I noticed in 1987 that I was getting sick. In retrospect, the process had probably been going on for a while. My neck hurt. I went cross-eyed and started seeing double. I started spontaneously vomiting. I lost a lot of weight; I had always weighed about 175 pounds, and I suddenly went down to 132. I was 23 years old at the time and studying economics at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. Studying in the library was a regular part of my daily routine, but I reached a point where I just stared blankly at the books, my eyes spinning. I couldn’t remember anything. I couldn’t get through the coursework.
One day my mother asked if I wanted to go to the eye clinic at the hospital in Rotterdam, since she knew a doctor there. I decided to do that. I had to take the train to Rotterdam and, strangely enough, I had a really hard time finding a train. I know that I missed one and that briefly, I had absolutely no clue what to do next. In the eye clinic, the internist gave me a test: “Close your eyes and touch your index finger to your nose.” My finger was a foot and a half from my ear. He knew there was something very, very wrong.
So he sent me to the Dijkzigt hospital, where I was immediately bumped up to the top of the list. The CT scan showed foreign tissue in the brain, it turned out to be serious. I can’t remember it very well, but I know that my parents were very taken aback. A doctor had told them, “You need to prepare yourself, because it could all be over in two and a half months.” I remember I folded my hands at that moment.
There was fluid building up in my brain that couldn’t go anywhere because of the tumor. So the highest priority was to remove that fluid. If pressure on the brain gets too high, it can cause damage. I was admitted to the hospital for an operation. They placed a drain to divert the fluid out of my brain. It was a long operation of almost four and a half hours, and I really needed to recover after that.
I ended up in a hospital room with three other men. My head was all wrapped in bandages, and I couldn’t see anything. There was someone right next to me screaming wildly in a language I couldn’t understand, which sounded like Arabic. A man on the other side cursed constantly. And there was someone across from me who was strapped to his bed and kept trying to wrench himself loose. It was quite a concert of threatening voices around me. I was so exhausted that I couldn’t sleep, and I had nightmares every time I managed to doze off.
My father told the doctors that I should be moved to a quiet room where I could sleep. But the hospital was full; there were no beds free anywhere. My father insisted that I be moved somewhere else. And that’s how I ended up in the hospital pharmacy. It was a little room filled with jars and bottles, and it just barely fit one hospital bed.
I remember a woman visited me that day who calmed me down with her hands. Reiki, we’d call it these days. She closed the curtains around the bed and said, “You will sleep so deeply tonight that you’ll feel like you won’t ever wake up.” That was a very intense statement; it really had an impact on me.
I was wheeled into that tiny room again that evening. I couldn’t do anything but lie there. There was no strength at all in my limbs. And then I woke up in the middle of the night. I sat straight up in my bed. And a voice went through me from a very deep place, saying, You have to believe it.
What followed was a surge of incredible strength and joy and a purple light. For me, with my Christian background, that was a voice from God. You have to believe it meant to me that I wasn’t alone. That was an answer that I needed at that point; I had been doubting for many, many years.
I was in a very peaceful place, suddenly feeling relieved and intensely happy. To me, that belief meant believing the power of the source of life: If I believe in my own healing, I will be better. Period. It was not an intellectual choice. It was just there. From that point on, I knew: I’m cured.
I spent about three weeks in the hospital after the operation. I grew stronger every day and was able to sit up for longer and longer. My eyesight recovered rapidly, and my eyes weren’t crossed anymore. I could think straight again and remember everything that was said to me word for word, as if I suddenly had a photographic memory. I’d definitely be able to study after that! The scent of the roses by my bedside was more intense than any roses I had smelled since my childhood.
The neurosurgeon told us that the tumor was on my brain stem. It was too intertwined with the surrounding area to remove it, so operating wasn’t an option. It was also too centrally located for radiation, which would hit vital areas, so that wasn’t an alternative either. There really weren’t any options left. He suggested doing a biopsy so they could run tests on a piece of tissue from the tumor. In the end, I went to him with my father and said diplomatically, “I’d rather go home first and get stronger.” And I remember saying to him, “I’ll be back for regular CT scans, and you’ll see that that tumor will go away.”
