This story is taken from the book “Learned Optimism” and is very powerful in showing the power of our thoughts on our immune systems:
“Daniel was only nine when the doctors diagnosed him as having Burkitt’s lymphoma, a form of abdominal cancer. He was now ten, and in spite of an agonizing year of radiation and chemotherapy, the cancer was still spreading. His doctors and almost everyone else had given up hope. But not Daniel.
Daniel had plans. He was going to grow up and be a researcher, he told everyone, and discover how to cure diseases like this so other kids would be safe. Even as his body weakened, Daniel’s optimism remained strong.
Daniel lived in Salt Lake City. The main focus of his hope was a doctor he described as “the famous East Coast Specialist”. This doctor, an authority on Burkitt’s lymphoma, had gotten interested in Daniel’s illness and had been consulting long-distance with Daniel’s doctors. He planned to meet Daniel and talk with his doctors.
Daniel had been excited for weeks. There was so much that he wanted to tell the specialist. He was keeping a diary, and he hoped the diary would give some clues about what his cure would be. He felt he was participating in his own treatment now.
On the day the specialist was to arrive, fog blanketed Salt Lake City and the airport closed down. The control tower sent the specialist’s plane over to Denver, and he decided to go directly on to San Francisco. When Daniel heard the news, he cried quietly. His parents and nurses told him to rest, and they promised to get the doctor by phone in San Francisco so Daniel could talk to him. But by the next morning Daniel was listless; he had never been listless before. He had a high fever, and pneumonia set in. By evening he was in a coma. He died the next afternoon.
The chapter in the book “Health” goes on to show how Madelon Visintainer, who went on to become a chairperson of the Department of Pediatric Nursing at the Yale School of Medicine created experiments that showed how learned helplessness by giving rats shocks created cancer growths in rats but not in those who were given control and developed mastery.
The whole book shows how Optimism can be learned and so can learned helplessness. Adversity besets everyone, but pessimists give up and become depressed more easily.
HOW WE EXPLAIN these events to ourselves and how we bounce back from them determine how quickly we recover and the outcome. We’ve all known people who’ve come down with illness and quickly give up and succumb.
Then there are other’s who fight back and learn what they can and demand the best treatment. It’s been know that the best patient is the difficult patient who insists on being kept in the loop of their own treatment and sometimes walks out and seeks better care if necessary. Becoming emotionally resilient helps to overcome tragedies and backslides quickly and these people are less depressed and happier.
Roe Gallo’s story is very inspiring of how she overcame debilitating asthma as a young adult. She had walked out of the hospital after a really bad attack after she saw that the medicine that they had put her on she would have to be on for life and wasn’t helping but hurting her, put herself on a water fast, became a raw foodist, high fruit eater and has never had asthma since and has two little doggies the first time in her life.
Never underestimate the power of your thoughts on your life. They can motivate you to actions or prevent you from taking actions. What you think can be critical to your success or your demise. You are responsible for what you choose to think. Learn to think resiliently and watch your life chang