Visualizing Your Fight Against Cancer

If you want to use guided imagery to fight cancer like I do, it helps to have something to visualize. Off and on over the past five years, I’ve used guided imagery exercises developed by Gerald Myers, a long-time kidney cancer survivor, to visualize the different kinds of white blood cells in my blood stream tracking down and killing cancer cells. It may sound flaky to you, but there is evidence that it works. And if nothing else, it’s helped me relax on those anxiety-filled evenings when sleep has been hard to come by.

It’s also given something to focus on during exercise. When my heart rate is revved up and pumping blood throughout the far reaches of my body, with each breath I imagine T-Cells, Natural Killer Cells, B-Cell and Macrophages working in harmony to track down and kill my cancer cells. I also imagine my T-Cells, with an added power boost (remember those power pellets in the Pac Man game?), enjoying extended life thanks to the nivolumab immune therapy treatment I’m receiving.

In this video we see a killer T cell of the immune system attacking a cancer cell.

Professor Gillian Griffiths of Cambride University sets the scene:

“Cells of the immune system protect the body against pathogens. If cells in our bodies are infected by viruses, or become cancerous, then killer cells of the immune system identify and destroy the affected cells. Cytotoxic T cells are very precise and efficient killers. They are able to destroy infected or cancerous cells, without destroying healthy cells surrounding them.”

Cytotoxic T cells are just 10 microns in length: approximately one-tenth the width of a human hair. These movies are 92 times real time.

The original footage shown was made by Alex Ritter, a PhD student on the NIH-OxCam programme, in the laboratory of Professor Griffiths at the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research and the Department of Medicine of the Clinical School of the University of Cambridge. The images were acquired using an Andor Revolution spinning disk system with an Olympus microscope. Professor Griffiths is a Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow.

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