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Survival and Transformation from Terminal Cancer

by Martin Brofman(more info)

listed in mind matters, originally published in issue 79 - August 2002

Personal Account of Near-death Experience

I was at the Episcopal Hospital in Philadelphia. I had just been told that I had a 'blockage' in my spinal cord, from the fourth to the seventh cervical vertebra at the level of the neck, which had been responsible for the symptoms I had been experiencing. My right arm was paralysed, my legs were spastic, and there were sensations like electric shocks running through my body when I moved my head.

I was told that I had to have an operation immediately, and that if I lived through the operation I might come out of it a quadriplegic. When I asked if I had time for a second opinion, I was told that if I coughed or sneezed at that time I might die. Naturally, I agreed to have the operation in a few hours.

I realized that, according to what the doctors had said, I might be dead in a few hours. I went through the stages that many people go through when they know they are about to die. First, there was the sense that this was a movie set, and that these things were not really happening to me. I found myself negotiating with what was happening, bargaining if I could, for something different to happen.

Slowly, the realization that it was real, and happening to me, came closer and closer, until I had to accept emotionally that I might very soon be dead.

Letting Go of Fear

When I accepted the unacceptable, my body shook violently as an intensity of energy moved through me. I opened more and more to it, and after one or two very long minutes it was complete. I felt a calm inside that I had not known before. All my senses were sharper. My vision was clearer. Colours were brighter. Hearing was clearer. Sensations were more alive.

I realized that I had released a perceptual filter that had been standing between me and the experience of life, and ironically, it had been the fear of death. Now that I had released that fear, I was experiencing more of life, more of being alive, even if just for a short while longer.

I thought of the life I had lived, and the things I could have done but didn't, and I found myself saying to myself, "I wish I had". There were a lot of "I wish I hads". I thought to myself that it was, in fact, a sad way to end a life, and that if I had to do it again, there would be a lot of "I'm glad I dids".

I had to decide what I wanted to do with the short time I had left. If I spent my remaining time worrying or feeling bad about what was, in fact, inevitable, I would have just wasted the rest of my life, thrown it away, and it was too valuable for that.

I decided to spend my remaining time feeling good, and just thinking of things that helped me to feel good - the colour of the paint on the walls, the smell of flowers in the room, anything positive. I knew I could always find something.

Finally, the time came. I was taken to the operating room and, as I was being given the anaesthetic, I thought that this might be the last experience I would ever have. I had no idea what might come afterwards. I had been agnostic, with no beliefs, believing in nothing that I had not experienced. Perhaps the next step after death was just oblivion.

I let go.

Taking Control

I began to experience vertigo, a sense of spinning, and it didn't feel good, so I stabilized myself in the centre of it until I was still, and everything else was spinning around me. I was moving through the spinning scenes, which were memories from the life I had lived, memories that were calling for my attention. If I put my attention on them, though, I felt myself 'pulled', because I was moving through these spinning memories, like being pulled through a tunnel, or falling down a well, but discovering that, halfway down the well, reaching for the walls would not work. My only hope would be to aim for the water at the bottom.


I had then to withdraw my attention from these scenes, these memories, and put my attention on the place to which I was being drawn, aiming for it. I was headed there anyway, but aiming for it gave me more of a sense of being in the driver's seat, and that was a lot more comfortable for me. It was a bit like riding a roller-coaster in the front car, and pretending that you're driving the thing along the tracks. It gives a totally different ride, I can assure you, than being swept out of control.

The ride was long, but I had nothing else to do but go for it. Finally, the end of the tunnel was in sight. I came out into a kind of space, a stillness, where there was a glow of energy addressing me. It was like a spark of life, energy glowing with intelligence, not in a human form, just pure consciousness. It seemed that some distance away there was another spark just observing the scene.

Moving On

I felt as though I were having an exit interview, something like, "Well, your trip is over now, so complete things in your consciousness about that, and we'll move on". I looked back and saw my life as I had lived it, completed my thoughts about things that had happened, understood a lot of things differently, and then expressed that I was ready.

The Being began to move away. I began to follow, and then I paused. The Being quickly asked me what the thought was that had just entered my consciousness. I had thought that it would be a shame for my daughters to grow up without their father in their life. I had spent a large part of my life without my father in it, and I would have liked my daughters to not to have experienced that. Anyway, I was ready to go.

The Being said that because my reason for wanting to return was somebody outside myself, I would be allowed to return. Before I had the chance to express that I didn't really want to return, there was a rapid, confused movement, something happened. The other spark which had been 'observing' was somehow a part of it, and then I was waking up in this body, in traumatic pain, with intense drama going on around me in the hospital.

