Lisa Rankin.

    Kind regards.

    Last edited: Dec 28, 2014
    plum, anasutana, tarala and 1 other person like this.
  5. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    My sister was cured of her cancer by medical help and asking God to heal her.
    The power of faith can work miracles.
    Dr. Sarno and others say stress can bring on cancer, and other things, so besides
    prayer, I would suggest looking into repressed emotions that cause anger and stress.

    No one thing may cure the cancer, but the combination is powerful and worth the effort.

    God bless you and heal you.
    anasutana and lorrie like this.
  6. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi Lorrie, I think it is terrific that you want to reach out to your friend and wonderful that you found a way to do it that she liked. For your personal case, the priority is on supporting and helping your friend as she embarks on a difficult process. As Alan said, reducing stress and honing a positive attitude will not only make her life better, but will also help her cancer.

    Alan, thanks for making this very important point. The mind can affect a huge amount of conditions because the brain is connected to the body. Yet a cancer is a collection of cells that are growing out of control and will continue to grow out of control even if cultured and grown in a laboratory -- completely separate from the brain and the rest of the body!

    In a community of common interest such as ours, it can be tempting to goad each other into more and more radical positions, but if we do so, we will lose our ability to help spread the word about TMS. If we allow ourselves to be portrayed as radicals, then the vast majority of people will completely ignore us. We must show discipline, focusing on solid scientific and clinical evidence if we want to achieve our mission of helping people overcome pain. If we ever want our movement to become large, this is the only option available to us.

    With that said, it is great to have you as a member of our community, Lorrie. I wish the absolute best for you and your friend.
    plum, Dahlia, lorrie and 1 other person like this.
  7. chickenbone

    chickenbone Well known member

    You are so wise, Forest, and I love this forum because of it. I left another TMS forum that had become quite radicalized.
    plum, Enrique, Mala and 1 other person like this.
  8. Tennis Tom

    Tennis Tom Beloved Grand Eagle

    To view Dr. Sarno's thoughts on TMS and cancer see pages 133-135 of THE MINDBODY PRESCRIPTION.
    Peggy and Forest like this.
  9. Tennis Tom

    Tennis Tom Beloved Grand Eagle

    Forest, there are numerous citations in Dr. Sarno's books and other TMS/psychosomatic literature that cancer and other autoimmune dis-eases can be CAUSED due to stress and other emotional triggers such as depression. I don't understand why so many at TMS boards get freaked out by this thought, I guess the word "CANCER" does that to people. I've seen a number of people who lived un-happy lives contract cancer as a way out. AND, getting CANCER can certainly be an enormous DISTRACTOR! from one's sad life. Applying the same "scientific" and "clinical" evidence to TMS/psychosomatic dis-ease is applying the same way of thinking to it that got the medical/industrial complex to where it is today--viewing Dr. Sarno as a kook. I don't think the general population will ever accept it's collective meme mind as the source of it's woes, "it" needs a scape-goat to blame it's short-comings on. I really don't find it such a radical leap of faith that the mind can cause other symptoms other then sore backs and wrists. Of course, when one contracts something as fatal as cancer you throw all the medicine and voo-doo you can muster at it. Dr. Sarno recognized the miracles of modern medicine, such as organ transplants and joint replacements, but from numerous evidence I've found this includes one's own inner resources if they choose life including Baroque chants. My mother contracted kidney cancer but she did NOT die from it, it was the under-stated complications of the "life saving" surgery that eventually killed her. I often wonder, if left to her own strong will, she would not have done a better job of ridding herself of her cancer then the "best" surgeons, at one of the "top-ten" teaching hospitals did.
    anasutana, sam908, jazzrascal and 4 others like this.
  10. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi, Tom. My sister and also a friend's wife both had cancer and became cured by their will power to life and their prayers to God to heal them.
    Your mother may have been able to beat her cancer by her own strong will, and the surgery may have killed her.

