Article: Dialogue with Cancer – Hazel Denning (Is.4)

by Hazel M. Denning, Ph.D.

This article documents the continuing case of a woman who, over ten years, released and healed several illnesses, including cancer, by regression work. The study is a classic example of past traumas being retained in the body tissue and the importance of treating symptoms as well as working on remote causes. It also illustrates how tenaciously a symptom is retained in spite of medical intervention if the psychological cause is not found and resolved.

This history began ten years ago when Ruth Larson became a participant in the research project designed to test the hypothesis that the mind can heal the body of illness[1]. She came because her entire body, except for hands and face, was covered with psoriasis. The three years previous to this contact she had tried every known remedy with no relief. She had six sessions using altered states of consciousness to explore the reasons for the problem, and at the end of that time her body was clear and the lesions have not returned.

In May of 1986 she sat down in my office and with a tremor in her voice said, “I have just been told by my doctor that I have inoperable cancer and have three to six months to live.” She had three lumps in the glands under both arms and in the lower groin. In addition, she had dark spots on her lungs and a back problem which kept her in constant pain. The doctor told her that there was nothing that could be done about the back and she would have to find medication for relief. He advised chemotherapy at once for the cancer. When he told her she would lose her hair and be ill, she told him that if she had to die, she would at least do so without putting her body through that miserable discomfort. She made an appointment with me and said confidently, “With your kind of help, I know I can be well again.”

I told her that with her confidence and genuine desire to get well she could do so, it was entirely up to her, and I suggested that we include the lungs and back in various supplementary healing methods. She was skeptical of extra treatment modalities for the back for some reason but was in so much pain that she agreed to include visits to a chiropractor who used kinesiology. We discussed a nutritional program which included a body cleansing regimen, and she implemented this at once.

Additional history at this point will assist in understanding the regression experiences to be discussed. She was the mother of an instrument baby damaged at birth. For twenty-three years she had taken care of the child, who was bedridden and unable to control any of her body functions. Lifting the daughter in daily care had contributed to her back problems. In addition, Ruth had a stepmother-in-law whom she could never please and who made constant unreasonable demands on Ruth’s husband, which caused her considerable distress. The marriage appeared to be a good one and her husband was kind and supportive, but his stepmother was a daily irritant in their lives. Ruth was a loving individual who did not complain and presented a smiling countenance. Her many friends admired her courage and devotion to her daughter and her positive attitude toward life, and she became a role model for many of them.

In our first session we talked about her situation. She admitted that perhaps she was tired of life. Since her daughter was now in an institution she was no longer really needed by anyone. Her deeper subconscious self would have liked to be free, but consciously she had decided to get well for her husband and her other children. She responded positively to working with daily imagery and holding the feeling that she would soon be well. We discussed briefly the obvious causes of her problem and the probability that there was hidden rage and resentment connected with the cancer. She was not aware how strong and destructive these emotions were in her at a conscious level because she had always practiced Christian principles of loving and forgiving, but she was quite willing to explore her subconscious mind.

In the second session she reported on her new diet, the relief she had experienced from her three visits to the chiropractor, and her satisfaction with the mental imagery exercises. She declared that she had not accepted the cancer and was certain it would soon be gone. She responded readily to the suggestion that she look for some event in the past that was directly connected with the cancer and its purpose in her life.

In a regression she described herself as a young girl of sixteen with a white cap to cover her hair as she was cleaning a rough wooden table. She lived with her father and older brother in France. Her mother had died a number of years before. The father and brother forced her to cook and take care of the house, and they often kicked and beat her. She described how she died at age twenty-four from a beating which broke some bones in her neck. I asked her to go through her death and recall her last conscious thoughts.

Ruth:           I’m glad it’s over. I’m still angry at them for what they did to me.

Therapist:    Can you see how that experience is connected to your present situation?

Ruth:           I feel a great deal of guilt. I’m surprised about that. I should have done better. I thought I was trying but…

Therapist:    Go back to a lifetime before that one and see if you can find out why you attracted one with so much abuse and pain.

Ruth:           I am seeing a lifetime where I was a beautiful person with many jewels, a haughty person, not a nice person.

She described herself as a basically evil person, self-serving in every phase of her life, who used people because she had the power and money. She was killed by a jealous husband with a knife.

Therapist:    Relive your death in that lifetime and tell me your last conscious thoughts.

Ruth:           I am sorry, real sorry. My life was one of indulgence—I feel as though it was almost pushed on me. I had it all but I used it wrong. I can see that now.

