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February 2001 Volume 4, Issue 3:
A Patient's Experience
By Doug W. Wright
Surf Your Subconcious Mind
Surf Your Subconcious Mind

(left- Doug and Jamie Wright with son Sean)

The youngest in a family of three sons, I was born and raised on a dairy and sheep farm near the university town of Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. Our mother died when I was twelve and it is only now that I realise that, in her, I lost the only person who knew and encouraged my potential. My perception of myself was that of not being particularly good at anything.

In reality, I was the only member of my family to Matriculate, obtain University entrance and later, by my own motivation, to graduate with a first class Bachelor of Science Degree in Agriculture from the University of Natal. Shortly after graduating, my eldest brother talked me into returning to the family farm to persuade our ailing father to retire to the coast. This effectively prevented me from furthering my post-graduate education. My brother and his family then emigrated. In essence, I was left in charge of a family farm I did not own and was not in line to inherit. With a wife and two children to support, my position was an emotional and financial nightmare.

My pattern of coping was to become stoical and dig in. I saw others as incompetent and often took control of their responsibilities believing that the buck stopped with me. This fear of loss of control inevitably led to feelings of helplessness allied to an inability to see any way out of my situation. Ultimately, health problems such as allergies, sinusitis and congenital asthma began to manifest and, suddenly, I developed an acute fear of heights! My wife suggested that I investigate alternative treatment practitioners. I visited a Reflexologist and, under her care, the asthma disappeared as miraculously as it had appeared. Then my father died and the wheels came off everything. 

Over the preceeding two or three years, my family doctor had diagnosed ailments such as cocc saki virus, Bornholms disease, stressed intercostal muscles, etc. But I knew, instinctively, that I was ill – that I was not being psychosomatic – and that it was something serious. I had had a painful rib for some time (subsequently found to have been broken) so I took myself off to a specialist physician. Luckily for me, she had worked specifically with multiple myeloma and recognised the symptoms. She did blood tests and a bone marrow tap which showed the protein “spike”. In July 1996 I was diagnosed with myeloma. 

My initial reaction was – What’s Myeloma? I asked a prominent doctor acquaintance if there were any other myeloma cases in Grahamstown. He replied that there were and let me have their names. Subsequently, it turned out that they were all melanomas and I was the only myeloma patient in town. 

My physician sent me to the regional State Hospital in Port Elizabeth. An intern sounded my chest and back with a stethoscope, told me that I was fine and could go home. I went ballistic. My physician back home arranged for treatment at a private clinic in Port Elizabeth and I was put on a (Peri) Vincristine (Epi)Adriamycin (Farmorubicin) Cyclophosphamide (Endoxan) Decadron drip protocol of one week on and three weeks off for the next six months. During my treatment week, my capable wife took over the routine responsibilities of the farm.

After I had started chemo, I went back to my Reflexologist whose interests had moved into Body Alignment and Kiniesiology. I have been her guinea-pig ever since, progressing with her through each new module she has learnt. I don’t question the scientific basis of these treatments – I accept that whatever she does works for me on some sort of synergistic energy level. I had no blood count problems throughout the chemo and the side effects were, when comparing notes with others, overcome more speedily. 

My oncologist told me that I would be lucky to make it over the next 12 months and should get my affairs in order. I was told the less I knew the better. The prospect of handing control of my life over to someone else was unbearable. I was determined to find out everything I could about the disease. An old university friend who is currently Research Professor at UCLA enrolled me as an IMF member. The IMF was and is invaluable. The initial information package got me started on a journey of discovery and recovery and my subscription to Myeloma Today keeps me constantly on the cutting edge. I can unequivocably state that from that time onwards I took back control of my life and have been a thorn in the flesh of most of the local oncologists ever since!

