Can the human spirit overcome cancer? Yes!, says Susan Ryan Jordan, a breast cancer survivor and author of The Immune Spirit: A Story of Love, Loss and Healing. Dr. Oz talks to Susan about her book, her journey to overcome breast cancer and how our belief systems affect our ability to heal.
When Susan was first diagnosed with breast cancer in October 1979, she says she blamed herself for being sick. She says a number of events in her personal life, including her mother's death and her own difficult divorce, contributed to her feelings of low self esteem, guilt and shame. "I felt that I deserved breast cancer," she says. "That's psychologically what was going on in my head, that's how warped my thinking was in those days."
After reading Carl and Stephanie Simonton's Getting Well Again, Susan says she was awakened to a new way of thinking. She says she began to see how negative thinking could undermine her ability to heal, whereas self-care and positive thinking had the potential to help her heal. "You can change the course of an illness if you can change the way that you react to the stressful events that are happening to you," she says. "It isn't stress, it is the way we react to it that is so detrimental to one's health."
Determined to fight for her life, Susan says she used techniques such as visualization therapy to change her mindset and help her body heal. She says although it may sound silly, she pictured her immune system as "a bunch of tiny little white creatures, kind of like knights in white armor." "I imagined them going after anything—any suspicious cell in my body—and literally clobbering the thing," she says.
Then, with the help and support of caring doctors, Susan says she underwent surgery and pulled through. Today, she has been cancer free for 20 years, and says life has changed in ways she never thought possible. "I never, ever, first of all, thought I would be such a happy individual as I am, I never thought I would be so fulfilled," she says. "I have an absolutely marvelous husband, we have a wonderful family, I have four great dogs and I do what I love to do—I'm writing."