Meditation as custom “medication”

Larrie Wanberg

Photo: Larrie Wanberg
Ava’s letter: Dear Mr. Wanberg, I heard that you had cancer. Bummer, in the summer, right? I’m a cancer survivor too! All this treatment this, and treatment that, it’s not fun at all! But, our job is to work together, to help other people out! So, let’s be strong together. I heard you worked for BraveHearts. My Grandpa started it! Maybe we can both be BraveHearts! Now, let me tell you about this special tree. It’s called a Birthday Tree. It’s not just for birthdays, it’s also for making people happy! I have one, and now I’m giving it to you! I hope you get better with this yucky, blucky cancer, and together we can help people all over the world. Are you with me? Can’t wait to meet you! Sincerely, Ava Jacobs.

Larrie Wanberg
Features Editor

There is a growing movement nationally in wellness programs in schools, community centers like the YMCA, senior programs, childcare, veteran facilities, and independent living centers. Usually these programs promote nutrition, exercise, stress reduction, and healthy habits.

Wellness is a broad concept that integrates mind, body, and spirit—all systems of healthy components working positively to create a sense of well-being and environmental health. “Health,” on the other hand, is generally a term that measures a standard, such as vital signs and other tests, which define if a person is healthy or in need of treatment.

Meditations are sometimes a part of wellness programs, both for relaxation and for healing. In my recent experience with cancer, I found healing meditations vital in my personal journey to becoming cancer-free over four years. I script meditations to “talk” to my immune system, record the narration in my own voice, and listen to it in the quietness of the moment, being aware of the feelings and thoughts of my mind, body, and spirit. This method is not scientifically proven, but it helped me and recent studies document some successes.

After I was diagnosed with cancer, I got a letter from a 9-year-old girl in Houston, Amy Jacobs, as featured in The Norwegian American on Feb. 19, 2016. I had known her great grandfather, a journalist and WWII veteran, and had worked with her grandfather on a non-profit project. She had been diagnosed with a brainstem tumor at 13 months and became one of the first patients to receive a new radiation treatment that eventually removed the cancer. Her courage as a child inspired her family to create a national charity called BraveheartsForKids.org (BH4Ks), a non-profit organization serving families facing pediatric cancer. In her letter to me years later, she emphasized how important it is that cancer patients help each other out. “Let’s be strong together,” she wrote.

Since then, I have been active, with her grandfather, in a part of the organization called Bravehearts Enterprises (BE), an evolving funding leg of BH4Ks. One of the principal goals of BE is to develop personalized meditations in digital formats with success stories of pediatric cancer, highlighting courage and personal drive toward healing. New technologies, such as augmented reality and robotic animation, can deliver meditations with visual messages of courage, hope, and healing. Even simple audio storytelling with a healing message can be effective in stimulating the imagination.

As a retired veteran from the Army Medical Service Corps, I am beginning work with a video crew of student veterans online to produce personalized healing mediations for social media platforms. Likewise, an initiative is underway to recruit retired veterans locally to help support families facing health-related trauma. Veteran families are experienced with many of the issues related to health traumas, including the use of meditations in the treatment of PTSD and advanced wellness programs. Service organizations are invited to participate or add program resources.

Last week, BH4Ks launched a free, innovative app called SpotlightHope, which puts comprehensive resources and information in the hands of families facing cancer. April 28 is National Bravehearts Day. The day marks a step forward in a model of wellness in support of children with cancer.

Larrie Wanberg writes features that draw on eight decades of life experience highlighted by three career recognitions: as a researcher through a Fulbright Scholarship to Norway in 1957; as a health-care provider in behavioral science through a 27-year military career and awarded upon retirement in 1981 the highest non-combat medal, the Legion of Merit medal; as an educator, through a 50-year career in college education, culminating in the 2010 Public Scholar award at the UND Center for Community Engagement.

This article originally appeared in the February 22, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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