Images to help mind and body triumph over cancer

Jeanie Griffin

As chemotherapy drugs entered her body through an intravenous drip, Jeanie Griffin closed her eyes and focused on a childhood memory.

Griffin, who lives in Grapevine, saw herself as a girl snuggled with her father on a backyard bench, watching trees blow as a thunderstorm rolled across the Texas sky.

It was an example of how Griffin, diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 2007, used a cognitive behavioral technique called guided imagery to control the anxiety, nausea and discomfort that often accompany a cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatments.

UNT Health Science Center is leading an effort to increase accessibility to guided imagery for North Texas cancer patients. Through its TRIUMPH Program (Training Resources In Understanding My Power in Healing), medical educators have partnered with graduate nursing programs at TCU and UT Arlington to develop a curriculum that will introduce imagery to interested nursing students.

The TRIUMPH Program, funded by a grant from the Scheidel Foundation of Ponte Vedra, Fla., also has created educational materials about imagery that are available at 100 U.S. cancer treatment centers. Griffin supports the program by sharing her experience.

When practicing imagery, a patient is guided through a relaxing scene or series of experiences. Imagery can “help reduce stress, anxiety and depression; manage pain; and ease some of the side effects of chemotherapy,” according to the American Cancer Society.

“We all have images and ideas about cancer, and typically these are not positive,” said Susan Franks, PhD, TRIUMPH Program Director. “Imagery can help calm the body and improve the quality of life for the cancer patient. However, it’s not currently integrated into standard medical care.”

Griffin, who is in remission, said she combined imagery with chemotherapy and radiation treatments to treat her “whole person” – body and mind.

“That’s what the TRIUMPH Program is designed to help patients do,” she said.

More information about the TRIUMPH Program came be found on its Facebook page.

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