How Hypnotherapy Saved My Life

I have no doubts about the effectiveness of what I teach my clients because I’ve had the opportunity to put it to the test.

I had always wondered how I’d react if I learned that I would be dying soon. In 2013 the opportunity to find out appeared: while I was standing outside my home in the warm sunshine of a summer day, I was startled by the sensation of a hard, round lump which one of my fingers absent-mindedly traced on the left side of my neck.

As my fingers continued to examine and define the shape of the lump, a flood of thoughts gushed through my mind. It seemed that a deepening fissure opened inside of me as a beastly terror rose from my core.

Slowly I began to sift through the thoughts and feelings, and to unravel the knot of what I can now name as ‘shock’. “This is IT,” came the answer to the deluge of questions triggered by the sensations of the lump. “This is cancer. This is the beginning of the end of my life. This is the evidence of the disease that will kill me.”

I tried to counter with some calming, rational responses: “I don’t really know what this is. I’m just being paranoid. Freaking out right now isn’t going to serve any purpose.” Within two hours, though, I had seen a doctor, had a CT scan, and absorbed numerous looks of compassionate concern from the healthcare professionals who were dealing with me. My original, intuitive synopsis of my predicament was now in charge. And within two weeks my doctors received conclusive results that I did indeed have cancer.

The journey to heal this disease and recover from the standard treatments I received has brought insight and clarity that has changed the way I live. I’m grateful for the good fortune that makes my story of healing a successful one. I also want to share what I know about healing and what helped me the most. I want to tell you how my vocation and practice as a hypnotherapist and meditator brought a wellspring of courage, comfort, and serenity to replace the passing experiences of pain and fear during the treatments and recovery. Here are two specific examples from the first round of treatments:

Each of the thirty-five sessions of radiation to my neck, throat, mouth and head, with my body strapped to a table, my head constrained by a customized contoured fitted face mask secured to the table with snaps, with my breath moving through a straw stuck in my mouth protruding through the mask, gave me a chance to get ahold of my mind and practice calming my anxiety about being confined in a small space with no room to breathe.

Each of the seven weekly chemotherapy infusions gave me a chance to practice soothing myself before, during and after the procedure. I repeatedly used the visualizations, meditations, and breathing practices I teach my clients. Sometimes it wasn’t easy, but I kept practicing. Sometimes, when I felt like giving up, I prayed for help and the courage to continue.

At the end of the treatments the skin on the treated side of my neck looked like a burn victim’s. 3 weeks later my skin looked brand new. The skin had healed so quickly and thoroughly that my radiation oncologist’s jaw dropped when she had her first glimpse of me at the follow-up appointment. She said, “Wow! You must have some special healing powers.” I believe we all have healing power. I believe it’s what bodies, minds and spirits do best when working in balance and harmony.

One of my primary focuses when I begin working with a client is to help them get connected with their own source of healing. It’s not something I need to create for them. It’s something I know is there, and I see it in them when they first walk into my office at the Westside Healing Arts Center. That source is the essential, fundamental first step to all healing work.

As my body healed from the damaging effects of radiation and chemotherapy, my team of doctors were expressing great positivity about my prognosis for a full recovery and an end to my ‘fight against cancer’. However, the disease lay undetected for a couple years. With renewed vigor it then resurfaced into Stage 4 Metastatic Carcinoma, spread now through my neck and into my lungs. In fact, the presenting tumor, the one I’d first felt which led me to the cancer diagnosis and treatment…came ‘back to life’ in a very robust incarnation. This was the very tumor which had been the main focus of those 35 radiation treatments and 7 weekly chemotherapy infusions!

I had more standard medical treatments, including neck surgery to remove as much of the neck tumor as possible with as little ‘collateral damage’ as possible, and a more precise and less (apparently) damaging form of radiation to the biggest lung tumor. I declined the added recommendations for 20 more treatments of radiation to the area that the neck tumor had been removed from, as well as more chemotherapy, because it hadn’t stopped the progression of the disease the first time.

Today, 8 years after the last standard medical treatment, I am clear of disease. I am comfortable most of the time. I am also patient.

Did you know that the two meanings of the word ‘patient’ come from the same root? The root is ‘pati’ and ‘passio’, which is Latin and means ‘to suffer, to endure. We have patience, and doctors and healthcare systems have patients. In any case, I am patient…with things and people. But I’ve learned that there comes a point when patience is not a virtue that one needs to apply to every situation at hand.

I had patience for the medical treatments, but there was a juncture where I lost faith in them. The first round of treatments (radiation/chemo) did not stop the cancer, but had knocked me down the ‘hill of health’ further than I cared to go. One of my doctors preparing me for the 2nd round of treatments told me that, because of the damage I ‘suffered’ from the previous treatments, I’d lost 2 of the 3 ways the throat prevent food and liquid from entering the lungs when swallowing. My epiglottis is not only paralyzed, it traps food in my throat every time I eat. Now, after the 2nd round (neck surgery) one of my vocal cords is paralyzed due to the nerve that controls it being severed or vascularized, which apparently needed to happen to remove the tumor that was embedded in it (the tumor the first round treated which came back to life). There is more nerve damage which left areas of my body numb and muscle groups that don’t move together in the way they should.

But as I said, I am mostly comfortable. Some of the people I know who have gone through the same route of standard treatment for the specific kind of cancer I began with use a feeding tube to eat so they can be nourished (because they can’t swallow anymore). Some don’t have saliva anymore so they have to drink water with every bite in order to swallow, and take 4 times as long to eat a meal as anyone else at the table. Some don’t have taste buds so they don’t taste the sweetest or the other flavors of life through their food.

Some don’t feel comfortable eating with anyone else around. Many don’t go out to eat. I eat, swallow, I have saliva, and I revere the full palate of tastes that life’s bounty offers me through my tastebuds. I have comfort, ease, strength, joy, peace and love. There is a reason for this, and I want to share with you what it is and how to make use of that information for yourself.

I’m thankful for the love and skillful work of everyone who cared for my well-being, including my wife, my family, my doctors and healers from many “alternative” disciplines, and the good wishes, energies and prayers of many people near, far and dear to me. My gratitude for these healers reminds me every day that I am blessed.

I have also come to understand that healing is not a just a passive (ah, there’s that enduring word again!) process. Following the advice and protocols of those we trust with our care is not the complete remedy for what ails us. I have learned that something else is being required for healing: that what we think, how we interpret and make sense of WHO WE ARE and the world we live in determines the outcome of each chapter of our lives. There is the capacity within us to shift negative emotional energy and thoughts, Future Evidence Appearing Real, towards the positive, Luminous Open Vibrant Energy that provides, protects and perpetuates balance and harmony within and without our bodies.

I believe we have a calling to learn and develop, and that we get stuck in pain and suffering until we take this work to heart.

Deep-rooted beliefs taken as fact and left unexamined can be the instigators of great suffering. Bringing these beliefs into the focus of our silent awareness and holding them with care gives us a chance to examine them, transform them, release or keep them. And that is freedom.

I am devoted to helping others who are facing their own healing crisis learn the skills and tools that have helped me. Please contact me or share this article with someone you know who might benefit from working with me.

In gratitude,

Eliot Nemzer

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