Did you know that the words you use to describe your health can actually influence both your physical and mental health? In today’s post I will describe how that can happen and what to do about it.

I’ve written previously about how our language determines both what we are able to perceive and how we perceive it.  https://www.mortylefkoe.com/how-our-language-determines-our-reality/

Elderly Common Diseases in word collageToday I will show you how many specific words we use to describe reality, including words we use to describe our health, already contain meaning in their very definition. So when we think we are objectively describing reality we are often adding meaning that isn’t necessarily true.

Are you really in pain?

Take what seems to be a simple statement of reality: “I am in pain.” For someone uttering those words, that is a statement of fact, not an interpretation. You might give that “reality” the meaning: I have a serious illness. Or, I won’t be able to work today. Or, I’m punishing myself for not doing something I should have done. When you identify any meaning you have attributed to any event and then distinguish it from the event (e.g., I am in pain), the meaning will dissolve and you will be left with nothing but the event.

But is that statement of the event (I am in pain) really an objective, meaningless description of the event? I contend the answer is , no. The word “pain” is not merely a word describing reality; it is a word loaded with emotional connotations that already has a lot of meaning, albeit different for different people.

The online version of the Merriman-Webster dictionary defines pain as: 1. The physical feeling caused by disease, injury, or something that hurts the body. 2. Mental or emotional suffering: sadness caused by some emotional or mental problem. 3. Someone or something that causes trouble or makes you feel annoyed or angry.

In other words, even before we add unconsciously- and automatically-created meaning to the word “pain” in a given situation, the very definition of the word has already added meaning that goes beyond the actual event.

The “reality” is that you have a throbbing sensation three inches in back of your right eye, or you have a pinching sensation in your right knee, etc.

Just telling yourself that you are in “pain” leads many people to having various thoughts and feelings that go beyond the actual physical sensations. As a result, they can experience more discomfort and for a longer period than if they only described the actual sensations.

Don’t call yourself “sick”

While I was writing this post I got a note from someone who said in part: “As it so happens I have been sick now for about 22 days with a nasty virus

[cold and flu].” She went on to complain that while her “normal” level of enjoyment of life was around an “8,” it had decreased to about 4 as a result of being “sick.”

I explained to her that she probably wasn’t giving an unconscious and automatic meaning to “being sick” in the present, but that the very definition of the word was reducing her enjoyment of life. Dictionary.com defines “sick” as: “1. Afflicted with ill health or disease; ailing. 2. Affected with nausea; inclined to vomit. 3. Deeply affected with some unpleasant feeling, as of sorrow, disgust, or boredom.”

Apart from the actual stuffed nose and her other actual physical symptoms, which obviously would be affecting her quality of life, describing herself as “sick” was probably the main reason her enjoyment of life had declined as much as it had.

How this applies to “my cancer”

Because I know how words purportedly describing reality can have all sorts of emotional connotations, I am always on the lookout for how my language is coloring my reality.  But it took one of my readers to point out a phrase I used repeatedly that showed I was not walking my talk.

Esther wrote in a comment to a recent blog post: “Just like the meaning we give to the meaningless events, the cancer is not ‘yours’; it’s a condition you have, not an inseparable part of who you truly are.”

Thank you, Esther, right you are. Saying this is “my cancer” has me experience it as a part of “me”, as a part of whom I am, whether I intend that or not. I had a folder in my mail program titled “my cancer” and a section at the end of every recent blog post titled, “an update on my cancer.” I used that phrase in almost every conversation I had about my current health condition. So obviously I had to stop using the word “my.”

What meaning does the word “cancer” have?

But I quickly realized that even the word “cancer,” which seems to be a clear-cut description of reality, actually isn’t. Cancer is another word where the definition contains a lot of meaning.

My online dictionary says cancer is “the disease caused by an uncontrolled division of abnormal cells in a part of the body.” But then it offers a second definition: “a practice or phenomenon perceived to be evil or destructive and hard to contain or eradicate.” The example of this definition that is offered is: “racism is a cancer sweeping across Europe.”

What images do you have when you hear the word “cancer”? … Or when you are told someone you know “has cancer”? … What do you think and feel? … For most people cancer is something “bad”; a terrible thing has happened. It must be fought and destroyed.

How do you think that the actual definition of the word cancer affects you (especially if you are the one to whom that diagnosis has been given)? We immediately think that the cancer is a “practice or phenomenon perceived to be evil or destructive and hard to contain or eradicate.” Thus it needs to be fought, to be stopped, to be killed. And what does impact does that meaning have on your mental and physical state?

