Conquering Cancer by Learning From the True Stories of Recovered Patients
Recently the Medical Journal of Australia published my refute letter regarding a famous cancer recovery story that I was intimately involved with three decades ago. My now controversial refute is being debated not only in medical circles, but in complementary and alternative medicine groups. My medical journal report highlights how easy it is for medical histories and clinical timelines to be altered with the passage of time. In this case, it began with a few mistakes in a 1978 published article about this patient. The media enjoyed a field day with sensationalist headlines as errors went unchecked for more than thirty years, possibly influencing the decisions of thousands of cancer patients, maybe millions if the internet is taken into account.
Then in 2008 a medical journal article under the heading of ‘True Stories’ not only reproduced the original errors; but added to and embellished them. There was only one thing to do; write a refute letter based on facts and presenting undeniable proof hoping that the information would filter through to treating doctors and eventually patients who usually don’t read medical journals. I believe it to be imperative that cancer patients base their treatment choices on factual cases if they choose to emulate someone else’s recovery plan.
Hope comes with a duty of care and the many cancer entrepreneurs whose cancer remission stories don’t quite add up may soon have to prove their original diagnosis, treatments and recoveries if they want to promote their cures. There are many occurrences outside scientific knowledge and there will always be inexplicable cures from all kinds of illness deemed incurable, but an accurate diagnosis is always essential. This subject has become a very grey area in complementary, alternative and lifestyle medicine.
But how do cancer patients know who is legitimate and who is not? Today’s cancer patient almost needs a science and research degree in order to wade through the volumes of material that they discover on the internet or in books or even from their next door neighbour. Easy availability of information has created the information overload phenomenon with many oncologists and doctors now having to add to their repertoire of recommendations a ‘stay away from the internet warning’. Health professionals need to play a part in creating a new paradigm of care for cancer patients.
When you analyse the majority of ‘cancer cures’ in the popular press or on the internet, you will find very little about how the person who has cancer can develop and access life-skills and strategies to deal with their life and their cancer concurrently. As long as the focus stays just on alternative, complementary or orthodox medicine and various combinations of those modalities – there will remain suffering for patients and families. It is imperative that first-line humanistic medicine is incorporated to complete the holistic model. The humanistic model concurrently addresses critical life issues such as treating post traumatic stress disorder, grief and loss, emotional distress, depression, to name but a few.
We all know that building a house, if it is to last, requires strong and well planned foundations. Working with cancer is no different. The Foundations built during the earliest possible stages of the illness will ensure a more conscious and transformative journey, whatever the outcome. We all have to die someday and in our dying moments I can guarantee you that it will not be how much of a product we ingested or how much treatment we have endured or if we followed the latest dietary trend; it will be our human values that are important; our emotional and moral intelligence, our relationships-healed or unhealed, our peace of mind with the life we have lived. How do I know? Having been at death’s door many times, I have also sat in homes and hospitals with dying patients and their families and this has given me a valuable and rich perspective on life.
I have worked at the coal-face of cancer for 35 years with client numbers of over 13,000. I have had the privilege of working with one large targeted group of people with cancer who have been willing to share their mistakes and successes as well as their experiences, choices and outcomes. I listened to them and learned a valuable lesson or two. People who considered themselves to be successful cancer patients focused on dealing with their illness by rediscovering and utilising their authentic self; in other words they accessed what they already knew as a baseline strategy to create a health restoration plan. There was no direct focus on diet, supplements or massive lifestyle changes because when patients lived life from their authentic self, they tended to make the right decisions.
My approach, rather than focusing on what you can ingest to cure cancer invites you to explore your illness creatively, spinning gold from straw and living for however long you can authentically and with purpose and meaning. Often this approach extends life beyond all expectation.
Far from depressive, I have always viewed my work in supportive care medicine for cancer patients as a privilege and honour and the work has introduced me to some amazing people who have turned their situation around spinning gold from straw and thereby enriching the lives of everyone around them. So it is my hope that this message reaches as many health professionals of all persuasions along with their cancer patients, because if taken to heart and applied, it will create the baseline and value add to any other healing modality that follows. The cancer maze as I call it is a confusing and challenging path to navigate when feeling vulnerable, sick and tired.
Let us bring ethics, moral intelligence, compassion, integrity and truth to the cancer healing world remembering first and foremost who we are there for-the patients!