“The doctors found a tumor in your father’s brain.”
That was the first thing I heard from my mother when she called me on a July morning in 2014. From what I learned from her, my father had suffered a seizure the night before, and had to be rushed to the emergency room at their local hospital. There, doctors stabilized him with drugs, and performed an MRI that brought the dire news.
Two days later, my parents were in the office of one of the leading Oncologists in the United States. The doctor confirmed that my father had a type of tumor called a low grade glioma, and it had to be removed. What wasn’t clear was if the tumor was cancerous, but they would know more through a followup MRI to be performed three months later. If it was cancerous, then my father’s estimated survival time was 3 years at the most. He was only 69 years old.
Being confronted with one’s mortality is one of the greatest ordeals a person can face. The natural tendency at that time is to succumb to a constant stream of frightening thoughts that flood the mind: What if the tumor is cancerous? What if I have another seizure? What if something bad happens during surgery? Am I going to die? One can very quickly slide down a rabbit hole of constant worry and anxiety.
It is also a time when one seeks support and comfort from others, and that is often found within a church. Although my father hadn’t attended a church service in many years, he had, in that time, studied a variety of views on spirituality. In particular he was intrigued by the doctrine of the Unity Church, which teaches that people can affect their quality of life through their thoughts. Given his situation, my parents decided that now was the time to attend their first Unity Church service together.
Over the next month, my parents became involved in the church. They shared his situation through the church’s prayer box, from which the pastor would ask the congregation for prayers of support. My parents also joined a small prayer group, where members prayed intently for the needs of those in the group.
But despite this effort, my father felt that he wasn’t doing enough to help himself. In his spiritual journey, he had also come across the concept of Self-healing — the ability to heal the body with nothing but thought. However, it hadn’t been at the forefront of his mind until he experienced what was called a “Moment of Truth” during a church service, where someone would stand up and impart a very personal and meaningful story to the congregation.
And that’s when an idea dawned on him.
My father decided then and there that he was going to create his own Moment of Truth in his mind. He imagined that in two months time, after his next followup MRI, that he would stand in front of the congregation and recount the story of his tumor — from the day he discovered he had it, to the followup appointment with his oncologist. A key part to his Moment of Truth was the very last line of his presentation: his oncologist saying to him:
“I don’t get to say this very often, but your tumor is gone”
Thus, instead of just asking for the prayers of others to help heal him, my father decided that he was going to heal himself — with his mind.
In his mind then, he set an outcome that he expected — the delivery of his Moment of Truth. He never wrote it down and never memorized it. And he didn’t spend time thinking about how he was going to get to the point — that of his tumor being gone — where he was able to deliver it. Rather, he just set an expectation in his mind that it was going to happen and how it was going to unfold: He saw himself standing in front of the congregation, and he heard the words he was going to say to them — including the pivotal final line.
He played this scene in his mind multiple times per day: when he had downtime, before he went to sleep, and any time he felt doubt about his expected outcome. It’s important to note that to the brain, a thought is a thought. It doesn’t know the difference between one that is positive versus one that is negative. The theory of Self-healing says that your brain takes action on your body based on your thoughts, whatever those thoughts may be. So if you have a positive thought, the brain says to itself “Ok I’ll go to work on that”. But if you next have a negative thought, the brain simply says to itself “Ok, I’ll go to work on that instead.” Thus, if you keep flip-flopping between positive and negative thoughts, you’ll keep flip-flopping on the eventual outcome you want to achieve, and eventually not get to the one that you expect.
Not only did my father imagine what would happen during his Moment of Truth, he also imagined the emotions that it would bring. He let feelings of relief, joy, and exhilaration wash over him. Whether emotions arise from external stimuli or from your imagination, the brain knows no difference. Therefore, they have the same effect on the body.
Through it all, my father did find that anti-seizure drugs helped a bit to keep him calm and focused. Thus he was able to repeat this practice of rehearsal in his mind every day, religiously, for two months. Over, and over, and over again. Until it was time to see the oncologist once more.
After another MRI on the day of the appointment, my father sat in the doctor’s office, awaiting the results for what seemed to him like an eternity.
Finally, the door opened, and the doctor walked in. As he walked across his office, my father felt that time stood still. He could not read the expression on the doctor’s face that might give some indication as to the results of the MRI.
Eventually, the doctor sat down, looked my father in the eye, and said the following:
“I don’t get to say this very often, but your tumor is gone.”
Then he continued:
If it was a tumor, then there is no way it could have disappeared. Tumors don’t just disappear.
On the other hand, it could have been a stroke, but you don’t have the risk factors.
And then he concluded:
“I don’t know how to explain it.”
The following Sunday, my father stood in front of the congregation at his church, and delivered his “Moment of Truth” — the entire experience he had taken with his tumor. And the very last of his delivery was the first words he heard from his oncologist: “I don’t get to say this very often, but your tumor is gone.”
The congregation gave him a standing ovation. All at once, feelings of relief, joy, and exhilaration washed over my father. The outcome he expected had unfolded exactly as he had imagined it would in his mind.
A fascinating footnote to my father’s story is that years later, my mother revealed to him that from the moment they both found out that he had a brain tumor, she never doubted for a moment that it was going to disappear. Not once.
My father’s story is amazing, perhaps even miraculous. It’s a story that I’ve been persuading him to tell broadly for many years, until I finally decided to tell it for him — not to promote any particular point of view or ideology, but just to add to the record of human experience.
Thus, you are free to draw any conclusion you like from what I have shared. I expect that many readers will believe that my father’s experience was an act of God: that he was healed through the prayers offered by his church, and God answered.
Others may say that the experience validates the theory of self-healing, that one’s thoughts can heal whatever ailments we experience.
Others will point to philosophical theories of Quantum Mechanics, and say that this story illustrates that we create our own reality with our mind.
Others will take a biological point of view, and point to studies that have shown that thought and emotion have a direct physical effect on the body.
Finally, some will simply state that the disappearance of my father’s tumor was a random, although unlikely, event. And nothing more.
Whatever you choose to conclude cannot be proven or disproven. Any and all are possible.
For me, however, it doesn’t really matter how it happened, because as of this writing six years later, my father is alive. And for that I’m grateful.
Kevin Larsen is a software Product Marketing Manager and an Adjunct Instructor in Marketing, Software Engineering, and Computer Science courses. Follow me on LinkedIn.