After my chemo protocol, my oncologist sent me to Capetown to investigate the feasibility of a Bone Marrow Transplant. I was considered to be a good candidate but I never discovered whether a good candidate meant for their BMT survival success rate percentage or for prolonging my quality of life! Having done my homework, I argued against the transplant. The professor of oncology told me I would be back within 18 months begging for a BMT – that was March 1997. 
I was becoming more and more convinced that the breakdown of my immune system had led to my disease. I decided to strengthen my immune system so it could push the cancer out the same way it came in. But how? I commenced my study. Initially all I could find was academic haemotology research. For a farmer this was pretty heavy going. I found and read voraciously books by Carl Simonton, Bernie Segal, Deepak Chopra, Carolyn Myss, Jon Kabat-Zinn and Brandon Bays. Whenever I saw the word immune, I checked it out. I contacted Prof. Patrick Bouic of Stellenbosch University’s Immunology Department. He had done research on the Hypoxis (African Wild Potato) – an old traditional cancer cure. His research resulted in the isolation of the glucoside and the 100:1 Sterol: sterolin immune modulator/booster now available as a supplement product called “Moducare”. He started me on this and it appears that it is now routinely prescribed to chemo patients.

So who are the survivors and why do they survive longer? Most writers imply that there has to be a shift in past patterns of behaviour or attitudes and a focusing inward toward an awareness of self. No shift, no long-term survival. My wife found an article in the local newspaper about a lecture on Psycho-Neuro-Immunology. PNI examines how thoughts, perceptions, emotions, and the coping styles we choose in response to these perceptions cause changes in body chemistry, which in turn causes changes in immune system functioning.

Could PNI help me boost my immune system in order to alleviate or slow down the disease progression? The more knowledgeable I became, the more convinced I was that PNI used as an adjunctive (not alternative) intervention together with allopathic medicine, could aid the healing process and assist in the prevention of relapses. The immune system can be enhanced through psychological intervention and there is a large body of research to support that claim. And guess what? I heard the term Psycho-Oncology bandied about the other day by a member of the medical profession.

PNI helped me address many issues and although I have worked through the ones listed below many times, I never stop learning.

Self Awareness: Who am I? What past decisions led to my patterns and coping styles? I accessed them – and changed the patterns. They were probably responsible for my immunosuppression.

Bodymind Awareness: Where do I feel the connection between emotions, symptoms and situations? (e.g. I stay away from negative people and situations that feed off my energy – I need all the energy for myself.)

Hardiness: I must have got something right to still be alive! Hardiness can be created by Commitment (I get involved), Control (feel your own power) and Challenge (be stimulated by stress rather than threatened). 

Dealing Effectively with Fears: By using “What if?” – the worst case scenario – I confronted my fear of dying.

Expression of Emotions: I needed to get anger and unfinished business out of my body. I sorted out particular areas such as fears, losses, decisions made about myself and the world as a result of my early coping style, and tackled my unfinished business. I wrote individual letters as answers to such questions as: who judged or criticised me? who am I succeeding for? who told me I was stupid? who hurt me? what perceptions did I form about myself? how did they make me feel? I told them in my letters and then I tore them up. 

Creating Purpose and Passion for Life: If I don’t have a sense of purpose to live why bother. Instead of telling myself “I don’t want to die,” I say “I am going to stay alive for myself because I still want to do X, Y, Z (list them).” Don’t wait until you have finished the chemo – start doing it NOW, one step at a time. 

Dialogue with Myeloma: I started a daily in-my-head dialogue with my disease. I asked what it was trying to tell me. I created a truce state and I accept and treat my Myeloma with respect – IT'S MY WAKE UP CALL.

Creating Opportunities for Transformation: I use the memory of a special happy place from my past to retreat to in my mind which calms me when the going gets tough.

If you accept that God is All Powerful and you are made in the Image of God, then you have the POWER too, so use it. God helps those who help themselves!

Editor’s Note: Doug W. Wright can be reached via e-mail at westoe@imaginet.co.za or P.O. Box 20370, Humewood, 6013, Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

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