Fighting Cancer from Within : How to Use the Power of Your Mind for Healing
by Martin L. Rossman, M.D.
Book Review

Book Classification : Health Books - Alternative Treatments for Cancer - Health Benefits of Imagery , Visualization

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Fighting Cancer from Within :
How to Use the Power of Your Mind for Healing
by Martin L. Rossman, M.D.
Paperback - 288 pages
First edition, April 15, 2003
Published by Owl Books
An imprint of Henry Holt and Company
ISBN 0-8050-6916-X / ISBN 080506916X

Martin L. Rossman, M.D., a medical school professor with 30 years of medical practice, has revolutionized the way cancer is treated. "Research indicates that there are skills and attitudes that are helpful for people with cancer," he says, and "these skills can be learned." [page 17]

Of course, his approach includes dealing with fear [18], the use of support groups [51] and other conventional aspects, but that's not all. He has acted on scientific evidence that the human body responds in definite ways to what are sometimes called imagery or visualization exercises.

Fighting Cancer from Within : How to Use the Power of Your Mind for Healing by Martin L. Rossman, M.D.

What is imagery? Dr. Rossman says, "It's simply a way of thinking that uses sensory information for processing." [84] During these exercises, instead of using our brains to process linear thoughts composed of reasoning or other sentences, we choose to have our brains process streams of sensations, either pulled from memory or input directly from the sense organs. Sights, sounds, feelings, smells or tastes can be "words" in this kind of thought.

To be more specific, we're talking about guided imagery (you have some sort of plan or script) and evocative imagery (you have chosen an objective, a specific self-improvement). [57]

The reader is probably aware that these techniques are often used for stress reduction. You can acquire the ability to take "regular interruption of chronic stress with relaxation 'mini-vacations.'" [85] But can it do more than give your serenity? Lab research says yes. It can improve your health. It doesn't merely improve the health of one whose ailment is psychosomatic. A cancer patient can benefit from it. "Beyond relaxation, imagery can be used to stimulate your immune system and alter blood flow to areas of the body, two major mechanisms of healing." [85]

The author identifies 17 advantages of guided imagery [83-84], some of which are general, e.g., it is enjoyable, promotes peace of mind and courage, and it is certainly more productive than worrying. However, several of the advantages are directly related to medical treatment and recovery. These mental exercises reduce the nausea and other side effects of radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Most importantly -- some may still say that it's a controversial statement, but the research data has come in, and the conclusions are overwhelming -- visualization exercises strengthen the body's immune system, and boost the probability that you can heal yourself.

For example, Dr. Rossman cites a paper in the March-April 1993 issue of the International Issue of Neuroscience, entitled The Psychophysiology of Voluntary Immunomodulation, by Hall, Minnes and Olness. [87, 259] The conclusion of 22 well-performed laboratory studies is that guided imagery improves the operation of the immune system. The author comments:

"They demonstrated that people doing imagery aimed at stimulating the immune response against cancer or chronic viral illnesses increased not only the number of circulating killer cells (the immune cells specifically charges with eliminating cancer cells) but increased their aggressiveness when encountering an abnormal cell or virus. The immune system responds to chemical signals generated by the brain, the gut, or other immune cells. Those chemicals (interferons, interleukins, and others) can heighten or reduce the activity level and aggressiveness of the immune defender cells, and help direct the cells to areas where they are most needed. Since the brain is a major source of these chemical signals, why not use it to turn your immune system on to high alert and high level activity against cancer?" [87]

Fighting Cancer from Within : How to Use the Power of Your Mind for Healing by Martin L. Rossman, M.D. , foreword by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.

Books by Martin L. Rossman, M.D.

Books by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.

I have quoted that paragraph to show that Dr. Rossman isn't telling his patients to use the powers of the mind based on justifications that may be questionable. Unlike many self-help authors, he does not rely on mysticism or the supposed existence of an immaterial "life force", the existence of which has never been demonstrated scientifically. Rather, although we may choose to visualize a "life force" or "Inner Guide" or some other mystical element, if we find that it works for us, we are really making pragmatic use of the fact that the human body responds physically to image-thoughts, nonverbal thoughts. A specific field of medical research called psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) has appeared in recent years, and its job is to work with the capacity of human beings, by thinking, to alter, in a way beneficial to health, the electrical and chemical activities of the brain, glands, and even individual cells. The effects are real, and one may call the process mysterious, but so is gravity mysterious, and so are many other things which are essentially physical.

Although you might not consider a historical discussion to be the first priority, reading "A Brief History of Imagery in Healing" [88-94] might benefit the patient by providing a context, a feeling of attachment with others across time who have use visualization techniques to improve health, including some Native American societies and the ancient Greeks.

In addition to stimulating the body's mechanisms to heal itself, one who practices imagery also has a powerful way to become free from pain. The brain secretes natural pain-killers called endorphins, which are similar in chemical classification to morphine. [209] Rossman provides us with a script [210-217] for an imagery exercise, phrased in a way that will be recognizable by anyone familiar with stress-reduction or self-hypnosis tapes, etc., starting out with the usual, "Take a comfortable position , and let yourself begin to relax...." But this script is unlike any other you may have seen or heard before. It's purpose is literally to turn on an "endorphin drip." [210] The mental exercise increases the level of the body's natural anti-pain medicine.