Fighting activates the stress mechanism

When we have to stop to fight something, our body’s “fight or flight” mechanism is immediately activated. Our bodies are filled with a number of “stress hormones” designed to enable us to deal more effectively with a perceived threat to our survival. That response is very useful when there is a real threat to our survival. The problem arises when this mechanism is set off very frequently or if it is rarely turned off.

Among the many deleterious effects of constant stress is an impairment of our immune system. As a result, stress has been implicated in most serious illnesses, including diabetes, various heart diseases, and cancer.

Given the common definition of cancer, it is no wonder that Western allopathic medicine is focused on killing cancer cells with radiation, chemotherapy, and/or surgery. If the malignant cells are “killed” and you don’t get new ones in five years, you are considered “cured.”

Here’s another way to look at it

Everyone has some cells that have mutated and are growing out of control at any given moment, but our immune system is usually able to keep them under control and you never get a tumor.  So you can describe a collection of those out of control cells as “cancer” when a tumor forms or you can say that what’s happening is my immune system is not doing its job and needs to be improved so that it can.

If you use the former description, you will want to kill the cancer before it kills you. If you use the latter description, you will focus on enhancing your immune system so that it can do its job in clearing the body of cells that don’t belong there. That might include using chemotherapy or something else to slow the progression of the multiplying cells until the immune system has been restored to full function.

This latter description of your condition would result in focusing on creating a healthy body and immune system and not on “fighting” cancer. Some of the ways to do that might include nutritional supplements, non-toxic interventions like high dose Vitamin C and cannabinoids, exercise, getting rid of stress, a healthy diet, social support, a strong desire to live, etc.

By the way, when I asked a Chinese qui gong master if he could see the cancer in my body when he was “scanning” it, he replied that “cancer” was a term used by Western medicine, a term he did not use. He said what he “saw” was an energy blockage in my colon and liver. At the time I was not aware that the ”cancer” in my colon had metastasized to my liver.

Be careful how you use language to describe your physical condition

To summarize, although it is important to learn how to stop giving meaning to events in reality, it is just as important to be careful about the words you are using to describe reality. Very often the definition of those words already contain meaning that goes way beyond the actual physical (or mental) event. Get in the habit of noticing those words and then find other words or ways to describe your condition so that the words you use to describe reality you don’t cause you additional problems.



(Notice that I changed the title of this note and stopped using the phrase “my cancer)

I’m in Chicago at the Block Center as I write this, here for my third round of chemo. I have a strong intuitive sense that all the things I am doing apart from my chemo are healing my immune system and my body and that I am making major progress.

I have asked my oncologist for a PET scan to see exactly how much I have improved and I intend to have that done next week when I get home.

I will keep you informed.

I cannot thank you enough for your messages of love and support. And I know that many of you who do not write are sending me love and support also. Expressing love and experiencing being loved can enhance the immune system. My immune system is improving my leaps and bounds.

Thanks for loving me. I love you too.


Thanks for reading my blog. Please post your questions or comments on how the words we use to describe events in the world, including words that describe the state of our health, contain meaning and can affect our emotional and behavioral responses to the event. Disagreement is as welcome as agreement. Your comments add value for thousands of readers. I love to read them all and I will respond to as many as I can.

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If you haven’t yet eliminated at least one of your limiting self-esteem beliefs using the Lefkoe Belief Process, go to http://www.recreateyourlife.com where you can eliminate several limiting beliefs free.

Copyright © 2014 Morty Lefkoe


By Published On: Wednesday, May 7, 2014Categories: Uncategorized17 Comments


  1. Mohammed Saiem Islam May 22, 2021 at 4:15 pm - Reply

    I am 11. But my right hand looks like a 16 year old hand. There is no problem in the left hand. Right hand wide 8 cm. And left hand 9cm wide. Now how to make the right arm 1 cm thick (without treatment) through home exercise

    • Mohammed Saiem Islam May 22, 2021 at 4:18 pm - Reply

      And I am male

  2. Honorio May 29, 2014 at 2:29 am - Reply

    This is the first time I came across your post and I admire you for the positive way of looking at things. I’m trying to find out how I can manage to think your way considering the various dis eases that had come my way.I hope I can find time to read moe of you to improve my life. I’m only 86.Thank you. & God bless you.

