Tom attended the Psychiatric A&E with severe anxiety and cancer phobia. Despite that he was adamant not to have a PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen or Kallikrein-3, KLK3) done by his GP, his GP insisted and the sample was taken. PSA levels were >10 times above normal, and Tom was subsequently diagnosed with level T2 (the tumor can be felt (palpated) on examination, but has not spread outside the prostate) prostate cancer. His world collapsed and he was completely unable to cope. Initially he was assessed by myself, and I also did a short trial hypnotherapy session to check if he responded. His response was excellent and following the session he was calm and peaceful. But after having seen the urologist, he his anxiety returned and he was admitted to one of our wards by a junior doctor. Tom was given some tranquilizers and my Senior colleague asked if I could treat him with hypnosis. The same day I treated Tom under supervision of one of my trainee doctors.
“Those F*$€€!@! graveyards”, Tom suddenly said during the session.
“Why do say that?”
“Because this is what we do every day! I have to work together with my father who is a gravedigger. My mother and all my siblings also have to help. I hate those grave yards.”
“How old are you when you have to carry coffins?”
“I am 10 years old when I do it for the first time. One day my father falls sick. He only goes down to the cemetery to take the measures. I can’t do that. Then my mother drives me down and I have to dig my first grave. I am 14 years old.”
“What has all this to do with your fear”, I asked gently.
“Ohhh, how could I forget all that? It’s important. I now realise that this is the reason why I developed this fear of dying from cancer! I saw death wherever I went. I was never allowed to play and how fun like other children. It was awful! One day I dug a grave and I found seven skulls….”.
It was indeed remarkable to witness the transformation Tom went through. My Senior colleague at the ward later reported that Tom was completely calm without any need for tranquilizers.
Tom later told me that he was now calm and that he was able to understand that the planned surgery due to his prostate cancer, was going to be successful. He was convinced that his cancer phobia was established during his upbringing at the graveyards. His face was smiling and he was discharged from the ward the following day.