Mesothelioma patients often feel like they have lost control of their lives and health once they are diagnosed. On the contrary, according to one author who has dedicated her career to helping patients influence their own healing, patients have tremendous control over their cancer journey. They just need the skills to shift from feeling fear to feeling relaxed and peaceful.
Peggy Huddleston, psychotherapist and author of Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster: A Guide of Mind-Body Techniques, received a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School and has spent over 30 years researching the mind-body relationship. She ultimately developed a technique that harnesses "positive emotions and the human spirit" to speed healing.
"A person's capacity for reducing pain is profound," said Huddleston in an interview with MesotheliomaHelp. "When a patient learns to relax, he or she can significantly reduce both physical pain and emotional pain."
"I have a passion for seeing just how much patients can influence their own healing."
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Huddleston's five-step process involves relaxation, visualization, asking friends and family to wrap them in a "Blanket of Love," and healing statements spoken by the patient's medical team. Huddleston says benefits to patients include less anxiety before surgery, less pain after surgery resulting in 25-50 percent less use of pain medication, and faster recovery.
Impressed Nurses Learn Huddleston’s Technique
While caring for a surgical patient, Lisa Hyde-Barrett, a mesothelioma nurse with more than 25 years of experience, realized there was something “special” about the woman. She was positive and relaxed, and her husband was equally calm. Impressed by her attitude, Lisa asked her how she did it. The woman said she purchased Huddleston's book, Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster, and then talked with her by phone for a personal, one hour workshop.
Intrigued by the patient’s outlook and recovery, Hyde-Barrett recruited co-worker Eleanor Ericson to join her at a two-day training offered by Huddleston that certifies medical professionals who want to use her techniques for patient care. The two nurses, who work at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and provide their expertise to the mesothelioma community through the "Nurse's Corner" on MesotheliomaHelp.org, quickly saw the benefits of Huddleston’s techniques for mesothelioma patients.
"I have seen a lot during my career, and Peggy Huddleston's method works," says Hyde-Barrett.
"There are tons of research that says you need to have your head in the game before surgery- there is really no down side to this," says Ericson.
The two are now both certified to offer Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster workshops to patients and are working with Huddleston to bring the workshop to more hospitals in an effort to improve the patient experience.
Huddleston's program is offered in leading hospitals throughout the United States including Brigham and Women's Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, NYU Langone Medical Center, Harvard Medical School and Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara Medical Center in California. It is also available at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center, Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, NC and Norwalk Hospital in CT.
Studies Show Patients Leave Hospital Sooner, Use Less Pain Medication, Have Higher Satisfaction
Huddleston points to various studies that show how, through enhancing the mind-body connection, patients heal faster and leave the hospital more quickly after surgery.
One study at the Lahey Clinic, a Tufts University Medical School teaching hospital, compared colorectal surgery patients who used the techniques in Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster to a control group who did not use them. According to the study, the group following Huddleston’s program "had significantly less anxiety before surgery” and “were discharged from the hospital 1.6 days sooner than those in the control group." The test group of patients also "used 60% less pain medication, had significantly less irritability, insomnia, nightmares, loss of appetite and had a significant increase in patient satisfaction” compared to the control group.
In a separate study, New England Baptist Hospital physicians found that knee-joint replacement patients using the Huddleston method were less anxious prior to surgery, healed faster and were discharged 1.3 days sooner than those not using it.
Once patients learn the techniques they can tap back into them each time they undergo another treatment, whether that is surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. In fact, further evidence shows the technique allows patients facing chemotherapy to lessen the side effects of anxiety, nausea and insomnia.
"If mesothelioma patients learn my techniques and put them into practice before their surgery or treatments, they could have a tremendous capacity to influence their own healing," says Huddleston. "They can learn to access the deep inner peace that is their essence."
Mind Over Matter Really Does Matter
Mind over matter practices have been around for a long time, and many medical professionals and Americans are beginning to be more open to holistic medicine that focuses on the mind-body connection. The stress of a chronic diagnosis suppresses the immune system when patients need the benefits of a healthy immune system the most. By calming the nerves and easing stress, patients can actually boost their immune system to help fight disease.
"People have such a capacity to influence the course of their treatment," says Huddleston.
According to a recent survey from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), the number of patients using alternatives to drugs and medicine, including yoga and meditation, to improve health and well-being is high. For example, the study found that between 2002 and 2012, the number of American adults who practice yoga nearly doubled to 21 million.
The NCCIH researchers believe the high rates of yoga use may be attributed to a growing body of research that shows the benefits of mind and body practices for managing pain and reducing stress.
"This is where medicine is going," says Ericson, "treating the whole person."
See the following for more information about Peggy Huddleston and Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster:
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