("Katie" arrived by email . . . . webmaster)
Posted by Dr. David on June 06, 2002
And on to Katie's story, as promised......Once upon a time (and yes, a long time ago), I was a second year fellow in training in Pediatric Oncology and Hematology (childhood cancer) at the University of CT. During my second year fellowship, I started an at-home care program for kids dying or "transitioning" at home of their malignant disease. I would spend 10-12 hours at the hospital and then typically split the other 12-14 hours between two homes with kids dying of their disease. My goal was to help the kids with their pain and their fears and their parents with the emotional difficulties of their child dying.
Five years earlier, as an intern in Pediatrics, I cared for a 3 year old named Katie, diagnosed with a malignant kidney tumor called Wilm's tumor. She sailed through her initial surgery, chemo and radiation and was declared in remission and stayed so for three years. Then a series of recurrences numbering 5 altogether started. All treatment options were exhausted and the parents said finally enough is enough and pulled her out of traditional therapy. They chased some alternative routes, but all were to no avail. Then they called me to start the process of home care for their "dying" child, their precious 8 year old little girl.
I visited them the following day, first meeting with the parents for an hour and then Katie in her room. I found a beautiful pale gaunt little girl, with difficulty breathing and weakness, but still her beautiful smile highlighted her face. I asked her why she thought I was there and she responded with "My parents think I am going to die".
"And you don't?" I asked and she responded with an emphatic "NO". And asked me for my help. I gave her some homework, to pick out her favorite tapes of music and to draw me a storybook about how she wanted to kill her cancer cells. I also gulped hard, because I did not want to give her any false hope, but she wanted to work very hard at this and I did not want to discourage this in her "last" days. It was her choice how she wanted to spend them and not mine, or her parents.
I returned a day later to find 5 tapes with favorite music and songs picked out and a 15 page detailed storybook. The cover of the book was black. She saw her cancer filled lungs as a dark forest with no light anywhere. As each page progressed, a little more light filtered through the trees and by page 4, I could make out her cancer "gun" pointing at some mean ugly cancer cell monsters peering at her smiling from behind the trees. Page by page, the dead cancer cells piled up, with more light pouring through the trees. By page 15, a beautiful forest appeared with bright warm sunlight, bright happy flowers growing where dead cancer cells once lay. And the sun had a BIG smile on its face! And I smiled, with tears filling my eyes.
I returned after an "all-nighter" putting this tape together. With her music playing in the background, I started my rendition with 5 minutes of relaxation suggestion (she was already trained in self-hypnosis), followed by her story line, using her pictures and words. And I suggested that she spend as much time as she wished listening. Her parents looked at me questioning my actions, but acquiesced to her wishes. And then she started.... and I mean, with incredible determination, she literally dived into her new venture of self healing. I left her that day, a small thin tiny little girl wrapped in blankets. All I could see was this gaunt little face, a BIG smile, and headphones.
I continued to visit every day, then spread the visits to every other day then every 3-4 days....and slowly, I thought I saw this little girl improve clinically. I first thought it was my imagination and the parents definitely thought I was just imagining it. In fact, they became indignant at the suggestion that she was improving. Katie though knew she was getting better and her spirits showed it. Her parents increasingly complained that "all Katie did was listen to that God**** tape", but Katie persisted, listening to it almost every waking moment.
By week 10 (Katie was given 2-3 weeks "to live"), I found a happy, smiling, pink child with no difficulties breathing, and good weight gain. She was literally "back from the grave" and even her parents commented that their little girl "was back". I suggested a chest x-ray. The parents immediately refused scared to death, but Katie insisted that we get one. She felt empowered by her feeling of health and as much, said so. So off to the hospital we went and after an hour of holding our collective breath, the x-rays appeared. And her football sized mass in her chest was......totally gone! She just smiled with that "I knew it" look on her face, her parents quietly wept, and I wept as well. A full body work-up ensued, finding NO evidence of tumors at all.
My bosses shook their heads and mumbled about "spontaneous remission" and "yeah, we have heard about this happening". But Katie just smiled her beautiful smile knowing that she had "cured" herself.
Well, it doesn't end here. Due to all the chemo, radiation, and surgery, Katie was told that she would never be able to have babies of her own. Each year for the last ten years, I get a Christmas card watching her family grow in front of my eyes. Her children now number 3 beautiful girls, all with Katie's smile and spirit.
The power of Belief in oneself, in God or a higher Spirit, together with a method of relaxation and visualization are indeed very powerful.
We can learn a lot from our children if we just open our hearts and our minds to them. They truly believe.... We should too.
God Bless and Be Well.
Dr. David in Maine 6/1/2002
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