Working With Cancer Patients: Kens Story

by Feisal Umar

Since my placement at St Georges Hospital working with cancer patients, I find that this gives me an invaluable insight into human beliefs and values.

A particular case that I would like to share with you is that of Ken (not his real name), who was referred to me by the sister in the day ward of the Oncology Department for pain management and emotional support. Ken was a retired engineer (on medical grounds), in his late 50s and although a little sceptical was willing to give hypnotherapy a try as he wanted to avoid adding more pain-killers to the “cocktail of drugs” he had to take as part of his treatment.

Ken had returned for his second course of chemotherapy and continued to complain of the pain in his mid-back from the scar tissue from previous surgery. Ken was unable to lie down and had been sleeping in a sitting position in his bed every night since the operation about three months prior.

The combination of the pain and the lack of good quality sleep were causing both Ken and his wife Megan a lot of discomfort and worries about their general health.

Ken had requested for Megan to be present in the session so that she could make notes for him as he said that for him, one of the side-effects of chemotherapy was a “fuzzy head”. As part of the first session I taught both of them self-hypnosis and asked to practice it again at bed time that night and then twice daily.

At the second session the following week both Ken and Megan looked amused and said that they had something to tell me. Megan explained that they both fell asleep whilst practising self-hypnosis at bed time on the day they saw me the previous week. At 4.00am Megan woke up to check on Ken only to find him lying flat on his back. In a state of panic she started crying and shaking him. Ken woke up annoyed at first, then seeing Megan crying asked her what the problem was. She pointed out that he was flat on his back with no apparent movement and thought he had died.

That was the first time Ken was able to lie on his back and sleep straight through until Megan inadvertently woke him up! During the second session I taught him other pain reduction techniques, including the ‘Control Room of the Mind’ technique.

At the third session I reinforced the ‘Control Room of the Mind’ technique as, being an engineer, Ken had strongly identified with it and found it useful. I also carried out further ego strengthening to further improve his sense of well-being.

After that Ken would come for an occasional top up session with Megan and showed signs of coping well with his pain, despite further complications developing which were being addressed by the hospital.

Several months later, Ken returned to the hospital with excess fluid on his lungs. A few days before returning to the hospital, he had completed a week’s holiday in New York which he said he thoroughly enjoyed almost pain free. He died three days later.

Megan wrote me a letter expressing her gratitude for helping to make Ken’s life near the end more comfortable and one that was of better quality.

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