Fear of cancer is a symptom often met with in patients who are difficult to cure. A woman of 76 appeared in the Out – patients Department complaining of extreme weakness, faecal incontinence and a fear of cancer. Her husband had recently died from that disease. She had loss of appetite and loss of weight also. The abdomen was full of hard lumps, and rectal examination was impossible because of faeces.
In order to make examination possible, the patient was sent home with a note to the District Nurse to give her enemas every second day for a week. On the symptoms of grief, the great prostration and inertia of the muscles of the gut, Gelsemium 200 was given. When the patient returned at the end of a week, there was a note from the Nurse, saying that after the first enema there was no need for any further ones. All fear of cancer had gone, energy and appetite had been restored.
The CHAIRMAN remarked that this was the type of paper where the meeting would like to have a psychiatrist among the speakers. It was the type of work so closely associated with psychological treatment that he believed it was only one stage further on when they could expect a large number of psychiatrists to give serious study to Homoeopathy! The paper showed Homoeopathy in its best colours. Mental symptoms were so intimately bound up with “the whole man” that they often acted as the torch to that precious remedy – the similimum, as the discussion that evening had revealed.
Another factor which had to be borne in mind was the deplorable ease with which many physicians prescribed sedatives. Barbiturates and the like had the property of creating fears and disturbing the whole mental sphere. It was important, when seeing a patient for the first time, to ask if he was taking a sleeping medicine, and if so to stop it. He had had one patient who for 10 years had been taking a certain proprietary medicine which contained a mild barbiturate and some Valerian.
She was proving Valerian in a remarkable manner. He had difficulty in getting her to stop taking this substance. One merely had to suggest to her if she had such – and – such a complaint. She always had it – and she enlarged upon the fact ad nauseam. One factor was that she was desperately afraid of cancer, and she had a feeling of swelling in different areas about her body. She felt that her abdomen would burst. Dr. McCrae found that the remedy was Calcium fluoricum.
Dr. R.M. LE HUNTE – COOPER said that he was very interested in the fact that most of the remedies Dr. Priestman mentioned was prescribed not because they were particularly associated with “fear”, but chiefly on the constitutionally indicated symptoms.
“Fear from raids” had been referred to in the discussion. He personally had found, in the two big wars, that Chamomilla was most dependable, and he had trusted to this more than to Ignatia.
He had discovered during the last war that, in addition to the ordinary, obvious, and acknowledged “fear”, a very definite and “hidden fear of the subconscious – mind” had to be reckoned with in some cases. He had mentioned two of the best illustrations of this in the discussion following a Paper read at one of the Meetings of the Society (or Faculty) on “Ignatia” some years ago.
One was that of a lady suffering from a persistent and intractable left – sided sciatica. She was living in Battersea, not a very desirable spot from the “noise” point of view during the war, but she faced the raids with apparent equanimity, and never complained of being afraid. When, however, he eventually persuaded her to have a change to a quiet place in the country, the sciatica cleared up in a few days.
Later, when things became quieter, he allowed her to return home, but a few days later there was another raid, and the sciatica immediately returned. Ignatia removed this dramatically, with no return, though she remained at home and had to face a few more raids.
The other case was one of persistent pain in a ladys right shoulder. Various remedies failed to give more than temporary relief, till one day, when he was speaking to her, an air – raid warning sounded suddenly. Immediately she put her hand to her shoulder, crying; “Oh, the pains come back!” He gave Ignatia. The pain disappeared and has not returned to this day.
A very highly – strung lady, aged about 37, had always feared “Disease”; either that she, or her relations, would become ill. The very mention of the word “Disease” was sufficient to start her trembling. Her other fear was of burglars. After he had been treating her some time for her general health, he happened to prescribe Ignatia 200. Both these fears disappeared and never returned, which astounded him, in view of the fact that she had had them all her previous life. That is to say, that they never returned during the several years he continued to treat her, after they left her.
Finally, Dr. Le Hunte – Cooper related a case of “fear of motoring” in which Ginseng cured permanently, there being no necessity to repeat the remedy. The lady was subsequently able to travel in cars without the slightest trouble.
Dr. JOHN PATERSON said that there were one or two points in the paper upon which he would like to make comment. Dr. Priestman mentioned as a rubric “fear of termination of illness” and I presume she means “fear of fatal termination of an illness” but he had known patients who had “fear of a favourable termination of an illness” who were afraid that they would lose the special attention and sympathy on recovery.
They were usually Phosphorus types. Then there was the patient who had “fear of infection, always washing the hands.” That was also found under Syphilinum and in the list he had published under the Nosodes, Phosphorus would be found listed with Syphilinum.
He was interested to note Dr. Priestmans mention of Arsenic given as an acute remedy in a Sulphur case, as at one time he had difficulty in reconciling the typical mental picture of the “gold – headed cane type” of individual associated with Arsenic, to the “ragged philosopher” type of individual in Sulphur, but in practice he had found that cases often swung to extremes in acute illness and that Arsenic and Sulphur were complementary remedies – a fact worth keeping in mind.
Dr. TEMPLETON congratulated Dr. Priestman on her very interesting account of fears. These symptoms were undoubtedly of the greatest value when well substantiated. The case with too many fears was, however, not so easy. These anxiety states were so confused that he found them frequently impossible to help. This was another reason for getting in at the beginning of an illness of this sort.
When well “dug in” he was compelled to admit that may be only such drastic measures as electroconvulsive therapy was able to “dig” them out. Unfortunately his experience was that after E.C.T. whatever fears and obsessions remained were “fixed” it would seem for ever.
“Fear of cancer”, a common one these days is mentioned under Verat. alb. “Fear of heart disease”, Lac caninum. “Fear of vermin”, was Arsenicum and he had cured one old lady of this most troublesome obsession where she was constantly turning out cupboards and drawers and was, of coarse, never at rest; a good Arsenic picture.
As exemplified in some of Dr. Priestmans cases overwork and overstrain were frequently behind the anxiety states. It was said that when a doctor wakened up at night and started worrying about his cases he was due for a holiday but he did find that Lycopodium helped. He had dubbed Lycopodium the Insurance Agents remedy – The man who was being constantly dunned from the head office for more and more new business.
Coffea had been mentioned. He often found that combining two strong mentals a very great help even in acutes. A case of shingles, very widespread and painful, disturbing sleep. Nothing seemed to help until he combined “Shrieking with pain”, and “Weeping with pain”, when Aconite, Coffea, Puls. and Chamomilla came through. Coffea highest of all. Coffea was given and the acute pain ceased like magic. Worse for a happy emotion under Coffea was new to him and should be helpful.
He had found that even the localization of “sensations” of value in choosing a remedy. During the blitz the sensation of “his heart in his mouth”, was frequently covered by Lachesis and Ignatia; whereas “his heart in his boots”, though it was usually “her heart in her boots”, seemed to be covered by Sepia.
One of the most helpful modalities he found was “as if afraid”, and that was Opium. A child sent away with Diphtheria returned a nervous wreck. Absolutely scared; could not go to school; could not sleep; could not eat; “As if” she had a fright and she had of course, but Opium sent her back happily to school in a week.