Love, Medicine and Miracles: Lessons Learned about Self-Healing from a Surgeon's Experience with Exceptional Patients
Bernie S. Siegel

Peace, Love and Healing: Bodymind Communication & the Path to Self-Healing: An Exploration
Bernie S. Siegel

How to Live Between Office Visits: A Guide to Life, Love and Health
Bernie S. Siegel

Dr. Carl Simonton's Getting Well: A Step-by Step, Self-Help Guide to Overcoming Cancer for Patients and their Families
O. Carl Simonton, Stephanie Matthews-Simonton and James Creighton

Minding the Body, Mending the Mind
Joan Borysenko with Larry Rothstein

Guilt is the Teacher, Love is the Lesson
Joan Borysenko

The Power of the Mind to Heal
Joan Borysenko and Miroslav Borysenko

Why psychology is important in healing

So many emotions arise in cancer patients—not just the obvious ones of fear and depression but also guilt, anger, and resentment. If these emotions can be dealt with and positive emotions engaged, it can make a tremendous difference in how the body responds to the challenge of disease.

Dr. C. Norman Shealy, renowned neurosurgeon and founder of the American Holistic Medicine Association, says in his book Sacred Healing, “The bottom line is, you cannot afford the luxury of fear, anxiety, anger, guilt, or depression, no matter what the cause! And you can’t afford prejudice, dislike, hatred, resentment, greed, or ignorance. At some level there has to be a physiological negative effect.”[1]

It is well known that high blood pressure and migraines are associated with chronic anger, and there is a personality type that is associated with heart attacks. Dr. Shealy points out something that is not so well known, however, which is that chronic depression is clearly associated medically with cancer.[2] (This does not mean that chronic depression causes cancer; rather, there is a clear statistical correlation. Whether there is a causative relationship is still an open question.)

As I read about this research, I was driven to find out more about the connection between cancer, the mind, and emotions. I had a strong inner prompting that my own psychology was an important issue for me to resolve. Fortunately I had a very good therapist, Dr. Marilyn Barrick, to assist me with this aspect of my healing.

Like anyone with a recently-diagnosed serious illness, I went through various emotions that follow a well-known pattern—shock, denial, anger, depression, acceptance. Among the things I had to deal with was also a sense of guilt about getting the illness in the first place—here I was, a doctor and a minister who dealt with spiritual issues, and I had breast cancer. How could I have let this happen to me? Couldn’t I see it coming? Although many of these feelings were short-lived, it was important to acknowledge and deal with them and not ignore or suppress them.

I knew that cancer does not grow overnight. Some experts estimate that it exists microscopically and slowly grows for up to five years before it is discovered. I began to wonder about the kind of “soil” that I had provided that had allowed the cancer to grow in my body.

Marilyn made it clear that guilt, shame, fear, anger, and bitterness are common emotions for many patients with cancer, and they must be looked at and dealt with. These are not helpful emotions to keep, but if you don’t acknowledge them and deal with them as they come up, they can simmer for a long time beneath the surface, eventually coloring your entire outlook on life. I faced all of these emotions at some time during my treatment, and being able to talk about them and understand them more with Marilyn’s help was very healing.


1. C. Norman Shealy, Sacred Healing: The Curing Power of Energy and Spirituality (Boston, Mass.: Element, 1999), p. 125.

2. Ibid., p. 124.


Excerpted from A Journey through Cancer, by Neroli Duffy