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I’m reading a book by Norman Cousins called Anatomy of an Illness, which I think will be particularly interesting to Baby Boomers.  Norman Cousins is the man who supposedly laughed himself to health.  You have probably heard this and wondered if it was an urban myth or if there was more to it.  Well, it isn’t and there is.

His illness was one of the connective tissues and at his worst Mr Cousins says, his “jaws were almost locked”.  The doctors apparently never did agree on a diagnosis but finally called it ankylosing spondylitis – which means that the connective tissue in the spine disintegrates.  Phew!

I picked this book up in an op shop.  The reason I was attracted to it was that on the cover it said  “Reflections on Healing and Regeneration”.  I’m a big believer in regeneration, even though conventional medicine says it can’t be done.  My own goal for regeneration is for the cartilage between the hip joints.  I need to do it quickly too because there’s only about 3 weeks to go before I have a hip replacement.

I’ve actually been working on regrowing cartilage for quite a while now and it has been an interesting journey, but I really have to pull the stops out now.

So, back to Mr Cousins.  He was put into hospital by his physician and then underwent numerous tests – mainly blood tests but nothing conclusive resulted.  Meanwhile, he got steadily worse.  So he decided to take matters into his own hands – but he did have the backing of his physician.

He moved out of the hospital into a hotel room and put himself on a sodium ascorbate (vitamin C) drip.  He had read about Vitamin C and has quite a lot to say about it.  He is also a firm believer in a positive attitude and has quite a lot to say about that too.  He figured that laughter really is the best medicine (jogging for the internal organs he calls it) so he really did rent a lot of movies and laugh a lot – all this with the support of his doctor.

And he really did get slowly better.  Slowly over a number of months and years and his recovery was not complete but pretty close to it.  This is remarkable because the doctors had decided that he would get steadily worse and eventually be in a wheelchair and barely able to move.

Here’s a quote: “I must not make it appear that all my infirmities disappeared overnight.  For many months I couldn’t get my arm up far enough to reach for a book on a high shelf.  My fingers weren’t agile enough to do what I wanted them to do on the organ keyboard.  My neck had a limited turning radius.  My knees were somewhat wobbly, and off and on, I have had to wear a metal brace.

Even so, I was sufficiently recovered to go back to my job at the Saturday Review full time again, and this was miracle enough for me.”

He has some amazing stories to tell about people he met along the way – including Pablo Casals – who in turn have remarkable stories about their own bodies.

So, Norman Cousins recipe for healing is:

  • Have a strong will to live.
  • Become actively involved in your own healing process.
  • Find a doctor to support your decisions.
  • Good nutrition.
  • Believe that your body can heal itself

I typed that really fast, but I know it’s not so quick and easy to do those things.  They are a lifetime journey, and when you are ill they are really a life – time journey.

For myself and my own challenge, I have recently joined a gym and do mainly stretching exercises and a few for upper body strength.  My main purpose is to build muscle so that I can heal more quickly after the hip replacement.  But I have found already that it has increased my range of movement.

I’ve also just started taking lots of Vitamin C.  I think I feel better already.  Is that because I believe, or because it really does work?  Perhaps it is the “placebo effect” (which is extensively explored in this book).  Doesn’t matter really, as long as it works!

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