Though my wife, Harriet, is fine today, in 1972 she had both breasts removed to stop the spread of cancer. Harriet's illness showed me how uniquely destructive cancer is psychologically as well as physically. I also discovered that the emotional distress that accompanies cancer can be almost as debilitating as the illness itself. Because of that realization-and while continuing to practice law in Beverly Hills-I began to study the effect that emotions have on the onset and course of the disease. One of the most important facts I learned is: The belief that everyone with cancer dies of that illness is a dreadful myth. The truth is that there are over 8,000,000 people in the United States today to whom cancer is a memory. This information brings joy and hope to the heart of any person who has ever dreaded the onset of cancer.
My study continued until 1982, when-armed with the information I had gleaned over that 10-year period-I conceived of the Patient Active Concept. The power of the Patient Active Concept awed me. I retired from the practice of law to found The Wellness Community based on it. I based the Wellness Community Patient Active Concept on the premise that cancer patients don't have to be hopeless, helpless and passive in the face of the illness. There are many actions they can take as partners with their physicians that are likely to improve the quality of their lives, and that may increase the possibility of recovery. Isn't that liberating and empowering' The Wellness Community Patient Active Concept sets forth a series of methods cancer patients can use to join their physician in the fight for recovery: using guided imagery, making plans for the future, controlling stress, avoiding pain, and many others that may have a positive effect on the course of the illness.
The purpose of The Wellness Commnunity was and is to help cancer patients learn what they need to know to fight for their recovery as partners with their physicians. The Wellness Center does this without charging the patient in any way-it is free. Since its founding, over 45,000 participants have used The Wellness Community and over 1,000 physicians have referred their patients to us.
I believe the interaction these people have with each other at The Wellness Community also makes them aware of how much control they have over their lives. They become aware that all of life is a series of choices we must make-whether we want to or not-and that control is not a single act but is a culmination of the decisions we make. It starts with decisions such as, "Taking into account my need for the salary and the insurance my job provides, I will decide whether to remain in this job." If someone has cancer, it may be important to exert control with the following types of decisions: "I will choose what arm the injection with be given into"; "I will choose just how much I will participate in my fight for recovery"; and if the illness becomes desperate, "I will choose how that information will affect me and how I will react to that situation." All of this culminates in the ultimate control: "I know that whatever choice I make will be he correct choice for me."
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