To hurl or not to hurl?

That is the question. And when you’re given bags of anti-nausea medication with each chemo infusion, it’s a pretty big suggestion that you’re going to feel sick, isn’t it. Not to mention the anti-emetics you take home with you. Plants a seed in the mind, doesn’t it. And there’s so much power in that. For better or for worse.

But consider this…

Another fabulous study. Way back in the 1950s. It was then that Dr Stewart Wolf took a group of pregnant women who were suffering persistent morning sickness in all its glory. Nausea, vomiting, the works. And he asked each woman to swallow a little balloon tipped tube so that he could measure the stomach contractions with each wave of nausea. And then he gave them some medication that he told them would cure the nausea and vomiting. Not a sugar pill, mind you. Something far more incredible. Syrup of Ipecac. You know, that wonderful stuff designed specifically to induce vomiting. Your grandmother probably kept it in her medicine cabinet along with the castor oil. The stuff you’d give someone if they’d been poisoned so they brought it all back up. So much more certain to induce vomiting than chemo. After all, with chemo it’s only a possible side-effect. Not everybody vomits after all, do they. But with Syrup of Ipecac it’s a no brainer. It’s designed to make you hurl.

But the incredible thing is, every single woman stopped their nausea and vomiting. And their stomach contractions returned to normal as measured by the balloons. And despite the fact they had been given one of the most powerful medications designed to make them vomit, the belief alone that they had been given something to help them was enough to stop the symptoms. The Syrup of Ipecac should have made them even sicker. But these women overcame the power of this drug through the simple belief it was a cure. They were probably not even aware. And it was so easily done.

It’s mind blowing, isn’t it. Such a long time ago, but the principle still so rarely used. If you can overcome a drug designed specifically to induce vomiting simply through the power of the mind, why can’t we do more of this to help people through chemo. Instead of suggesting the very opposite? Why isn’t this mainstream?

My wise and beautiful oncologist often reminds me, ‘your mind is so important in this’. And the beautiful thing is we can use it to our advantage in our healing. I often wonder how much easier chemo could be if everyone was given the chance to change their minds…

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