Nothing is malarkey. That is what our oncologist – a renowned researcher and tenured Harvard professor – told us when we asked about whether visualization and meditation would aid in Husband’s cancer recovery. Nothing is malarkey. This doesn’t mean that he advocated discarding chemotherapy, or that he found meditation effective for all his patients. What he meant was that fighting cancer was a complex physical and mental battle, and that different people found diverse tools valuable for maximizing their chances of survival. For some, what worked was visualizing a healing light killing cancer cells. For others, laughter was the best medicine, so watching slapstick was a regular afternoon activity.
We took this to mean that everything constructive had the potential to increase Husband’s long-term survival by some fraction of a percentage point, and we did it all: support groups, meditation, nutrition, comedy, visualization, garnering support from friends and family. We read every bit of research we could find, and then grilled our doctor about the studies. We were informed and involved medical consumers. Obviously, we had no exact way to measure how much eating better or reading the latest medical studies improved our numbers. Regardless, as Husband was fighting for his life, we wanted to claim every smidgen of percent that we could.
What we did know was that cancer patients with defeatist attitudes usually had worse outcomes. Being proactive while Husband recovered from one chemo and radiation treatment in preparation for the next, we were able to maintain a much stronger and more resilient frame of mind. We felt we were always doing something to make Husband better, while chemicals and radiation coursed through his body. Proactivity gave us back a sense of control. We were no longer passively waiting for the next treatment or battery of tests.