    I'm skeptical of all surgery and also worry that if I went into the hospital even for a hang-nail, I might not come out because of negligence or
    an infection or something. A friend told me that when he was in a hospital one of the attendants gave him someone else's medication.
    My friend told me to make sure to ask who the pills or shots are for.

    I try to stay out of hospitals and surgery. So far, so good, and I'm 84.

    Happy New Year, and keep your will strong to live and to live pain-free.

    Happy New Year!
  11. chickenbone

    chickenbone Well known member

    Hi Tom. You may not believe this, but I agree with most of what you said. My husband and I both agree that it is best to stay away from doctors and the medical establishment when you can. I live in Panama and we are growing organic foods and we are very interested in alternative treatments for disease, apart from the medical establishment, which has not done a particularly good job. There seems to be a lot of promise in trees called Moringa and Guaybana, for example, to provide natural nutrients, antioxidants, ant-inflammatory, antibacterials and antivirals. I only resort to established medicine when I can't avoid it. Believe me, I am no more pro-establishment than you are.

    That said, we still need to be careful as advocates for the TMS approach. We do know for a fact that mental health and faith play a huge part in the healing process, but we cannot expect people to rally to our cause if we come across as radicals or conspiracy theorists. If we want to congratulate each other and become more radical, we can only ever preach to the choir. We cannot expect the mainstream public to take us seriously unless we take it slow and stick to hard science.

    And above all, we can never indirectly blame anyone for getting cancer because he/she failed to overcome their TMS. We actually know very little about how and why cancer develops.
    plum, Dahlia, tarala and 4 others like this.
  12. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Awwww, @chickenbone, thanks for your kind words!

    Tom, I don't think that our positions are so different. As I mentioned in my post, the mind can affect a huge number of conditions (including cancer) and reducing stress and having a positive attitude will help someone with their cancer.

    I think that we can agree that mindbody approaches will help in both preventing and fighting cancer. The question is, how much will they help? And, can surgery, chemo, and radiation extend someone's life as well? (The choice of whether to use any given therapy is a personal one and I wouldn't want to make that choice for anyone. However, we can objectively ask whether a given therapy will extend someone's life.)

    On pages 3-4 of The Divided Mind, Dr. Sarno distinguishes between two types of psychosomatic/mindbody conditions:
    1. "disorders that are directly induced by unconscious emotions," such as TMS and its equivalents and
    2. "diseases in which unconscious emotions may play a role in causation, but are not the only factor." (the italics are in the original text.)
    That sounds about right to me. The mindbody connection may have some effect on cancer, but it is not the only cause.

    So what are the other causes? Well, if we want to think rigorously about cancer, we have to think about what is known about cancer. A cancer is a group of cells that is growing (dividing) uncontrollably, due to a change in their genetic makeup. My understanding about the current thinking on mindbody effects and cancer is that chronic exposure to stress hormones are what facilitate the genetic changes. However, once these genetic changes are in place, they are in place and the cells will continue to divide no matter what our emotional state is. (Chronic stress can suppress immune system function which so I'm not saying that there is no mindbody effect, just that those cells don't care what you think - they will keep growing as long as they get enough food.)

    If we want to think about the relative sizes of mindbody effects and non-mindbody effects in cancer, let's look at populations where the mindbody effects would be very strong. For example, if the mindbody effects were huge, we would expect to see much higher rates of cancer in nations that had been exposed to great chronic stress, such as war or political purges. Yet, one doesn't hear of massive cancer outbreaks during wartime or even long after wartime. Perhaps those results exist and I'm just not aware of them. Similarly, since a repressive emotional style in adulthood is linked to negative events in childhood, we should expect to see much higher cancer rates in people who have had childhood sexual abuse or other adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). There is some evidence of this, but it doesn't seem to be overwhelming:

    In terms of whether conventional treatments work, there are massive amounts of data on this. I'm lucky to know a number of doctors and researchers and I really admire the ones who I know. Sure, they're not perfect, but who is? They work hard at what they do. And while there aren't as many TMS studies as I might like, Howard Schubiner has already done one Randomized Controlled Trial:

    Here's the bottom line: I had TMS for a very long time and I still have the TMS personality. But I'm really not worried about it giving me cancer. I think I'm fine.

