by Lou Mancinelli
It might be possible that our thoughts affect our health. The concept is called psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) and it refers to the interaction between psychological processes and the nervous and immune systems of the body.
With her organization Sunshine Hope, Maple Glen resident and Mount Saint Joseph’s (’87) graduate Kelley Faust is taking PNI, the science she learned from talking with doctors and medical experts while working as a pharmaceutical salesperson for Pfizer for 13 years, and simplifying it into something almost like child’s play.
Founding the group in 2007, she now is in the process of transforming it into the nonprofit Sunshine Hope Foundation. Faust has visited schools and presented her message of hope and positivity through assemblies and author visits. Her message is simple: It’s about spreading hope, and it’s about teaching children at a young age that difficulty, struggle and despair can be overcome by something as simple as positive thinking.
“If we can inspire the kids, the kids can inspire the family,” Faust said. “And the family inspires the workplace and the community.”
It’s something like the proverb, “the son is father to the man.”
“If we can impact the children,” Faust said, “the kids can go home with tips and tools they can apply at home when things get off-balance.”
And Faust knows what it’s like to be affected by negative thinking and a lack of balance. According to a 1992 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, stress is thought to affect immune function through emotional and/or behavioral manifestations such as anxiety, fear, tension, anger and sadness, and physiological changes such as increased heart rate, blood pressure and sweating,
Stress is what Faust experienced when she became pregnant with her second set of twins in 2002. Nineteen weeks into a pregnancy supposed to last around 40 weeks she went into preterm labor. Then, to compound the problem, before she went into preterm labor doctors thought the second twin in her uterus had a tumor on her heart.
Faust’s preterm labor started during a visit to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Center City about the possible cancer, but her family obstetrician, Dr. Blair Bergen, whom she highly praised, recommended Faust return closer to home. The family had moved from Philadelphia to Atlantic City in 1999. Faust underwent 119 days of bed rest in 2003 at the Atlanticare Regional Medical Center in Atlantic City.
During this time Faust also learned that her brother-in-law’s younger sister had been diagnosed and was undergoing treatment for cancer, an aggressive form that took her life a year later.
Also, around that time, her brother, Frank Osborne, experienced intense eye difficulty. He had a condition that should have prohibited him from receiving Lasik eye surgery. But the ailment failed to be diagnosed before he had the surgery. He attempted the surgery twice, unaware of his condition and later had to receive corneal transplants to allow him to see.
And more, her sister, Collen Mook, who is married to Faust’s brother-in-law, Brad Mook, who lost his sister, gave birth to a baby diagnosed with a rare chromosome abnormality.
During bed rest, Faust did her best to stay positive and avoid thinking about the struggles facing her and her family. Twice during the time when she started to get negative, she again went into preterm labor. Realizing how much her thoughts had affected her physical existence, she resolved to dedicate her life to spreading a message of positive thinking and hope in dark times.
Her second set of twins (she has all girls) was eventually born April 12, 2003, 35-and-one-half weeks into the pregnancy. The girls, Annie and Maggie (Kerry and Christie are her first two) were born healthy and are now healthy, active 9-year-olds.
It’s the optimism Faust learned to balance and propel herself with and that she strives to emanate and teach students during her visits to schools. But, behind that, is her affinity for PNI.
“It’s not just sunshine,” said Faust, referring to the book “The Psychology of Hope,” by C.R Snyder, editor of the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. “I needed to find the science behind it.”
Faust applies the psychology of hope in her work, and teaches kids things like how to find their own personal mantra to repeat when they find themselves in times of trouble. One can imagine the variety of mantras she has received from children and posted on her website.
“Light shines brightly in the dark,” is one. “Grow like a flower and don’t get squished,” is another.
And her message has inspired Colleen and Brad Mook, and Frank Osborne and others to become part of the Sunshine Hope team.
At her presentations, Faust asks kids to make a seven-step possibility promise. In this way, she serves during her school visits as one of the people working to open children’s imaginations to the goals they have within. Faust and Sunshine Hope have recently self-published “The Superpower of Me,” a book stressing the message of hope and positivity.
And she’s also undertaking innovative relationships in the business arena. She envisions a business model where nonprofits are sponsored by larger corporations. It’s a model that enabled her to appear at Pine Run Elementary School in the Central Bucks School District in February. Merck Federal Credit Union (MFCU) sponsored the event, and Faust brought her optimistic holistic message to students through someone else’s funding. And MFCU appeared on the front page of Credit Union Times, an industry newsletter, demonstrating a relationship in which both parties benefitted. Since Sunshine and Hope’s inception, Faust and her team have funded the initiative.
Faust, a 1991 Villanova University graduate who worked in D.C. for a year as a volunteer with the Catholic group Teacher Service Corps, has decided to focus much of her work in Camden, where she presented this month, and in North Philadelphia. She aims to one day donate $1 from the sale of each book to the community. But her vision reaches beyond the limits of the City of Brotherly Love.
“I want to go global with this,” she said.
For more information, or to purchase “The Superpower of Me,” visit www.sunshinehope.com.