Last month I attended a conference in Chicago where we discussed the power of beliefs. Those beliefs can either impede our abilities to stride forward or they can propel us in the direction we’ve been wanting to go. I was struck by the capacity that a mere belief could have in shaping our destiny. How were those beliefs formed and what are the actions and behaviors we engage in to maintain those beliefs?
Consider for a moment the efficacy of a placebo. As you likely know, placebo trials are used to tell researchers whether a trial drug has any beneficial effect beyond that which occurs when people take an inert or “dummy” pill. A patient’s belief in that pill – a supposed medicine – is thought to activate their body’s healing powers.
Studies that have incorporated placebos have produced some rather remarkable, and often unexplainable, results. Medical literature includes a great deal of testimony that the placebo effect routinely works 30% of the time, yet Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard University claims that they may work up to 90% of the time! Yet I’m not all that keen on talking about placebos today, but instead about the supreme power and potential of positive beliefs.
During that discussion last month I was also reminded of the beliefs held by my husband, Isamu, after the delivery of his brain tumor diagnosis. I was reluctant to write about Isamu again, but today, July 19th, is the nine year anniversary of his passing. In the succession of dates that I have chronicled in these pages, this is the grand finale. I’m hopeful that you’ll indulge me this tribute and read on for how it relates to you.
The first time we met with the oncologist assigned to Isamu’s case was in April of 2000, after his first craniotomy and a full pathology of the tumor cells that extracted from his brain. From those fast growing cells they were able to determine the nature of the mass ~ a grade 4 primary tumor. The oncologist delivered the bad news in a grave and pitying voice that Isamu did not appreciate: only 5% of patients remained alive after one year of diagnosis.
Isamu’s first words in response: I’ll be that 5%.
And he was. His beliefs served him well. He strode through the ensuing two-plus years with determination and fortitude, holding on to his belief that he would and could beat the odds no matter what it took.
I often wonder how I might have responded to that news. How would you respond? How do we take heed of the messages from our body and take action?
This morning, nine years after the day when Isamu no longer could, I listened to the recording of the memorial service we held for him. Isamu and I were raised in different faiths and were still on the path to finding our own. Whatever it might have been, it had strong threads of spirit, caring, integrity, hope and. . . belief.
The service was held in the backyard of his childhood home and the sounds of birds and airplanes, laughter and sniffles punctuate each person’s story. It was a service in the Quaker tradition, focused on celebration and personal narratives of time spent with Isamu.
My brother-in-law’s words were among my favorite. He made the request that we all embrace our inner Isamu.
Be bold. Be adventuresome. Be inquisitive. Try something new. . . Don’t be afraid to be silly ~ jump into the ocean with your glasses on. Don’t be afraid to be fearless in your personal relationships. . . . Be romantic. Seek out your soulmate and marry her. . . Shake off near-death experiences with a laugh. . . If you come up against an impossible situation, transform yourself and become the embodiment of possible. Lose your fear, anger, bitterness, anything that is holding you back. BE MIRACULOUS. Be radiant.
I think about these words my brother-in-law delivered, spoken about his brother, my husband, and I think about the other people in my life. I want this for my son, Gilbert. I want it for my sister and her daughter. For my cousins and their children. For my husband’s family. For my parents. For my friends. And for you.
Today, in honor of my beloved husband and all that he has gifted me, I ask you all to embrace your inner Isamu. BE MIRACULOUS.