Therapist:    Look at the connection between that experience and the present.

Ruth:           That woman did so many evil things that she had a lot to make up for and after she died she decided she had to make up for that and so in that next life she had nothing and was mistreated; she was a nothing.

Therapist:    If you paid for being evil in the miserable life as the young girl in France, why have you needed to hang onto the problem?

Ruth:           It was her attitude. She just built up more karma because her attitude was bad. If she had done it with the right attitude, her father and brother would have been different.

I asked her to evaluate the two lives and relate them to the present problem. She did a brief analysis of how the two were connected and concluded that she now saw that the one’s attitude was the important thing and that she felt her attitude was all right now. When I responded by asking what her cancer was expressing, she said without hesitation that it was expressing resentment and negative thoughts. We discussed this and at this point she told me about her step-mother-in-law. I asked her whether she thought her anger at this woman was the cause of her cancer. She said the cause lay in the past but the mother had triggered it in this life.

I asked her to image the two women she had been in these other lifetimes. She saw them clearly and I suggested that if she felt comfortable, she could approach them and tell them she was sorry for those past lives. They could not be changed at this point. However, she had come to love those two aspects of herself unconditionally and wished to leave the events in the past and forgive them. After she did this imaging, she reported that the wealthy woman was sad but responded to her embrace. The peasant girl responded to her love but was not ready to give up all her feelings of guilt, reiterating her feeling that she bad been a “stinker and rebellious” and that it was her fault that her father and brother had mistreated her. She ended her comments with the statement that she was still working on her attitudes.

Following this session Ruth felt so pleased with her insights that she announced she would not need another session and knew her cancer would soon be gone. As I evaluated her session, it was obvious to me that she was far from ready to be on her own. She was a compulsive perfectionist, living in constant fear of not measuring up to her own set of standards, and her self-image was low. But her determination to measure up to what she thought she ought to be and her courage were the attributes which could lead to success. After a few days I called to inquire about her progress. She conceded that she needed more help, and thus began months of weekly sessions.

The next three sessions were spent discussing her frustrations over her stepmother-in-law and a brother-in-law from the Midwest who had a history of dropping in unannounced once or twice a year for extended visits. He smoked incessantly, drank beer, and listened to hard rock on TV. She was struggling with her disgust at his litter in her immaculate house and the foul smells he created. She was on the point of moving out for the balance of his visit but could not bring herself to leave her husband who was unable to confront his brother about his behavior. She was guilty about her angry feelings, since by her standards they were not Christian.

I helped her get into the energy of both these people and know their feelings and understand their behavior, which proved to be of great benefit to her and helped her change her attitudes toward them. In one past life she was Japanese and the mistress of her current mother-in-law. She was strict but not harsh but because of the rebellious attitude of her servant (her stepmother-in-law in this lifetime), she gave her away. This angered the servant and they returned in another lifetime to try to resolve this conflict. This time Ruth was a stepdaughter who at twelve was abandoned by her father and raised by this stepmother, who abused her and constantly called her stupid. Ruth cried as she relived the pain of that childhood in the former lifetime. She then saw that she and her stepmother-in-law had to work out this problem and she had agreed to come back with her in the current lifetime in order to do it. She explained to me that when she first married her husband, his stepmother was sweet to her but Ruth never felt it was sincere. When the stepmother-in-law became ill and was confined to bed, her entire attitude changed and she became a tyrant. At this point Ruth began to experience a different stepmother-in-law and realized that she was terrified, helpless, and afraid of dying. She was angry because she perceived others as not being afraid when she was so afraid. She did not feel she could talk to anyone about her fear. She felt death was imminent because she was old.

At this point I helped Ruth let go of that connection while remaining in an altered state, where we discussed what she had experienced. We followed the same procedure with the brother-in-law, in which she discovered his loneliness and his feeling that he was worthless and no one cared about him. Ruth was able to release much of her own anger and resentment toward these two people.

In the fourth session we discussed her physical progress. The lumps were noticeably decreasing in size and she was aware of a pulsing sensation which she attributed to positive activity as her body was recovering She admitted in the fifth session that her back was still hurting in spite of daily chiropractic treatments, and I suggested we investigate the past for the cause, since she had earlier stated that the back came from the past and was triggered by her “back-breaking” situation in the present. She immediately went back to a regression where she saw herself as a young woman kneeling before a male oriental figure with her back bared, being beaten for missing some dust while doing her household duties.

Therapist:    Be aware of your dying thoughts in that lifetime.

