What does it mean to hear someone say "She has
cancer!" How does it feel when you hear "You are HIV-positive!"
In each case, the dominant emotion can be, and often is, fear. Unfortunately,
fear is one of the most significant barriers to healing. Some people I have
worked with choose to tell no one of their diagnosis, not because they are in
denial, but because of the debilitating nature of the fearful and negative
thoughts of others. Bernie Siegel, MD, who introduced healing imagery twenty
years ago, reports of patients who don't use terms of war and aggression when
imaging the healing of their bodies. War and aggression are fear-based,
reactive behaviors, rather than proactive.
Are there differences in reactions to a serious diagnosis
whether or not the patient is male or female? Perhaps. I think it is even more
interesting to explore reactions based on the four temperaments, which
The four temperaments were proposed by Paracelsus, and
based on the medieval concept of the four humors (contained in heart, lungs,
They are a familiar point of view for parents and teachers
in Waldorf schools, and are explained most lovingly by A.C. Harwood in his book
The Way of the Child (Anthroposophic
Press, Hudson, NY).
temperament, related to the color red and the planet Mars, is definitive,
and tends to take an aggressive course in the fight against illness. The
predominantly choleric person profits greatly from veil painting after being
given an opportunity to ventilate rage and grief with perhaps more kinetic
The melancholic person
tends to react with a statement such as, "I knew it." A patient of
mine confided, "I've wanted to die my whole life." Here the task is
to enkindle hope. There is an exquisite painting exercise from Dr. Margarethe
Hauschka which does just that.
need help not to exhaust themselves flying all over the world seeking the next
"miracle cure." I've never discouraged a patient from exploring
anything they believe might be helpful; in fact, I encourage them to try
anything resonant with their nature and their (not my) intuition. BUT, a significant
nursing (or physician) task is to help the patient conserve their forces and
keep up their strength. Many anthroposophical therapies call on the etheric
body, the life forces, to be strong enough to enable healing to occur.
Frantically exhausting oneself isn't supportive of these life forces.
person takes a reasoned approach, carefully exploring possibilities. The
problem here is motivation to activity, and not contemplation alone. This
"liver" type benefits greatly from the oft-prescribed Fragaria Vitis
Comp, but also may be encouraged to walk daily and faithfully undertake the
curative eurythmy exercises prescribed. The usual art therapy for this patient
is clay; however beeswax modeling may be substituted for a cancer patient.
The human being who has a life-threatening illness has an
enormous challenge ahead. For this reason it is important to develop a
"team" around the patient optimally consisting of
oncologist/specialist, anthroposophically-extended medical doctor, rhythmical
massage practitioner,* art therapist, counselor (or spiritual counselor), curative
eurythmist, an R.N. knowledgeable in anthroposophic hydrotherapy, a peer support
group, and the patient, its Team Leader.
Ideally, the group surrounding the patient consists of
colleagues who trust one another and communicate on a regular basis.
Besides treating the physical body, in
anthroposophically-extended medicine we have had success in healing from the
direction of the life- or etheric body; and the direction of the ego, the
higher, or eternal Self. A brief look at some therapies prescribed may be seen
in light of the fourfold nature of the human being.
can include compresses, oral- and injectable medications. Etheric or life-body therapies would include walking, painting,
rhythmic massage. Music and counseling address issues of the Soul or Astral Body. A direct approach
is made to the Ego or Higher Self via
fever-baths and mistletoe preparations, therapeutic eurythmy and meditations.
Fortunately, research has finally produced data supporting
this approach. Friends who have gone to the Lukas Clinic in Switzerland, or Park Atwood Clinic in England
consistently report a profound sense of healing in these hospitals where all
the therapies and "teams" are in place.
*other types of massage are contraindicated for cancer
R.N. is currently practicing in Portland, Oregon, and working with the Takacs