Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The Roger Bannister effect

Imagine if we spent our whole lives hearing "It's easy." But no, we've been conditioned to believe that 'life is tough', 'you have to fight for what you want', 'if it's easy there must be a catch'. 

Unfortunately when it comes to cancer, many of us have deeply ingrained (and negative) word associations. Maybe 'death', or 'suffering', or 'pain'? We have an uncomfortable relationship with the word, and with the disease. We've either succumbed to tabloid headlines, or known someone who has had the disease. We've become so confused about what chemotherapy looks like, that sometimes we forget what cancer looks like. 

But what if it was easy to heal from cancer? What if you replaced the word 'cancer' with 'lump', or something even more benign. What if you learned that many, many people around the world have survived cancer, and continue to thrive? What if we changed our expectations, and so our thought processes?

One of my favourite practitioners, Bob Jacobs, once told me about "The Roger Bannister effect'. No-one believed that it was possible to run a sub four minute mile, until Roger Bannister did exactly that. And then guess what happened? Athletes regularly began running sub-four minute miles, repeatedly breaking his new record.

As soon as I learned that people had overcome far more advanced cancer than mine, I began to believe that survival was possible. On diagnosis, one of the best things you can do is to find someone who has lived a long and healthy life having had your particular cancer. Never underestimate Hope. 

Just prior to having my first Minimal Residual Disease test, I asked my doctor if anyone had ever reduced their circulating cell count to zero. She told me she'd never seen it. Fast forward four years, and one of her patients has done just that. Now we can all believe it is possible, and that is exactly what I'm aiming for.