Ruth:           Hopelessness. I had tried but there was no way out—just hopelessness. I was resigned. I felt I deserved the punishment because that is the way it is.

Therapist:    Go out of your body and evaluate that situation.

Ruth:           Pity and resentment. I’m angry. She should have had a better life.

Therapist:    Scan that lifetime and see its relevance for the present.

Ruth:           Well, I’m not perfect—that is what she got the beatings for, that and the running away. I guess in my mind I have wanted to do other things. When my daughter in this lifetime was little, I sometimes felt I was dying of suffocation, and I felt guilty about those feelings.

Therapist:    Is the connection clear?

Ruth:           Very clear.

I then suggested that she investigate the past-life connection with the daughter. Her response was detailed and specific. The daughter in this life had, in an earlier 17th century lifetime in England, been a sister, a slut who had been killed in an alley at an early age. Ruth had tried in vain to change her, and her efforts only alienated her sister more. She was able to see that her sister’s death was in no way her fault. She was sure that she had come into this lifetime with that soul as daughter in order to help her, and it was a commitment which she had not fulfilled.

At this point we returned to the back problem. She did a scan of her body and felt that the back was getting straighter and stronger. When I asked her if she was ready for a healing in her back, she stated that she believed she was but still wondered what had triggered such intense pain so long after her daughter had been placed in an institution. I deepened her altered state and suggested that she investigate this.

Ruth:           I know why! I stopped doing my stepmother-in-law’s cleaning and her housework on my days off. Oh, no! I did not want to do it any longer and I had to have a reason to stop, so I got the back pain!

At this point I felt it was important to pursue the guilt which seemed to crop up in every experience, so I told her to go back to the origin of it. Immediately she started talking about the French life in which her father and brother beat her. In this recap of it she said her brother then is her son now and her father then was her father now (He is deceased). She explored the relationship with her father in this lifetime, describing him as an alcoholic who, while he did not abuse her, always made her afraid of him. She interpreted this as a carryover of her feelings of fear of him in the French life. Her relationship with her son in this life has been fairly good, though in recent years he has become an alcoholic and is giving her many problems which she has worked on handling in her therapy.

In the next session she reported improvement in her back and her lungs, as well as considerable decrease in the lumps in the lymph nodes. The resentment she felt over her brother-in-law’s visits came up in this session.

Therapist:    What do you think you may be learning from these unpleasant experiences?

Ruth:           (After a few minutes of silence) I need to be more tolerant. I have a pretty narrow sense of values. For me things are black or white—there are no grey areas. I am not tolerant. I know this.

We discussed how the situation with her stepmother-in-law and her brother-in-law might be an opportunity to practice tolerance. Her ready agreement indicated that the rigidity of her attitude was lessening.

On the 8th of July, the seventh session, her lumps were all gone except for a slight swelling in one spot under the left arm, which the doctor said might be scar tissue. He had been so nonplussed when new X-rays revealed that her lungs were clear that he ordered the nurse to take pictures three times because he was certain there was some mistake.

Ruth’s back was still giving her considerable pain, so we went to work and over the next three sessions traced lives in which she had suffered back injuries. One was in Egypt where she was stoned to death and carried both guilt because of her lifestyle and pain because of the prolonged death. In Greece she died slowly under rubble caused by an earthquake where her back was injured and she could not move. In another life she was part of a wagon train trekking west, and the heavy work of carrying water, etc., caused constant back pain. She finally died while young of T.B., relieved to be through feeling guilty about leaving her children.

We searched next for the reason she was holding onto that one last small lump under her arm. She described in detail a life in Korfu in which her small country was invaded in a war and she jumped off a high bridge to keep from being captured. She believed that suicide was a sin and that she would have to pay for it, a karmic debt which she felt she had not quite paid. As we talked about this, she faced that girl, forgave her, and said she could now let go of the guilt.

After we had released a number of experiences with the same theme, I suggested that she look at what she was trying to teach herself. Her answer summarized well where she was at that point

Ruth:           I need to be tolerant. I need to accept. I need to let go of the martyr attitude. It is not so much what you do but the way you do things. You can seem to be charitable and not be that at all. That life in France I was bitter and carried that resentment with me. The little girl in Greece had her experience and had to start over, evidently not doing too well.