  3. Patrick Clarke May 20, 2014 at 2:19 pm - Reply

    Have you considered taking graviola tea? I’m not saying it’s some sort of miracle cure but quite a few people seem to have benefited from it.

  4. Esther May 9, 2014 at 1:51 pm - Reply

    Hi Morty,

    First, I am impressed that you are actually reading all the comments and am glad you’ve taken mine to heart and that it’s helping you to find a new way to look at the condition you are experiencing at the present time.
    Continuing in the same direction, I wish to bring your attention to a few other moments I’ve noticed in your post: “my chemo”, “my oncologist”, as you well know they are not yours, and you are not “getting rid of the stress”, you are working on changing it into vitality.

    You are a very wise and determined human being who is helping many others on their journey of living the best life they can by sharing your innovative approach as well as your human experience.

    I am familiar with the work of Dr. Hammer, and think it has a lot of merit. Yet, his approach is rather rigid and he is rather fanatical. There are many doctors in Europe, France, Belgium, Swiss that took Hammer’s approach much further and have expended on emotions/organs affiliation. I am sure you can find much info on the net. Take the idea and do your own soul searching.

    As you already know from the Qi Gong healer, everything is energy, and the energy can be transformed. So looking at the emotions as the energy that has been confined in an organ (different emotions have affinity with specific organs), is a much more positive way to deal with them rather than a term “conflict”. Louise Hay has some ideas as to emotions/organs connection.

    Thank you for being a loving and caring person you are.


  5. Guy May 9, 2014 at 7:09 am - Reply

    Hey Morty You might be interested in the work of Dr Ryke Gerd Hammer. He has found a link between differant types of emotional trauma or “conflict shock experiance” and cancer developing in associated places in the body
    Colon – Ugly indigestible conflict
    Liver – Fear of starvation
    Heart – Perpetual conflict
    Intestines – Indigestible chunk of anger
    Kidneys – Not wanting to live, water or fluid conflict
    Larynx – Conflict of fear and fright
    Resolving the conflict allows part of the brain that has stored the trauma to heal and the associated cancer to be dissolved by helpfull bacteria moulds and other microbes.
    Also Aajonus Vonderplanitz has developed a diet that strengthens and heals the body allowing it to heal and dissolve cancer using Raw Meats, Raw Fats and also bacteria that he has discovered play a vital role in detoxification and healing.

    Both these guys are really worth a look and I have found their ideas very helpfull in my quest for good health and happiness. Both of them see disease as a strengthening and cleaning proces and not a “battle” against “evil” “nasty” forces in nature. A big shift in the meaning and story much like your article.
    If you have any questions or want some more articles and reading material please email me at guygreen72@hotmail.com
    Much happines and success to you Morty

  6. Molly Byock May 8, 2014 at 2:57 pm - Reply

    I think of you often and send my love to you and Shelly. I admire your authentic open sharing of your journey. You are making a huge contribution to us all! Thank you for being a true leader in this approach to cancer and all illness.

    I love you!

  7. Cherry May 8, 2014 at 1:08 pm - Reply

    Hi Morty

    I am following your progress with great interest as I too have been diagnosed with colon cancer that has spread to the liver and one lung.

    I have been very struck by the ‘military’ language that surrounds cancer eg aggressive tumours or treatment, the cancer being seen as the enemy that has to be killed, and the victims being described as battling their disease. It seems to me that this approach immediately sets up a negative tension in the body where I am meant to be afraid of the invader and so I am in effect fighting against myself.

    So I set to work to find an alternative way of describing it to myself and have come up with seeing what is going on inside me as a group of over excited and slightly out of control 5 year olds who have got their paints out in the living room and have managed to make an almighty mess. Mother is initially horrified, angry, upset but when she calms down , she realises that they don’t know any better…they are only 5 after all. What they need is love and some gentle encouragement to learn how to behave in a more appropriate way in the sitting room. This feels like a much gentler and more loving way to feel towards what is part of my body after all.

    And yes, I am also working with an integrative medical practitioner who will offer me nutritional and emotional support to help boost my immune system so that my body can manage the challenges of chemo. My oncologist gave me a prognosis even though I didn’t ask for one, so I am seeing that as a challenge for me to prove him wrong!

    My plan is to get better with love not war!

    With very best wishes to you and thanks for the encouragement I am getting from reading your story.

