Clearing the Mental Slate

This list evolved out of my preparations for a lecture at the Cancer Control Society (quite some years ago.)

Most people with cancer are unprepared for the advice and drastic changes that follow a cancer diagnosis. I personally believe that fear of cancer drives people to hasty and irrevocable decisions for which they are emotionally and intellectually unprepared.

Second Opinion

Given that most people with cancer have probably had it for years, it is not unreasonable, —except in the most desperate circumstances—to take a few days to explore options. Get a second and even a third opinion. These opinions should include a hard look at the pathology reports and perhaps the original tissue samples by an expert. The oncologist's advice should be discussed with additional specialists, including perhaps one who represents an entirely different school of medicine who might approach the condition in an entirely different way.

Patients and their families have the right to ask questions. One question I have often suggested that patients ask the doctor is how long he or she feels it would be safe to defer action. Many patients have been astonished when the answer was "two months" rather than "hours." Even if I doubt that two months is a realistic answer, when a patient hears this from an oncologist, it does not seem quite so unreasonable to take ten days searching the web and cancer resource organizations for alternatives.

The important questions to ask during this quest are precisely how their particular cancers respond to the advocated treatments; what alternatives there might be and how effective they are; what the survival prospects are; what adjunctive measures offer the best support to conventional therapy; and whether or not the recommended protocols are treatments or cures.

Do not expect a hospital specialist to be conversant with alternative treatments. Likely as not, he is either unaware of alternatives or biased against them. You can find out quickly enough by asking if there are any preparations for surgery or chemotherapy that promote more rapid healing or protect against side effects. If the answer is "not really," then you know his education has not encompassed more than the conventional curriculum.

Keep in mind that most people will recommend what is best known to them. Surgeons therefore tend to recommend surgery and oncologists discuss chemotherapy. Herbalists offer herbs and raw foods fanatics will urge a raw foods diet. It is really this obvious.

If you explore the clinics in Tijuana—and there are dozens of cancer clinics within a couple of blocks of the border—you will discover that each offers a different approach to the same condition. At the clinic established by Harry Hoxsey, you can expect to be offered a Hoxsey-like treatment. Another clinic will specialize in oxygen and ozone therapies, another in carrot juice and coffee enemas, another in Ukrain or laetrile, and so on it goes. Contrary to certain prejudices, almost no one offering alternatives is any more of a quack than your hospital doctors. Each practitioner simply offers the treatments he or she has learned. Worse, almost no one really understands what the others are doing much less why. Once you understand this not so simple fact, you might feel a little lost but vastly empowered to find your way and make your own decisions!

Keep one other point in mind. Cancer has been on the Planet a long time. It has been found in the skeletal remains of ancient peoples, even prehistoric ones. We tend to think of our times as modern and more civilized and yet, if you asked an architect in Manhattan to build a pyramid or Taj Mahal, he probably could not do this, not even with wealthy patrons endowing the project. Ask a playwright to write a Shakespearean play or a musician to write a Mozart symphony. They would not be able to accomplish either task; so now take into consideration that while Hippocrates is regarded as the father of modern medicine, his counsel to his students consisted of two primary directives. First, "Physician, heal thyself," and second, "do no harm." When asked about surgery, he told those who aspired to this craft to join the army because it is there that they would learn this skill.

Today, we have doctors with shorter life expectancies than the national average and arsenals for waging war on disease that are anything but harmless. So, Hippocrates was not really the father of modern medicine but the father of Western natural medicine. Modern medicine is exactly that: a modern phenomenon.

Medicine has a long history, one that includes dramatic shifts in emphasis and fierce rejection of new ideas until they are accepted. When this finally occurs, the old is generally spurned and discarded as archaic and no longer relevant. What is curious, however, is that the chaotic changes in what constitutes fashionable thought in medicine only occur in modern civilizations. Traditional cultures tend to preserve ancient wisdom. So, in the East as well as in most indigenous cultures, medicine does not experience the furious pressure to develop new technologies (with patents) or the controversies that distinguish Western medicine. More important than academic debates is the fact that ethnobotanic and other systems of medicine were dealing adequately with cancer long before radiation, chemotherapy, and now gene therapies came into vogue. The ability to preserve these older healing traditions in the face of ridicule, intimidation, and persecutiion by Western science is inspiring.

If you are comfortable with these thoughts, then you ought also to be comfortable with the concept of choice. Now, your task is to find something in which you can believe. I am begging you not to trust me just because I happen to be sincere and honest; find what you know in your heart of hearts speaks straight to the core of your being. When you have heard this voice within, do your research to see whether your voice can be trusted.

Just to remind you: oncologists are trained to administer chemotherapy. It is what they do, and they tend to do it day after day without asking whether there are serious alternatives. Most professors in medical schools are not medical doctors. The curriculum is heavily influenced by the pharmaceutical industry which has a vested interest in the status quo. If you understand this, it will not be quite as scary when the specialists in nutrition and other adjunctive or alternative modalities do not have medical degrees. Remember the professors of medicine were probably not MDs either. This is the real world. The MD degree is one of many credentials, and one could be a very good biologist or botanist with entirely different training.

Our society encourages specialization, but what fascinated me the most when I studied Eastern systems of medicine is the way in which all knowledge, including spiritual wisdom, is integrated with the understanding of anatomy and physiology and psychology. All historic medical thought was also philosophical. It may interest many people that earlier physicians were trained in astrology—no, not divination of entrails, but medical astrology. This was as true in India and Tibet as in ancient Greece and Europe. This became unfashionable due to the overwhelming influence of one man who began by eliminating the curriculum from certain French medical schools, but one of the first acts of H.H. the Dalai Lama in exile was to re-establish the Tibetan Medical and Astrology Institute. Strange as this may sound to some, life is not actually neatly divided into separate compartments where the contents of one discipline are irrelevant to another. Try to think of your healing as the Path of Integration. You are on a personal quest to fit the pieces together so they work as a whole. Curiosity and an open mind will make the search easier.


Anti-cancer Herbs


Anti-cancer Herbs


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