Cancer Center Helps Heal Mind and Body
Posted February 12, 1999 6:00 a.m. EST
CHAPEL HILL — The sterile, white-washed halls of a hospital can be a cold and intimidating place, especially for someone being treated for cancer.
But atUNC's Clinical Cancer Center,patients like Helen Strickland get more than just medical treatment; they get counseling.
"We talk about how I feel, how I feel about myself," Strickland says. She says the counselors are a big help.
"We realize that once they receive the diagnosis of cancer, it's like being on a roller coaster," says counselor Liz Sherwood-Mill.
Sherwood-Mill says patients are now expecting hospitals to treat the mind along with the body.
"We know that high levels of stress negatively impact on one's health, and if we can help people decrease their stress, then they can use that energy for healing," she says.
Cornucopia, a cancer patient support center in Chapel Hill, provides a variety of classes designed to help people cope with illness.
"When you're with a group of folks who are sharing the same kind of thing, you're no longer alone, and that makes a huge difference," says Anne Mader, director of the support center.
Doctors recently gave Tammie Webb a clean bill of health, just 10 months after she was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer.
Webb believes her attitude helped her recovery. She says now, she lives each day fully.
"When I laugh now, I laugh on a deeper level. When I cry, I cry on a deeper level," Webb says.
While there's no hard scientific data that alternative therapies like yoga help people heal, doctors say they are becoming more convinced that a healthy mental attitude makes people more receptive to treatment.
"There clearly is something to a patient being more psychologically at peace, being able to get through a lot of things better," says UNC Oncology Director Frank Detterbeck.
Patient Phyllis Bennett agrees. The day after her last radiation treatment for breast cancer, she says a positive attitude and counseling helped her through the ordeal.
"I believe treating your mind is just as important as treating the physical malady you have," Bennett says. "I don't believe you can truly heal until you heal your mind."
Most hospitals now assign counselors to patients who are diagnosed with cancer, to help them through the treatment.