Chapter One

(Excerpt from Chapter One)

Your Role in the Healing Process

For some people, surgery is a simple matter of having something fixed, removing a bone spur or a benign cyst. If this is what you are facing, the mind-body techniques you’ll learn here will help you go through routine surgery more easily and with greater comfort. And you’ll recover faster.

However, if you are facing major surgery, or a life-threatening condition, surgery can be frightening. The mind-body techniques you’ll learn here will give you ways to cope with your fears and actually feel peaceful during the hours, days and weeks before your operation. In turn, your calmness will improve your surgical outcome.

An impressive body of medical research documents that people who actively prepare for an operation have less pain, fewer complications and recover sooner. While most of this research had been buried in medical journals and reports, this book now makes it available to you.

As a psychotherapist and a graduate of Harvard Divinity School, my clinical work, research and studies have focused on how people can use their emotions, attitudes and human spirits to enhance the healing process. Over the past 18 years, I have taught workshops in self-healing techniques to more than 6,000 people in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, London, Paris and Amsterdam.

Often in workshops someone will ask, “I am having surgery in a few weeks. What can I do to reduce my anxiety and make surgery less stressful? How can I have less pain and heal faster?” In response, I developed five steps to prepare people for surgery. They give you specific ways to feel more in control at a time you can often feel helpless and vulnerable. They are easy to use, cost you and the hospital nothing, and have no negative side effects.

Using these techniques will help you feel calmer before surgery, have less pain after surgery, use less pain medication, recover faster, strengthen your immune system and save money on medical bills.

Peggy Huddleston’s Five Steps to Prepare for Surgery

Step 1: Relax to Feel Peaceful
You will learn the skill of deep relaxation to reduce anxiety and feel calm. Using the relaxation CD or MP3 offered with the book, you will be guided through a process of relaxation. Feeling peaceful soothes your nervous system and strengthens your immune system. It also balances your endocrine and cardio-vascular systems, creating the complex biochemistry that enhances overall healing.

In addition, if you have any stress-related symptoms, such as tension headaches, migraines, insomnia hypertension or anxiety, you’ll find these symptoms diminishing or disappearing, depending on how well you master the technique of relaxation. Once relaxed you’ll learn to surround yourself with love as a way to promote healing. Ground-breaking medical research reveals what you may have always known: We all feel better when our hearts are filled with love and we heal better too.

Step 2: Visualize Your Healing
You’ll learn to turn your worries into vivid, healing images. As you use them daily to visualize your healing process, they will permeate your consciousness, facilitating your recovery.

Step 3: Organize a Support Group
You will learn a technique that allows the caring and loving thoughts of your friends and family to calm you during the half-hour or hour before surgery.

Step 4: Use Healing Statements
You’ll use less pain medication after surgery if your anesthesiologist or a nurse in the operating room says three Healing Statements to you during surgery. Medical research documents the dramatic benefits:

  • Patients needed 23-50% less pain medication when therapeutic statements were used.
  • You’ll learn how to ask your anesthesiologist to use the Healing Statements.

Step 5: Meet an Anesthesiologist
You’ll learn to benefit the most from your preoperative meeting with an anesthesiologist. You entrust your consciousness to this doctor.

Ideally, you will be reading this book one or two weeks, or even a month, before your operation. This will give you plenty of time to put all five steps to use well before surgery. The more steps you master, the better your results will be.

Only a Day Before Surgery
Even if you have only a day before surgery, you can dramatically influence your recovery by concentrating on Steps 3, 4 and 5. They are easy to implement.

After surgery, use Steps 1 and 2 to benefit your recuperation.

If you are motivated to do more, the epilogue shows how inner peace and love enhance your healing physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Preparing for Abdominal Surgery
Here is an example of how the five steps helped Elinor Elliot of Boston, Massachusetts. Elinor called me several weeks before having surgery to remove two ovarian cysts. She was agitated and fearful. Her mother had an occurrence of cancer and Elinor was afraid of the same thing.

To find what images would calm her, I asked, “When are you the most peaceful?” She said, “I love being in nature, seeing its beauty feeling a sense of connection with the earth, trees and sky.”

To help reduce her anxiety, I guided Elinor through a process of deep relaxation. As she felt the tension letting go in her body, I asked her to remember a specific time she felt connected to the earth, trees and sky. Recalling it, she became calmer.

For her use at home, I gave her a tape recording of the relaxation process, like the one that comes with this book. With it, she could reduce her fear and feel calm. After listening to the tape, two times a day for a week, she began to feel in harmony with everything around her.

As If All of Spring Were Healing Her
It was spring, and she felt as if all of spring were healing her. The fragrance of the lilacs became healing, as did the singing of the birds and the warmth of the spring sun. She felt a resonance with all of life.

Her everyday world took on a new quality of peace. Because she listened to the tape recording so often, she could replay the relaxation process from memory, calming herself whenever she felt afraid.

In addition, she used techniques of visualization. Three days before surgery an ultrasound test showed what is common with ovarian cysts one of them had completely disappeared during her two weeks of preparation.

On the day of the surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, she said, “I felt more peaceful than I have ever felt in my entire life as I lay on the gurney in the hallway waiting outside the operating room, listening to the relaxation tape. As a nurse wheeled me into the operating room, my surgeon and nurses gathered around me, and I hugged them. It seemed like we were one team.”

“As I went under the anesthesia, I heard my doctor say the positive statements that I had asked him to use. They worked so well that after surgery I needed little pain medication.”

“My doctor commented that I was recovering much faster than three other women down the hall who had undergone the same operation. Of course, I was relieved knowing that the cyst was benign. I left the hospital one day earlier than planned. My two weeks of recovery at home were peaceful.”

As you put the five steps into practice, you’ll learn to let go of your fears about surgery and instead feel a deep peace. It will calm you before and during surgery and greatly enhance your healing.

It is an inner peace that most people have always known but have forgotten how to find. For others, the peace goes far beyond anything they have ever known.

Watercolor of Exuma, Bahamas, "Clouds from Goat Cay" by Jane Chermayoff
Watercolor of Exuma, Bahamas “Clouds from Goat Cay” by Jane Chermayoff