    Cherry x

  8. Houston Vetter May 8, 2014 at 10:54 am - Reply

    IT seems as the Meaning Maker you have miss-heard your diagnosis. You may have thought you heard the word “cancer” but as the Meaning Maker (the one who adds meaning to meaningless events) I suspect your heard; “Can Yes Sir” strengthen and improve your immune system.
    To Your Best,
    Dr. Vetter – DocResults

  9. Laurie May 8, 2014 at 8:09 am - Reply

    Hi Morty,
    Thank you for your insightful post, and to the meaning police! What we say- and even what we think about events are obviously game changers at every level.
    We are buying a house- yesterday, the mortgage guy called to say that he wasn’t going to be able to fund the loan, which in the past would have spelled d-e-f-e-a-t! Instead of going right into that defeated space, I asked him what it would take to change that…and then went about the work of finding what was needed. I believe we have found the key! In the past, the additional money we came up with would have been un-thinkable- or rather, blocked by our own (dis)belief. instead, I believe we’re buying a house!
    Thank you for all the positive light you shed on the world, and for showing the rest of us where the switch is!
    Love & Blessings upon You!

  10. James May 8, 2014 at 6:22 am - Reply

    Hi Morty

    Thanks for the wonderful blog. This an area of thinking that I have been working to change for years. Thank you for your contribution to my changing beliefs.

    Love & wellwishing


  11. Andrew Fretwell May 8, 2014 at 4:14 am - Reply

    Morty take the leap Love is what heals and you have so much love inside of you
    Take a look https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FL_FcRby4pQ

  12. Bari May 8, 2014 at 4:11 am - Reply

    Hi Morty, I really resonated with this latest post about your words and attaching meaning to them (when not even realizing it) and thank you for this. I didn’t realize how I was doing this until now. I was diagnosed with breast cancer a year ago and right from the beginning something in me said not to ‘fight against cancer’, but rather send love to it….thank it for coming and ‘allow’ it to leave. It’s been a pretty interesting journey. A week ago I went through the final stage of reconstruction with my ‘expanders’ being removed and the final implant inserted. Just yesterday I was experiencing sharp pains in my right breast. When I read your blog, what I realized was that I was attaching a meaning to that pain. That, that pain meant something was wrong. That the implant was out of place or something was wrong and it scared me. What it did was stop me from doing things and rest.

    Now when I say that, it makes me feel that in some cases, I think that is probably good right? It’s when we allow those thoughts to take over our life is where it goes off the rails.

    Sending healing love and energy to you Morty! I was wondering…would you share in a future blog your feelings and thoughts around the chemo treatment? I noticed in this blog you say “I have a strong intuitive sense that all the things I am doing apart from my chemo are healing my immune system and my body and that I am making major progress.” “Apart from my chemo” makes me visualize that there is a belief that this is not part of your healing and making progress. I’m interested in hearing how you reconcile the ‘meaning’ we give around chemo.


  13. Stav May 8, 2014 at 4:03 am - Reply

    This post is interesting. Before a family member had “cancer” I never gave it much thought – I always gave it the definition that it is one of the 12 star signs, which it is. Its funny how when it gets into the public domain, a word’s meaning can change and people can give it all different sorts of meaning and attach emotion to it
    PS – Cancer is also defined as the name given to marine crabs

  14. Anne May 8, 2014 at 2:52 am - Reply

    Wonderful post, Morty! I have only recently discovered your work (after doing ‘The Work’ of Byron Katie and ‘The Release Technique’ and ‘The Sedona Method’. I just KNOW that you are healing, please know that you are an inspiration to us all!

  15. vern May 8, 2014 at 2:20 am - Reply

    hi Morty, facts…indeed…have…only



    “When the outer has become as the inner,
    and the lower as the upper, then will
    this world find peace.”


  16. KF CHEUNG May 8, 2014 at 2:15 am - Reply

    Dear Morty

    As a positive medicine practitioner myself, please note the research – “Words and rituals change the brain’s biochemistry and cells just like drugs,” and hence the body, according to basic medical research –
    Hope this link boost your inner self confidence and happy hormones towards health and not just stop dis—–ease (fearing disease). Disease is just a name given to people who are dis—-ease about life events and feel in their physical body due to unresolved hormonal changes. Patient is a word telling those dis—ease persons to be patient, yet many can’t be patient due to stress and rush to seek outside confidence from material treatment.
    The word cancer is used by doctors to summarise the situation, those are just unhealthy cells to be changed with happy hormones in the blood.
    Receiving support of love from other people is good, but a better solution is to focus to boost one’s self confidence from within our mind.



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