I felt as if I had just jumped into a movie that had been under way, but that I had not been the one in the body before this moment. Because of the trauma and the drama, my attention was directed to things happening in the physical world, and the memory of what had happened before was somehow obliterated. I had other things happening which were demanding my attention, and besides, I did not have the belief systems that would allow me to accept what had just happened.


Over the next year, I began to explore ideas and philosophies I had no experience of before. I read books concerning 'life after life' and 'life after death', and other writings which described what people called, 'near-death experiences', and I began to remember what had happened. I saw the similarities to what others had experienced, and I knew then what had happened to me. I thought also of the similarities to what we consider the 'normal' birth process, where babies are born into bright lights and loud sounds and being slapped, and, perhaps, their attention is so much directed to outer things that they forget their inner experiences just before the process of being born.

From time to time, I meet others who have made the trip, and we compare notes. "What was it like for you?" One woman said that prior to the experience she was certain there would be a Being on the other side with a big book, looking at what she had and had not done, and making checks and crosses, good marks and bad marks. When she got to the other side, there really was a Being there with a big book, just as she thought there would be. The only bad marks she got, though, were for the things that she hadn't done. Her only sin was self-denial.

My Prognosis

My diagnosis on leaving the hospital was a spinal cord tumour located between C4 and C7. It had been diagnosed on the basis of a myelogram and analysis of the spinal cord fluid. At the time, my right arm was still paralysed, my legs were spastic, and I had the experience of electric shocks running up and down my back when I moved my head.

The operation had the intention of removing the tumour, but when the doctors exposed the spinal cord, they could not reach the tumour, which they said was inside the spinal cord. They closed me up and told me to go home, saying that they had no idea what other treatment to do. They had decompressed the spinal cord with the hope of buying me some more time. There was not enough of a blood supply to the inside of the spinal cord for chemotherapy, and radiation therapy would have burned the spinal cord. They told me that I had one or two months to live, unless I coughed or sneezed, in which case I could die immediately.

I was faced with a reality in which each day was possibly my last day, each hour my last hour, and I recognized that for whatever limited time I had remaining, I wanted to be happy.

Living a compromise made no sense to me. Since each meal was possibly the last one I would ever have, I wanted to eat whatever I had an appetite for, whatever my body was asking for. It didn't make sense to me to eat food I didn't enjoy just because someone else thought it would be healthy for me. Their loving intentions were recognized, but I knew it was not my way. My path to health had to include a sense of enjoyment in all that I did, and I had to be true to myself, to be real. I had to believe in the recovery process.

Healing and Transformation

My philosophy was as follows:

Every symptom has a certain way of being with which it is associated.

In order to release a symptom, one must release the way of being associated with it.

Thus, the process of healing implies a process of transformation.

Anything can be healed.

Reprieve! Reprogramming My Consciousness

It was then suggested to me that the cancer was the result of a process that had been going on in my consciousness, and that I could use my consciousness to get rid of it. My consciousness had been the effect of programming, in the same way that the results that a computer produces are the effects of the way it had been programmed. I could reprogramme my consciousness.

I was presented with the idea that our perceptions create our reality, and I realized that I had to reprogramme my consciousness to create the perception that I was well. I was not prepared for such an abrupt shift from the perception of being terminally ill, but I realized that I could much more easily create the perception that I was getting better and better, until I was indeed well.

I had had the perception that I was in a state of deterioration, getting closer and closer to dying, and I knew that if I were to have as the end result the perception that I was well, I would have to change from getting worse and worse to getting better and better. I also knew that the turnaround could happen in any moment. It was a matter of turning a switch in my mind, and insisting on knowing that it had been turned. I decided that if the moment of change could be at any moment, then let it be now.

The Change

I felt a shift in my consciousness, and I knew then that I was in a state of improvement. I also knew the importance of maintaining the integrity of that decision, and of that moment. I knew that all of my perceptions had to reinforce the idea that I was now getting better and better. For example, I could remind myself, as I ate whatever food I wanted, that it was exactly what my body needed to accelerate the healing process.

Physical sensations that felt like electric shocks in my body, which before had reinforced the idea that the tumour was growing, now had to be perceived as evidence that the tumour was shrinking. My mind looked for more and more ways of knowing that the improvement was happening.

I knew I had to stay away from those people who insisted on seeing me as still terminal, not from any lack of love, but just to maintain my own positive attitude towards my healing process. I had to be with people who were willing to encourage me on this seemingly impossible task I had set for myself. When I was asked how I was doing, I insisted on answering, "Better and better", and seeing how that was, in fact, true.

