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An Aid for Visualization

Guided imagery and visualization are integrative medicine techniques that any cancer patient can use (for free!) to promote health, manage stress, aid in relaxation, and assist in pain control.  Information about these practices is available online from the American Cancer Society , University of Michigan Cancer Center, and other places.

Some studies suggest guided imagery and visualization may help our bodies fight cancer more effectively.  Using one’s imagination is useful here.  After my first recurrence, I decided to use guided imagery to help the chemo do its job.  For a few minutes every day, I relaxed in a quiet place and envisioned the chemo molecules as a Tolkien army — wizards with spells, hobbits with potions, elves with arrows and dwarves with axes — attacking a dragon (my tumor). My tumor started shrinking 10 days after starting chemo. Whether or not visualization contributed to the rapid shrinking of my tumor, it gave me some sense that I personally was doing something to defeat my cancer. Speaking from the entirely irrational side of my brain, anything that gives me some sense of control over cancer has got to be a good thing.

Others might prefer a more reality-based visualization, like your own immune system mounting an attack on the cancer.  To help you imagine your immune system attacking cancer, check out this image of a white blood cell engulfing a MRSA bacteria:

Hospital-associated Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) Bacteria

Credit: NIAID/NIH (NIAID Flickr's photostream) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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