Monday, November 24, 2008


Anxiety has been my battlefield this last week. A cold has had me under the weather, tired, and a little worn out from the details of our anticancer plan. Some of my fellow travelers have been there and will understand. You know the routine, the what if’s, the rabbit-trail thinking, the worrisome thinking about details that haven’t happened yet but your mind is already playing out the story. And then there is the case for those of us battling cancer. There is that ever-present realization that anxiety can provide an environment for cancer to grow. So now I am anxious about my anxiety. Is the cold indicating that my plan is failing? Will the MRI on Dec. 1 show that the cancer is regrowing? How will my family survive? .. and on and on it goes. One of the chapters in Anticancer: A New Way of Life that I have found so invaluable, deals with the “Anticancer Mind.”

Let me quote Dr. David Servan-Schreiber 1 “It usually takes anywhere from five to forty years for the ‘seed’ of cancer in the form of a cellular anomaly to become a detectable cancerous tumor. This seed is born in a healthy cell due to abnormal genes or, much more commonly, exposure to radiation, environmental toxins, or other carcinogens such as benzopyrene from cigarette smoke. No psychological factor by itself has ever been identified as being capable of creating that cancer seed. However certain reactions to psychological stress can profoundly influence the soil in which the seed develops.” [1]
Dr. D. cites the following research article by Michael H. Antoni:
Epidemiological studies indicate that stress, chronic depression and lack of social support might serve as risk factors for cancer development and progression. Recent cellular and molecular studies have identified biological processes that could potentially mediate such effects. This review integrates clinical, cellular and molecular studies to provide a mechanistic understanding of the interface between biological and behavioral influences in cancer, and identifies novel behavioral or pharmacological interventions that might help improve cancer outcomes. [2]

Now, all of this might be more information that you desire. So what do we do? I believe there is a prescription available in an ancient book of wisdom that covers approximately 1000 years and comes from the source of the One who has designed life and how it is to be lived. So if I am trying to cooperate with His design in my anticancer plan (shouldn’t we all?), then shouldn’t I also cooperate with Him in every area of my life? Check it out:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, put into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. [3]

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but a good word makes it glad. [4]

Now wouldn’t it be nice if these prescriptions to fend ofF anxiety could be taken like a pill and worries would just disappear? But as Paul indicates, this is something that has to be put into practice. It cannot be done by proxy. Guards must be stationed around my thoughts. Their job is to keep stray thoughts from running down rabbit-trails. The word for anxiety, merimnao (Greek) , has the idea of distracted thinking or thoughts that run astray. Reflective, meditative thinking on what is true, and what brings hope, is the antidote to anxious thoughts. and then there is the gracious intervention by God through prayer and sometimes even in spite of prayerlessness. In another place, the real expert at living life, Jesus, said ...
Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life [5]

So, another character lesson is in process. Shouldn't having a malicious brain tumor removed be enough? Not necessarily. Life is all about learning how great God is and how needy we are in our creaturely insufficiency. So if God wants to continue the training process to show how necessary it is that I learn even deeper lessons of His glory, then my responsibility is to yield myself to the process. Stay tuned to how I am doing. Let me hear your encouraging or not so encouraging stories.

Today is another great day.

P.S. I found this podcast, “Stress and the Balance Within” by Krista Tippett at “Speaking of Faith,” insightful. I may not embrace all of the practices in this podcast but it was good to hear someone who is researching in this area of anxiety and health learn that she had to apply it to her own life. There is nothing like learning you have to practice what you preach .

P.S.S. You might check out my pastor blog for a listing to be posted later today of all the podcasts I regularly subscribe to in iTunes, plus an opml file to automatically import the subscription links into iTunes [TMI].

1 - Anticancer: A New Way of Life, p. 132

2 - Michael H. Antoni , S. K. Lutgendorf, S. W. Cole, et al., “The influence of bio-behavioral factors on tumour biology: pathways and mechanisms,” Nature Reviews Cancer 6, no. 3 (2006): 240-48. [Abstract link]

3 - Paul’s Letter to the Church at Philippi written while in prison in Rome, about A.D. 62

4 - From Solomon’s Book of Proverbs, between 10th century and 7th century B.C.

5 - From the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s biographical account of the life of Jesus, written sometime between 50 and 60 A.D.

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