I knew that it was vital to maintain the positive programming, and that putting myself in a relaxed state of mind and talking positively to myself for fifteen minutes, three times each day, was a part of the programming process that I should in no way interfere with. There were temptations not to do the relaxations, and then I would remind myself that my life was at stake. Any temptation, then, was something that stood between me and my life, and that had to be removed, so that I could live.

Holding the Perception

At first, it was very difficult. I found that the integrity of the moment of change was easily compromised, by my thoughts or words acknowledging anything other than the idea that I was improving, and I had to be honest with myself, and see that, and then know that I had 'blown it'. Then I could tell myself that what had happened was just a practice run, and that the real moment of change was now.

It got easier and easier. I was able to maintain integrity for just hours at first, then a day, then two days, and then I was solid. I knew the programme was working. I was able to recognize the doubting voice inside, and know that it did not represent truth. I was able to identify with the encouraging voice. It became my guide, leading me back to stable health. I was more and more able to maintain the single-pointedness of knowing that positive changes were happening. When I was not feeling a symptom, I told myself that perhaps now I would never feel that symptom again. If I experienced the symptom after that, I told myself that the process was just not yet complete, and that indeed I was feeling the symptom less than I had before.

I had to know that positive changes were happening now, possibly just at the threshold of noticeability, so I could eagerly anticipate evidence to justify my perceptions. Naturally, I was always able to find something, and so assure myself that it was not something I was just imagining, but real, and more strength was added to the process.

The Programme

During my relaxation periods, I imagined seeing the tumour which had been located in my spinal cord in the neck, and imagined that I was watching one layer of cancer cells dying, and being released, to be discarded by my body's natural elimination system. I knew that the change, perhaps not yet noticeable, was still definite. I knew that each time I released waste products from my body, the dead cancer cells were being eliminated, and I reminded myself of that each time. I insisted on knowing that it was true.

I knew that cancer represented something held in and not expressed, and since the tumour was located by my throat chakra (energy centre), I had been holding back the expression of my Being. Since I wasn't quite sure what that meant, though, I decided that it was imperative that I express everything. Every thought, every feeling, whatever was in my consciousness that wanted to come out, I expressed, knowing that it was vital for my health. Before, I had had the perception that expressing led to discord, but now I saw that what I was expressing was appreciated by those around me, that expressing and communicating led to harmony.

Before, I had held the belief that if I expressed what I really wanted to, something bad would happen. I had to reprogramme that to the belief that if I expressed what I really wanted to, something wonderful would happen. I made that decision, and it was so.

I found myself having less and less in common with my old friends. It was as though we had shared a common vibrational frequency before, say 547 cycles, whatever that means, and suddenly I found myself at 872 cycles, having few things to communicate with the 547-cycle people. I had to find new friends who were also at 872, to have someone to talk with.

I found myself attracted to the 872 crowd, and they to me, as though I had become selectively magnetic, and certain elements of my reality were being released which were no longer in accord with the new Being I was becoming. I knew the process was inevitable, and should not be interfered with. I developed a sense of compassion and understanding at that time. I knew that my life depended on releasing all elements of my life not in accord with my new vibration. The process was simple, though not always easy.

I began each day as a process of self-discovery, with no preconceived notion of who I was, yet with a willingness to discover the emerging Being, and a sense of delight with each new discovery.

I imagined the scene that would happen in the doctor's office after my work on myself was done. I could see him examining me and, finding no tumour, being puzzled. He might say, "Perhaps we made a mistake". I played the scene in my mind each day, in my relaxation periods.

I had heard that within the technology of mental programming, if I talked to myself for fifteen minutes three times each day, within 66 days I could get myself to believe anything, and that whatever I believed to be true would be true.

About two months after I started working on myself, I went to be examined by the doctor who had pronounced me terminally ill. On the way to the doctor, I knew that I had to maintain the perception that everything was all right. I replayed the scene in my mind, knowing it would happen like that.

Finally, the moment of truth arrived. The doctor examined me, and found nothing. He said, "Perhaps we made a mistake". I laughed all the way home.


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About Martin Brofman

Martin Brofman, PhD, is the founder and Director of the Brofman Foundation for the Advancement of Healing - He is the architect of the Body Mirror System of Healing, which he developed from his research and personal experience of healing himself of terminal cancer in 1976, and from what he learned about the body/mind interface during that process. He has been teaching these techniques worldwide since that time, along with other instructors he has trained. He can be reached at

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