Foreword to "The Wellness Community Guide: Fighting for Recovery from Cancer"
Susan Love, MD
Last Modified: May 25, 1997
One of the major contributors to the psychosocial support of people with cancer in this country has come not from the medical profession, but from an enthusiastic, dedicated layman who had a vision. Harold H. Benjamin started The Wellness Community after his wife was treated for breast cancer. The Wellness Community over the years has grown to include 16 facilities throughout the country and continues to thrive. It thrives in large part because it helps people with cancer focus on Wellness rather than disease. Over the years, Harold Benjamin has refined his vision and now presents it for us in this timely book. This book will allow anyone to benefit from the philosophy of The Wellness Community and to become a "patient active."
There is one statement which I hate making more than any other...."I am sorry I have bad news for you, you have cancer." There is no way I can say these words and make them sound good. This is bad news to the recipient any way I phrase it. And there is one reaction....shock. Everyone I have ever known has first reacted with a feeling of total shock. This can't be true. She isn't talking about me. It must be some mistake. This shock is overwhelming, numbing and universal. Eventually the shock wears off. That is where the differences lie. That is when each person chooses how they are going to deal with this unwelcome visitor in their life. It is a choice and an important one. It is this choice that Harold Benjamin and The Wellness Community address so well in this book. Does it matter? Well, as Harold Benjamin almost promises, you will probably improve the quality of your life when you become a patient active. Is it possible you might even live longer? Everything is possible.
Although many of us have believed for a long time that there is a mind body connection, it was the recent work of David Spiegel which finally made it all scientific. He took women with metastatic breast cancer and randomized them between participating in a support group and getting their regular care. Many years later when he followed up on the women, he found to his surprise that the women who had participated in the support group had lived an average 18 months longer than those who hadn't. This remarkable study proved once and for all that there really is a physical change which comes with support and community. These support groups included much of the approach found in this book. Visualization, stress reduction, doctor patient relationships and interpersonal relationships. Why do these ephemeral "touchy feely" approaches to cancer recovery work....I am convinced they change the environment the cancer exists in and help tip the balance against the cancer cell and in your favor. Do they always work? Of course not. Nothing always works. But they may well work. And what do you have to lose?
Harold Benjamin gives you his almost promise that you will feel better no matter what. So what are you waiting for? You have followed all of your doctor's prescriptions and now it is time to follow your own and become a "patient active." You'll change the environment around you and you'll feel better, your family will feel better and--who knows--maybe the cancer will feel worse.
Susan Love, MD
Director, Revlon/UCLA Breast Center