    And, if I get cancer some day (as anyone might), I'm going to turn to my doctor for advice. I'll make sure that I find one that I trust, of course, but only a professional can sift through the mountain of evidence regarding various treatment options.
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2014
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  13. mike2014

    mike2014 Beloved Grand Eagle

    An excellent explanation Forest, thank you.
    Forest likes this.
  14. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Thanks, Mike!
  15. Tennis Tom

    Tennis Tom Beloved Grand Eagle

    Thanks for taking the time to formulate your thought-out replies. Dr. Sarno is a RADICAL as far as medicine goes, how will changing his message accomplish your goals of spreading his theory? He doesn't feel TMS is for everyone, he feels they NEED their distractions because they wouldn't be able to handle their emotional truths. Why deprive people of their TMS PROTECTION? What is striking is your needs to spread the TMS word to people who aren't the least bit interested--that is the ultimate in GOODISM that propagates TMS. Personally I only care about my loved ones and don't give a hoot what the rest of the world thinks or trying to please everyone on the planet or being liked by the world.
    Oscar B. likes this.
  16. mike2014

    mike2014 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi Tom,

    I agree, Dr Sarno is radical in terms of it being against Western Medicine, but he only vetted and selected patients who fit the TMS profile, where he knew he could successfully treat them. Other Drs who are curing TMS are still working within this strict same framework.

    Dr Sarno is only advising of those he has seen in the lab and can validate, the second group - 2. "diseases in which unconscious emotions may play a role in causation, but are not the only factor." may well be mind body disorders, but because of the nature and severity of these diseases and the criticality, it wouldn't be sensible to adopt a natural healing method as time can be of the essence. It's not to say these disorders didn't start in the mind, but from what I have read people have cured themselves of cancer by adopting multiple methods, western and natural.

    But I do agree with Forest, I guess the method of healing will always be up to the individual, but the bottom line is it can be costly if you don't listen to all advice and make a sound and rational decision.
    plum likes this.
  17. Tennis Tom

    Tennis Tom Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi Mike, I agreed with using conventional allopathic methods to treat cancer and said:

    " Of course, when one contracts something as fatal as cancer you throw all the medicine and voo-doo you can muster at it. Dr. Sarno recognized the miracles of modern medicine, such as organ transplants and joint replacements,..."
  18. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi Tom, the reason that I want to spread these ideas is that I care deeply about them. They absolutely transformed my life and I want others to be able to have the same benefits that I had. For 18 years, I lived in near constant pain. It seemed that no matter what I did, any repetitive activity seemed to make my symptoms worse, so I never knew which activity I would have to give up next. I don't think that anyone should have to go through what I went through. Seeing people who are helped by this community and seeing the thoughtful posts from people I care about in the forum is what keeps me going. I'm sure that many here can relate to feeling that way.

    In evaluating what I believe, I am guided by the following quote from Galileo: “In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual.” I have great respect for Dr. Sarno and generally agree with him on everything he says about TMS. But just like everyone else, I reserve my right to have my own opinion.

    I encourage everyone else on the forum to do the same thing and draw their own conclusions. We don't have the right to force our opinions on others, but we do have the right to believe whatever we want.

    However, let's keep this thread on topic. This thread is about TMS and cancer. I really have no desire to argue with you about this, and no one on this forum has the right to put another on trial. Making a thread about a person rather than about TMS leads to threads going downhill rapidly. Let's get this thread back on track.
  19. Zumbafan

    Zumbafan Well known member

    Forest, as a cancer survivor and healing from years of TMS, I too, "want others to have the same benefits that I had". I enjoy the privilege of sharing Dr Sarno's work with others, and helping them through their journey, when asked.
    I also realise that people have the right to believe whatever they want, particularly when they shun the TMS paradigm.
    Thank you for this forum.
  20. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Yeah, I agree. That's pretty much exactly how I feel, too.

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