I was fortunate that my parents were pioneers in alternative medicine and told me, despite the medical reports, that there were many roads to Rome. I’ve walked a number of them by now. A friend of mine who is a therapist advised me to try a strict diet of easy-to-digest food full of energy that would help my body get stronger as fast as possible.
I had a very strong conviction: If this is possible, everyone should know about it. So I thought that I should start telling everyone in the hospital. As soon as I could shuffle around, I started doing that. I started with all the patients in the ward I was in. Later it would become my career.
After five years of checkups every six months, the neurosurgeon suddenly said to me, “The tumor is shrinking.” For my family and loved ones, the hospital played a key role in confirming that I really was doing better—although I already knew it myself.
In his letters to my general practitioner, the neurologist described me as a “stubborn, resistant patient” because I refused further treatment. Even so, after those five years, he said something extraordinary to me: “Your approach was the best thing you could have done.” That’s a brave thing for a specialist to say.
Twenty-seven years after hearing that I might only have two months to live, I’m still here. Mind over matter: That’s what I believe. Since 2006, my wife and I have had our own practice for neurofeedback, systems therapy and gestalt therapy. Gestalt therapy teaches you to take responsibility for your own life, for growing awareness and the here and now.
Meditation can help you learn to observe your thinking self from a distance. You let thoughts come and go as they will, without identifying yourself with them. You make contact with a deeper, essential layer in yourself and with the peaceful flow of life.
You can trust that the body, guided by the brain, possesses an unimaginable regenerative potential. You can wake that potential up. Besides exercise, your body needs the right nutrients to recover, and what we eat often no longer contains those crucial building blocks. Besides eating well, you can add them back in by taking specific supplements, like vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Once you achieve physical balance, it is also easier to clear away emotional blocks that have built up: old traumas, grudges, hatred or resentment directed at yourself or at others. That takes courage. Our society doesn’t encourage us to show our emotions; it’s often seen as a sign of weakness. But laughing, crying and sharing emotions with others can be an amazingly healing experience. In our practice, the patient frees himself from emotionally charged memories that are released from their locked boxes during a session, without having to discuss the contents. This allows you to transform memories and beliefs that weakened you, turning them into power-generating beliefs that support recovery. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood!
Research has revealed that unprocessed emotions are stored in the limbic part of the brain, the center of emotion and motivation. We process these emotions at night during our REM sleep. When emotions stop flowing, the result is like the evil fairy godmother from “Sleeping Beauty,” who caused everyone in the castle to sleep for a hundred years…until a prince kissed the girl awake, bringing the kingdom back to life and letting emotions flow freely again. Life always offers new opportunities.
A good, healthy lifestyle means achieving physical, emotional, mental and spiritual balance and maintaining it, each and every day, in vital, living contact with your surroundings. Besides sports and exercise, it’s also good to move your energy deliberately, for example by practicing tai chi or qigong. Be aware of your thoughts. Let your mind settle down and feed it with healthy thoughts again. Let go of negativity. Let your heart rule your mind. Surround yourself with balanced, happy, grateful people. Learn to share with an open heart. Laugh and cry together. Make time to take care of your emotional wounds and let them heal. Live from an attitude of being grateful to be part of a greater whole, and learn to take your place in that constellation, based on the question of what life asks from you and the talents you have been given. Make time for seeking stillness, in a chapel or on a mountain. Be there for yourself and for others. Health arises from being in contact with yourself and with others. That’s the secret to being healthy.
This approach lets you take control of your own healing process, if you’re open to accepting help from others. Learn to believe in yourself, and belief will turn into certainty. I am grateful for everyone who was part of my road to healing, for their own unique contribution. I hope that you will also find your way to healing, by taking charge of your own health.
Find out more: www.adriaanalexanderdekker.com
Alexander Dekker is open to receiving questions. Contact him via The Intelligent Optimist’s editorial team; we’d be happy to forward your email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Tomeu Cañellas Moragues