The author notes, "UCLA assistant professor of anesthesiology David Bressler likes to say that the brain is the world's greatest pharmacy, and imagery is the key that unlocks it." [209]

Note how the author takes care in determining the objective of an imagery script, and in determining how specific that objective should be. His "All-Inclusive Healing Imagery" [124-130] is structured differently than either the "Dialogue With Pain" [217-224] or the Endorphin Drip Imagery [210-217].

A patient with cancer or any other chronic condition has much to gain and nothing to lose with Dr. Martin Rossman's technique. The immune system will operate more efficiently, pain and the side effects of treatments will be reduced, and the individual will receive such subjective benefits as confidence and peace of mind.

Book review by Mike Lepore for     ---     See more health books

288 pages. 12 chapters. Each chapter is followed by a summary in the form of a list. 5 pages of bibliographic notes. 6 pages on additional resources, including helpful national organizations. 7-page index. No illustrations.

2-page foreword by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D., professor of clinical medicine at the University of California.

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Fighting Cancer from Within : How to Use the Power of Your Mind for Healing
by Martin L. Rossman, M.D.
ISBN 0-8050-6916-X / ISBN 080506916X

Book Description from the Publisher's Press Release

A breakthrough guide for cancer patients on using the mind to treat the body, from a pioneer in complementary medicine Recent research has shown that the mind can make a tremendous difference in not only the daily experience of living with cancer but also in the potential for overcoming it.

In this groundbreaking book, Dr. Martin L. Rossman-hailed as "one of the greatest healers of our generation" by Rachel Naomi Remen-shows cancer patients how to use imagery in specific ways that can help them in their fight against cancer.

Imagery is a natural, efficient way of storing and processing information, and one that has powerful effects on both emotional states and physiology. And while imagery is not a substitute for medical, surgical, or other physical approaches to cancer therapy, scientific studies have proven that it complements and enhances those treatments in many important ways. In this first book of its kind, Rossman provides specific ways to use imaging in fighting cancer.

Book Description from the Back Cover

Recent research has shown that your mind has the power not only to alleviate the daily anxiety of living with cancer but also to improve your chances of overcoming it. In this important new book, leading complementary medicine expert Dr. Martin Rossman teaches you about the healing powers of imagery, providing techniques that can help you relax, alleviate stress, and relieve pain.

In more than thirty years of practice, Dr. Rossman has seen the power of imagery work for thousands of his patients. Now he shares these life-changing techniques in a practical and accessible guide for anyone who wants to tip the balance of health and illness in the direction of healing.

About the Author

Martin L. Rossman, M.D., is the cofounder and president of the Academy for Guided Imagery and is on the faculty of the medical school at the University of California, San Francisco. The author of Guided Imagery for Self-Healing, he lives in Mill Valley, California.

Book Reviews

"This very readable book gives your the practical information youneed to use your mint to access the healing power within. If you or a loved one has cancer, read it -- it can be a great help."

-- Andrew Weil, M.D., author of 8 Weeks to Optimum Health

"Intelligent, compassionate, provocative, and perhaps the most important book ever written about cancer and healing."

-- Jeanne Achterberg, author of Imagery in Healing : Shamanism and Modern Medicine

"From one of America's pioneers in holistic medicine comes a book that approaches cancer from a comprehensive body-mind-spirit perspective. No one who is dealing with cancer can afford to neglect any of these dimensions. If you or someone you love is facing cancer, this book is vital."

-- Larry Dossey, M.D., author of
Healing Beyond the Body : Medicine and the Infinite Reach of the Mind ,
Reinventing Medicine : Beyond Mind-Body to a New Era of Healing ,
and Healing Words

" Fighting Cancer from Within is an essential book for people with cancer. Dr. Rossman provides an impeccable guide to the use of imagery and other techniques in the cancer journey. He specifically addresses the different needs people with cancer have as they face diagnosis, treatment choices, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and other decisions. Speaking with wisdom, compassion, and clarity, Dr. Rossman has written a new classic to help people with cancer always to live better and, where possible, to live longer as well."

-- Michael Lerner, president of Commonweal, author of
Choices in Healing : Integrating the Best of Conventional
and Complementary Approaches to Cancer

" Fighting Cancer from Within is illuminating, practical, and deeply reassuring. Dr. Rossman is a beautiful teacher and a wise healer."

-- James S. Gordon, M.D., founder and director of the
Center for Mind-Body Medicine, and author of
Manifesto for a New Medicine and Comprehensive Cancer Care

"Dr. Rossman reminds us that we all possess the spirit and strength to regain control when cancer takes over our lives. His creativity and experience over the years are on full display in Fighting Cancer from Within , a bright and useful synthesis of imagery and other tools that can restore harmony and set the compass for smooth sailing in rough seas."

-- Debu Tripathy, professor of medicine and director of
the Komen Alliance Breast Cancer Research Center,
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

"For anyone determined to fight cancer and the side effects of cancer treatment, this book is mandatory reading. It will show you how to use guided imagery and the mind-body connection to stop worrying and to start winning to the very best of your ability."

-- David E. Bresler, Ph.D, L.Ac., associate clinical professor of anesthesiology,
UCLA School of Medicine, codirector of the Academy for Guided Imagery,
and former White House commissioner on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy

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This is an link for
Fighting Cancer from Within : How to Use the Power of Your Mind for Healing
by Martin L. Rossman, M.D.
ISBN 0-8050-6916-X / ISBN 080506916X