Stress reduction strategies for cancer

Mitchell Gaynor:  Well the best example I can give you to really illustrate how powerful meditation, guided imagery, music therapy, type of yoga breathing called pranayama is when patients first come into my practice at Gaynor Integrative Oncology, I’ll first go through with them everything that’d be done at any academic medical center, you know, pathology, scans, treatments, chemotherapy, radiation, hormonal therapy, monoclonal antibodies, all the things like that. Then I’ll go over a whole nutritional program with them and we look at vitamin levels, heavy metal toxicity, the parts of the immune system that combat cancer, tumor markers, those type of things and then look at what nutrients would be best for that individual. Then I’ll work with people with some techniques that I talk about in the “Healing power of sound” and some of those involve just listening to music, to chanting and to imagery and I have a machine in the office that just allows people to feel the vibration from the music and it is very, very relaxing, so it filters low frequency sound from the music and it puts it into their body. So the reason that puts people at such a relaxed state is-- there’s several reasons, one we talked about neurocardiology so the heart rate’ll go down, the breathing will slow. Also the human body is 70% water; it’s an excellent conductive medium for sound and vibration. Hearing is the first sense to develop; it develops at about four month’s gestational age, so even when the baby’s in the womb, for most of the gestation it can hear. So sound is very, very important to people and we’re all exposed to a lot of negative sounds, you know, horns honking, especially if you live in a city or have to commute, music that’s too loud, all those kinda things, so the chanting, the yoga chanting, any of the types of chanting, the Gregorian chanting, all tends to relax people quite a bit and then I’ll go through with people some guided meditations and that combined with the breathing, so invariably after their first session with this, and coming to see a medical oncologist very often is one of the most stressful days of a person’s life. They have to look at what treatment they might need, they have to ask a lot of questions, you know, could almost be like a tidal wave of fear, you know, questions, whether they’re gonna lose their hair with the therapy or, you know, who’s gonna take care of their children if they have to go into the hospital. All those kinds of things come up and so it’s very stressful day for people. After the meditation and the music, people will invariably say to me “Dr. Gaynor that’s the most relaxed and peaceful I think I’ve ever felt in my life” and so it goes to show that even on the most stressful day of a person’s life, they could have the most peace and relaxation they’ve ever felt. I’ll never forget one young man who was in Cornell for a bone marrow transplant after his cancer had come back and when I went into to talk to him that night, he had come from a community hospital in New Jersey and came to Cornell and I asked him, I said “What’s bothering you the most right now?” and he said “Well the thing that’s bothering me the most is I haven’t slept in several months” and I said “You must have slept some of the last several months” and his mother was there, said “No he hasn’t.” I said “Well didn’t your doctors give you anything?” and he said “Yeah tried, you know, Valium and sleeping pills, nothing works.” And I asked him, I said “Well what do you think about before you try and fall asleep at night?” and he said “I’m afraid I won’t wake up” so I took him through a guided meditation, just very simple with the breathing and some just very simple chanting, he was able to fall asleep in ten minutes. Every night through his bone marrow transplant he was able to sleep and that was a huge thing for him and he was outta the hospital in about 3 weeks. It’s now over a decade later and he’s still doing well. But we know how important sleep is just for getting over a flu, we know how important sleep is for your immune system and all your other body systems and what sleep deprivation can do and so that’s an example how, you know, the most high tech of medical therapy can really be combined with a lot of very simple techniques, mainly that come from the east that can really help people, you know, really access more what I call their core, their essence and so, you know, we can talk about this on a physiologic basis, it’s inducing alpha and theta waves in the brain, the neurocardiology, but also it’s really more than that, it’s about really letting people see-- going through an adversity like cancer is a gift and I can’t begin to tell you the number of patients I’ve had over the years that have told me in retrospect that having had cancer was one of the greatest gifts they’ve ever had because it taught them so many fundamental truths about who they were, what’s the true purpose of the human birth. The importance of living each day to the fullest and a lot of those realizations last even after their chemo’s over and after they’ve been through the therapy and so it’s really more about looking at what patterns have been in your life, how you hold onto a lot of stresses, what’s your reaction to stress and then really through the meditation, when you’re able to get into that peaceful place, you’re able to really understand adversity much more than just through suffering and resistance. To really understand that there are purposes and to understand what, you know, the purpose of the human birth, is, how to have more peace every day than you had the day before. How to have joy, even when there’s a lot of unwanted things going around and that’s such a powerful gift because if you can experience that when you’re going through cancer therapy, you can experience through anything.

Recorded on: 5/13/08

Gaynor talks about the power of meditation.

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