Ken Burns’ new documentary series, “Cancer, the Emperor of All Maladies”, highlights “the longest running war in human history”. But beyond the ongoing scientific quest for a cure are there other ways people have found freedom from such a devastating diagnosis?
Could the seed of what a writer recently called “arguably our most feared disease” lie in something as simple as a thought?
Not necessarily a conscious thought and not just some negative thought that can simply be “cured” by positive thinking. But a deeper, mistaken view of ourselves as merely material that gives a foundation to feeling fearful?
Admittedly, that’s not the question asked by David Robson in his recent article on “mysterious miracle cases inspiring doctors”. Instead, his BBC Future piece concentrates on the medical response to several “rare and unexpected” instances of the nonmedical reversal of cancer symptoms. The article focused on researchers seeking to answer the question “why?” from the traditional standpoint of material cause and effect.
Yet patients who have experienced such symptom reversals don’t always see it that way.
Indeed, the BBC article opens with just such a case, relating the reasons why Dr Alan Irvine felt unable to medically treat a 74-year-old patient at St James’ Hospital, Dublin. Despite this, he witnessed how the woman’s tumors “just disappeared” until tests proved she had become completely cancer free. Now curious scientists are “looking to the underlying biology” for clues “that could make these rare cases of self-healing more common”.
In contrast, the patient herself looked away from the biology of her situation and turned to her theology.
“Irvine’s patient believed it was the hand of God; she had kissed a religious relic just before the healing set in,” Robson recorded.
Let’s gently set aside any suggestion that a material object could actually be invested with intrinsic healing power. There still remains something unique about this situation. The fact is the woman clearly believed that kissing the relic could cure her cancer, and full freedom from the symptoms followed.
Does that prove there is a God who blesses those who kiss relics? No, but if we found a drug that performed as well as this woman’s faith did wouldn’t just about every research facility in the world be falling over itself to patent it?
Likewise, shouldn’t we dig deeper into the healing potential of a spiritual conviction?
If so, then it’s worth considering the case of Anita Moorjani. The bestselling author had a cancer that rapidly improved after she came out of a coma caused by the “final hours” of “end stage lymphoma”.
At a recent London seminar she shared her story. While still in the coma she felt the deep awareness of an all-encompassing spiritual presence that loves without judgment. In turn, that realisation profoundly renewed her sense of identity and self-worth. The fear of the cancer left her and she was convinced her body would soon be healthy again.
So it proved. That inner mental shift was followed by the rapid reversal of the severe cancer symptoms, overturning the terminal prognosis she almost succumbed to. Just five weeks later she was declared completely cancer free by her astonished doctors.
The potential healing impact of changing the way we think about ourselves was the main theme of Moorjani’s London event entitled “Being Myself”. Although not a Christian, she pointed out how Jesus taught us to love our neighbour as ourselves, adding: “You can’t be unconditionally loving to others until you are so to yourself”.
Indeed, Jesus didn’t just teach the idea of unconditional love, he exemplified it – with tangible results. According to the Bible many healings resulted from his understanding and ministry of impartial love. There was something in his thinking that consistently brought about the physical, mental, moral and spiritual restoration of others.
So what was that something?
A woman who laboured to prove that the legacy of Jesus was a practical, healing theology, summarised it this way: “He plunged beneath the material surface of things, and found the spiritual cause” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy).
His understanding of a perfect, divine cause shed new light on everyone’s underlying spiritual nature, which was the basis for the tangible impact he had on others’ lives.
A deep spiritual thinker and healer herself, Eddy once wrote: “I have discerned disease in the human mind, and recognized the patient’s fear of it, months before the so-called disease made its appearance in the body.”
That, of course, is not blaming the patient for a disease. It is simply suggesting that being mentally alert and watching what we allow into our thinking is central to our health. And refusing fear entry when it knocks on the door of thought is key, as Eddy herself proved in her Christian Science practice which included healing cancer and many other diseases.
But what if a seed of fear has already been sown? Is it too late?
Cases like the Dublin patient and Anita Moorjani indicate it isn’t. An annotated bibliography including over 3,500 cases of medically reported cases of spontaneous remission (over 1,000 of which were cancers) also point in that direction, as do the numerous healings recorded in Christian Science periodicals over the past 125 years.
As researchers continue to seek a cause for these cases, perhaps they, too, will eventually conclude that the answer lies less with the body and more with the mind and that removing fear is often at the root of curing our diseases.
And just beyond that lies the seed of a liberating healing idea – the fact that fear has no source in that purely spiritual cause which Jesus so consistently proved by his own healing practice.