Forgiveness and Cancer
“I met Zue at a cancer expo in Irvine, California. I was giving a talk about forgiveness and how forgiveness can help cancer patients during their healing journeys. I shared with the audience some of the experiences I’d had with various clients. Almost all of them had said they felt “resentment,” and acknowledged that holding grudges didn’t help them feel any better.
Zue stayed after my presentation to talk with me. Her question was, “So did I get cancer because I didn’t forgive?”
“Of course not,” I reassured her. “It’s not that unforgiveness causes cancer. It’s that the suppression of anger, resentment and grief disrupts the normal operation of our bodies. These disruptions lead to weakened immune system responses, and it’s this weakened immune system that opens the doors to illnesses and diseases.”
Zue then explained that she carried the cancer gene, so she felt there was nothing she could do about her health. She felt helpless and defeated by the disease.
I am not denying that you may get cancer regardless of your emotional well-being. The genetic link to cancer has been well proven, and some people who don’t carry the cancer gene, who are emotionally healthy, may undergo some other immune system breakdown that still allows cancer to grow. But it is also true that the connection between repressing your feelings and contracting cancer is one of the well-documented links in medical research.
I shared with Zue some conclusions made by cancer researchers:
- Stanford University researchers found that women who repressed their emotions were more likely to show disruptions in the normal balance of the stress hormone cortisol. (This can cause alterations in immune system response and suppression of the digestive and reproductive systems.)
- The Journal of Psychosomatic Research reported that extreme suppression of anger was the most commonly identified characteristic among 160 breast cancer patients.
- A University of Colorado study found that people who repressed their emotions after a traumatic event had lower immune systems than those who shared their feelings.
Several months after we’d met at the cancer expo, Zue called to schedule an appointment with me. When she arrived at my office, she mentioned that even though she was taking her medications and her condition was improving – and doctors were optimistic about her future – she still felt “really weakened inside” and wanted to try other options.
Zue was feeling drained and knew that the “leaks” in her energy were caused not only by the chemotherapy treatments and the stress of what she was going through, but by the unresolved issues inside of her as well. She said she harbored a lot of resentment toward her mother; she never felt really loved by her and had not been able to let go of that hurt. The more Zue thought about it, the more her anger grew.
We worked together for a full year. I supported and encouraged her to release her feelings of “not being loved.” Through the process of releasing, forgiving and letting go, Zue was able to develop a new relationship with her mother, and with herself. Forgiving her mother and forgiving herself for the judgments she had brought to the situation allowed her to grow in a positive way. She started feeling energized, even during the most difficult periods during of treatment.
She began to be able to accept her mother and feel more compassion for her. The mirror effect of this process was that she also began to accept herself and her own life. Without feeling pressure or guilt, and with eagerness for what her future might hold, Zue allowed her mother into her life again. We used the 3Fs process to help Zue transform her resentment into positive feelings that led her a complete recovery.
Zue experienced healing and a cure – her cancer is in remission! She still needs regular checkups and to take care of herself, but she now approaches her health and well-being with an open heart and mind. Whenever she finds herself in “grudge mode,” as she puts it, she calls my office and schedules a session. “I need to stay in forgiveness shape,” she explains. “I want to stay healthy inside and out.”
“The world can only change from within.” —Eckhart Toll
Extracted from my book "The Real Meaning of the F Word, Forgiveness as a Path to Freedom."