Perspectives of a Practitioner

Health care practitioners rarely speak of what it feels like to view the disease, treatment and healing processes from the vantage point of the professional with life-long dedication to the work. I feel that some words on this subject are appropriate. I will limit my observations to cancer; but in the three and a half decades that I have been counseling people, many other conditions have obviously also come under my view.

Presenting Symptoms

When people come for an initial consultation, they tend to bring with them a lot of what one friend of mine calls "baggage." This burden consists of (1) anger towards themselves for neglect of health and the laws of health, (2) anger directed at fate for the apparent arbitrariness of its inexorable might, and (3) anger towards others for the cruel and harmful experiences suffered as a result of personal interactions with primary people in their lives as well as medical personnel and others whose roles were regarded as harmful and hurtful rather than helpful and healing.

Very close to this anger is another ocean of emotion that has more the quality of grief than anger, choked up tears stemming from the sadness of life and the particular situations in which people find themselves. Most people have a mixture of anger and grief as well as fear and/or depression. Fear revolves around the unknown, the unpredictability of their circumstances and outcome of the effort to become well, and the suffering that often attends treatment. Depression centers on the hopelessness, futility, and desperation surrounding the disease and perhaps also personal circumstances.

This is just part of the baggage. In addition to the patient and the patient's issues, there are the concerns and influences of family, friends, and others whose opinions matter, including the opinions of doctors, insurance companies, and even church congregations or doctrines. In this situation, the patient is literally buffeted by one wave after another of emotions that arise and subside, only to be displaced by yet another emotion.

The Quest

In this situation, the patient is seeking something that will alleviate symptoms and hopefully resolve the entire disease. However, the patient is normally facing such issues for the first time and only has one toe in the water. The patient's view is unique to his or her own circumstances and does not and can not embrace that of those who have spent their lives dealing with the issue from the other side of the desk.

This is important because the view from one side of the desk is very different from the other. The practitioner may, for instance, describe a treatment or protocol. The patient may interpret the recommendations as an answer to a prayer or a guarantee of a cure. In the eagerness for relief and rescue, the patient may not seem to care about the details, details that include statistics on success rates as well as various caveats pertaining to the protocol, such as the treatment is a treatment, not a cure; the treatment has side effects that may reduce the quality of life; or the treatment is merely a stop gap measure to be used against a disease that likely as not will ravage the patient.

If a point in time comes in which the patient realizes that the protocol is not saving his or her life, anger towards the practitioner may mount; but the practitioner is a just another mortal human being, suffering from the limitations of human existence. The practitioner does not have magic wands, but even if he or she did, the most powerful magic wand in the world could not remove the karma of person with an illness.

Symbolism of the Disease

This is why I always recommend that patients take the time to understand the broader features of their illnesses. In the case of cancer, the disease is not rare. In our lifetime, as many as a third of the world's population will succumb to cancer. Though there are several hundred different types of cancer, there are some features that most cancers share, and there are characteristics of cancer that are so specific that they make certain diseases unlikely. For example, people who suffer from acute allergic symptoms and those who have schizophrenia (except paranoid schizophrenia) rarely develop cancer. However, people with eating disorders, alcoholics, and diabetics often develop cancer. So, some generalizations are possible, but too many such generalizations detract from the uniqueness of the cancer experience for each patient suffering from cancer.

I feel that there are common denominators with each type of cancer, but differences as well. Therefore, I prefer to look at the symbolism of the disease for the individual rather than the generic components of the disease.

No matter how distressed a patient is, cancer is a disease that, so far as we know, is not caused by a germ—though this opinion on this may be changing. We just completed an entire century in which bacteria and viruses have been a primary focus of medicine; but cancer is a disease of internal mechanisms, though I grant that many of these patterns are responses to external dynamics. For instance, a person who does not tackle challenges head on may feel that the issues are stuck inside; and a person who has been exposed to a specific physical carcinogen may feel as victimized as one who was psychologically abused in a relationship. However, without explaining why some people who are exposed to agent orange or asbestos do not develop cancer whereas others do, we cannot make any headway in determining why one individual has a "cancer experience" and another does not.

