By Larry G. Raff, MPH - Guest blogger (and founder of Whip Cancer)
Last July my brother and sister-in-law visited me and my family in Boston from the west coast. It was a great visit, but Kitty was dealing with some respiratory ailment that did not seem out of the ordinary. After returning home Kitty checked it out and finally learned that there was malignant tissue in the upper lobes of her lungs. The search ensued to find the primary tumor, but with no success.
Over the course of the next several months Kitty and I spoke and began to discuss how she was coping with her chemotherapy. We talked about the ways she was taking care of herself and I asked if she was trying any visualization to stimulate her immune system to fight the cancer. She said she was, but that it was difficult and she could use some help in doing it. It was soon afterwards that her condition quickly deteriorated and she was gone before Christmas.
My conversation with Kitty inspired the creation of Whip Cancer. Being a visually oriented person myself with a master’s degree in public health and clinical nutrition, it made sense to me to help people like Kitty by providing photos of the cancer cells they are trying to rid from their body, and to enable the placement of the cells at the body sight of the cancer. By combining visual support along with a guided imagery narrative with complementary ambient sound made profound sense to me.
I then rang up my friend Zack Spigelman, MD, Internist, Hematologist and Medical Oncologist at New England Baptist Hospital in Boston and he confirmed that imagery is frequently used by his patients to empower them to be active in the healing process, thereby reducing stress and focusing the body's energies on targeting the disease. In addition, I did extensive web research and looked at every iPhone app I could find on cancer and guided imagery, and to my surprise, found nothing that takes this approach.
I thought an app was the way to go to make Whip Cancer available to as many people as possible. People can use the app while receiving chemotherapy, when waiting to be treated, at a random quiet moment in the day, or at daily scheduled times.
I didn’t know the first thing about creating a mobile app, so I did my research and quickly realized I needed someone to do the programming. Using LinkedIn I found Makarand Sovani, a veteran computer software programmer in NJ who was learning how to create iPhone/Pad apps. I provided him with what is called a “wire frame” that laid out the content and relationship of each page of the app. I also provided him with 108 cancer histology images, and brilliant anatomical images.
Then I needed someone to do a specially tailored guided imagery narrative, and I had to look no further than my friend and colleague Diane Blumenson. Diane is a gifted Certified Hypnotist and member of the National Guild of Hypnotists (She has put me under a couple of times).
We were off to the races. After only two months the beta app was ready to test on friends and family members, some of whom have or have had cancer. The feedback was fabulous and very encouraging. We made a number of improvements and then launched the app in mid-June 2012.
Whip Cancer is a visually enhanced guided imagery immunotherapy tool. Its release coincides with findings by pharmaceutical researchers who are developing drugs that will use the body’s immune system to fight cancer. Immunotherapies are intended to activate the body’s immune system, allowing it to recognize cancer cells as the enemy and attack them. Researchers are still seeking to develop a method to jump-start the body's defenses without injuring normal cells. This is exactly what Whip Cancer offers.
There is a great deal of sound research supporting the ability of guided imagery to positively affect the immune response. I’ve collected some of this research and other information at http://www.whipcancer.net/ to help others find ways to help themselves. Whip Cancer can be purchased for $2.99 on the Apple App Store or through the iTunes store. Whip Cancer is currently available for both iphones and ipads.
Larry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and http://www.whipcancer.net/.
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