By September, the 11th session, her lungs had cleared up, her back was improving markedly, but that one little lump remained. I confronted her with this physical evidence that she was delaying her recovery. In an altered state she confessed that she was not sure she wanted to stay because she felt there was nothing significant to live for and she was bored. Her life seemed to have no significance or purpose. I agreed that if she really wanted to leave and it was time for her to go, I would help her do it with the minimum amount of discomfort, but I suggested we could look at her life from another point of view. It seemed to me that she could have an important destiny if she chose, because of her experience and her compassion and sensitivity to people. She could be an inspiration to others who had cancer and perhaps help many toward recovery. This appealed to her but she protested that she was afraid to talk to people—to one, perhaps but more than that was frightening.

When we returned to this subject two sessions later, I asked her to dialogue with her Higher Self and see what direction she could get. As she did this her face brightened and a happy smile appeared as she told me she was being shown herself standing before a small group talking about how cancer could be over come. It was real and she believed she could do it.

The next week there was no evidence of the lumps and the doctor had declared her body free of the cancer. She asked for a statement to that effect and he gave her a copy of his report but added, “Of course, you know it will come back.” When she told me of his remark, she laughed and said, “Well, if it does, I’ll get better.”

She was depressed when she came in the next week and reported that her husband had collapsed in intense pain and on arrival at the hospital had been diagnosed as having advanced cancer in the digestive tract. He refused to consider a colostomy. Within a month he died and Ruth was faced, not only with the responsibility of settling his estate, but with making provision for his father and stepmother. She found a rest home for the stepmother, who now required twenty-four hour care. Before she could work out an arrangement for the father, he died of a heart attack, and her stepmother-in-law followed within a few days.

I decided not to do the traditional sympathy routine with her. She had too much insight by this time for that. So I reminded her that the Universe was taking good care of her; that she no longer had to take care of anyone and could get on with her life’s purpose from that point. She was relieved that she did not have to feel guilty about being glad her responsibilities were over, and she felt ready to look forward to helping anyone she could to understand that cancer need not be fatal.

Dealing with her husband’s death was another matter. She broke into a flood of tears every time he was mentioned or something reminded her of him; feelings she could not control, though they were embarrassing to her. I realized that guilt must be the cause and suggested she investigate this. She discovered that she felt responsible for his death, believing that he had contracted cancer because she had it. In an altered state she was able to see clearly that his departure was totally his responsibility and his desire, and from that time on the tears stopped.

The third visit after his departure she reported that the lumps had returned, but she was optimistic in spite of this, just annoyed with herself for being so vulnerable. She had settled the two estates with her usual efficiency and was ostensibly free to look at the future, so we spent several hours in a survey of where she was at the moment, recalling the progress she had made over the preceding months and the power to control her life she had demonstrated, which we then reinforced. We then spent half an hour dissolving the lumps with mind energy, knowing that she no longer needed to express her feelings in this manner. When she sat up from reclining her hands went immediately to her arm pits and her facial expression changed to one of amazement as she told me the lumps were gone. Now, almost a year later, they have not returned and her back no longer gives her pain.

This report is a condensed version of her thirty odd sessions, but it clearly illustrates four major factors in regression therapy. First is the primary importance of education in assisting a client to gain a new perspective of life and its purpose. When the client responds to a carefully designed pattern of questions, he/she is led into remarkable insights and is capable of analyzing and evaluating his/her own situation.

Second, it is imperative that the therapist never lose sight of the goal, which is to find the activating cause of the problem. When the desired results are not forthcoming, something has been missed or avoided, and often it is necessary to return to the same past event a number of times, as well as to explore other events, before the core issue is revealed. At times, only two or three past lives are necessary, but often the client has carried a core issue through many persons and out of the review comes the realization of the futility of continuing the part. When an adequate review has been completed, a dramatic change occurs in the client. Simply stated, the client forgives the self. This is the bottom line and always brings relief.

Third, if the complaint is a physical problem, it is important to recognize the physiological involvement and the interrelatedness of the psyche and the soma. Ruth’s case is a classic example of past traumas being retained in body tissue, the importance of treating the symptoms as well as working on the remote causes. It also illustrates how tenaciously a symptom is retained in spite of medical intervention if the psychological cause is not found and resolved.

Finally, Ruth’s case illustrates the primary importance of recognizing the role guilt plays in cases when repeated insights fail to accomplish the expected results. Where there has been a series of lives all contributing to guilt responses, it takes more than one or two insights to free the personality of this crippling emotion. Along with reliving the guilt, there must be a restructuring of the personality in order for the client to achieve true autonomy. In Ruth’s case, she is functioning with an expanded freedom and an acceptant feeling about herself which she had not thought possible.


[1] See On-Going Research in Volume 1, Issue 2, of this Journal for a description of this study.

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