Medicine and the New Millennium

Now we are beginning a new century and a new millennium, one that is entering on a wave of excitement over genes and the potentials of genetic engineering. In this pandemonium, there is the ever present promise from medicine that miracles and magic bullets are coming. If this is true, it should not be permitted to obscure the fact that people are born with certain characteristics that are deeply embedded in their DNA. If one is born with an oncogene, one can pray that it will remain inactive, held in check by a tumor suppressor gene, or that brilliant scientists will learn how to remove that gene before it ushers in disaster.

I may be a bit of a skeptic. I feel that we are far from perfection and from knowledge of our covenants with the Cosmos. If our fates can be manipulated by science, we may become too lazy to figure out our destinies, in which case, it is a nearly foregone conclusion that we will not fulfill those destinies.

I therefore prefer not to lull people into a sense of false complacency. By this, I mean I do not imply that there are easy answers much less magic wands that can make all the seemingly bad things disappear.

I see patients who are so terrified of disease that the last question they ask is "Why?" It should be the first question asked since the cure no doubt lies somewhere very close to the cause. This is the work I do. As I have said, I am not a doctor. I am of a mystical bent. I want to know why things happen.

I have never seen illness as a foe. I have never tried to conquer a disease much less to fight it. I ask questions so that I can understand illness and the person who is ill. Yes, in the course of my studies, I learned quite a bit about the energetics of healing, including the properties of food and herbs, but use of these gifts from Nature only modifies symptoms. In no instance is the underlying pattern transformed by substances. I believe this is as true of psychotropic pharmaceuticals as natural remedies. The symptoms are affected so that people seem to feel different, but if the props are pulled out, the disease usually returns, this unless the cause itself is transformed.

Relief and Magic Wands

Patients who are merely seeking relief tend to be "bad patients" from the practitioners' perspective. These are the people who believe that a few years in graduate school turned ordinary people into extraordinary people who can be blamed for failure even though it is the patient who was born with the oncogene, the patient who failed to seek timely help for a lump that had been growing a long time, the patient who eats pizzas and drinks alcohol, and the patient who persists in jobs and relationships that are toxic.

Magic wands are not powerful enough to save people from themselves. Patients do not like hearing this; but the truth is, it is empowering for patients to recognize these facts because it means that they can change their situations on their own, with or without the help of those wizards in the white coats who seem to have so many partial answers but few cures.

We are emerging from an era of what I sometimes have called "blame medicine" to "karmic medicine." "Blame medicine" got its momentum from germs and germ theories that posited that little microorganisms invade us from outside and cause disease and death. Billions of dollars of grant money has gone into the war on invisible creatures, but people are still sick and they still die; and the superbugs have become more challenging than ever.

"Karmic medicine" is ancient medicine in a new coat because genes make disease highly individualistic and take the "blame" away from the outer and into the inner, where it had been for eons before Pasteur and Koch and Salk and the others. I do not believe that karma should imply guilt as that would, in fact, take us back to the days of the Inquisition when doctors withheld treatment in order that people could atone for their sins.


I see karma as a natural law, a law as natural as gravity and in some ways just as hard to observe. We deduce cause by observing effects just as Newton deduced the law of gravity by watching an apple fall downwards instead of upwards.

Fate: Destiny or Karma

I believe that the moment is created by what I call the intersection of karma and destiny. If one does not like these terms, it is all right to substitute subconscious and soul forces or perhaps even bizarre medical terms such as genetic predisposition and immunity—though I think these terms stretch the issue somewhat.

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For more material of a psychospiritual and/or philosophical nature, visit the cancer checklist section of the site or the section containing articles.



My Beliefs


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