I’m writing this post on what is known as “Daffodil day” here in New Zealand, an annual event to raise funds for the Cancer Society. The Cancer Society do amazing support work here, I felt so grateful they were there to help one of my best friends and her family through a hugely difficult time in her life.
But from a natural health perspective, it’s clear that both our attitudes towards cancer and the treatments we are offered could be much improved. And it’s not just natural health practitioners who think this way. One of the most inspiring and moving accounts of healing with cancer patients I have ever read was written by a surgeon, Dr Bernie Siegel. It quite simply changed the way I think about cancer, forever.
So what did he do for his patients that was so inspiring?
- Bernie saw early on in his work that patients that the caregivers would label as ‘difficult’ were the most likely to survive. In short, they were the people asking questions of their doctors, or in other words, they were involved with their own care process.
- He turned that into a positive and powerful opportunity, by asking his patients to do things like draw a picture of how they perceived their treatment. He found a link between how they felt about it, and how successful it was. For example, someone who draws a picture of radiation treatment as a ‘healing blue light’ is likely to get better results from it than someone who draws it as ‘black arrows of negative radiation’. He would recommend that people go for a treatment that they felt best about.
- Instead of telling people things like “7 out of 10 people with this cancer die within 6 months” he would give them the same information, just handled differently. What if, like Bernie, doctors said “3 out of 10 people with this cancer get well, and I believe you can be one of them”? Does it make a difference? It sure made a difference to his patients, and some of the stories he tells will make you question everything you thought, not just about cancer, but about the power of the mind to heal the body.
- Bernie also talks extensively about the healing power of love and support. It’s a time when a partner, a friend or family can really make the difference – and what if everyone knew that? What if talking about both the cancer, and the possibility that this could be your passing on, was no longer such a big fear for us?
- Dr Siegel used tools in surgery that acknowledged that the subconscious mind of the person on the table was totally aware of what was going on. He would actually talk to people while they were under, telling them that they would wake feeling better and that the surgery was going well. In general a nurturing atmosphere was created as much as possible, with lovely music and simple but profound things that made surgery a healing.