Wednesday, February 22, 2012


In good hands...
My friend Linn, who lives in Oregon, called me the other day. We often email and share our lives via quick notes; and when the phone rang, I realized this call meant something. She needed a fresh perspective on a situation that was affecting her community of close friends that seemed unbearable. Within the last month, 6 out of 10 people she knew had been diagnosed with some form of cancer, and the prognosis on all of them was not good. The majority of the friends afflicted were younger than her – a few by a decade - and some had children they were raising. They had had blood tests, biopsies, MRIs, PET scans, CT scans, bones scans, and x-rays. Her friends had to be poked and prodded like a pound of meat being prepared for dinner. All of them had to eventually undergo an operation, radiation and/or chemotherapy. You can almost hear the specialists say, “Well, we need to cut this off here and then cook this with radiation and then we will see.” This is all very frightening, perhaps necessary and monumentally difficult. Surgery alone is a traumatic event that requires a nurturing environment to recover -- combine that with the radiation treatment and chemo and tons of testing procedures, and a person’s private world is completely compromised. Linn and I both knew this, and she wanted to approach her friends with something more than a casserole dish - even though bringing food is a huge expression of love and care.

After studying biology and chemistry in college, I began to understand aspects and principals in the universe that are magical. Photosynthesis is magic; cells in the human body are magic. Penicillin and polio vaccines can work like magic; likewise, touch therapy, meditation and prayer can work their magic. When Linn said, “Give me some ideas,” the first idea that came into my mind was CAM (complimentary alternative medicine). Now I am not talking hocus pocus, bibbity bobbity boo, or blood-letting here but rather additional ways to approach self-care. I am not talking about a cure that could instantaneously make the cancer go away. Chemo and surgery may not do that either. I am taking about a way to improve the quality of life and assist the patient to feel better. Even if it does not last forever – just feeling better can be a hint of the divine.

Just as there is a lid for every pot, there may be an alternative healing method or CAM that may work for you or someone you know. There are cancer patients that have felt that using visualization – picturing soldiers inside their body fighting the cancer – allowed them to feel they were actively involved in combating their disease. Acupuncture may not be your cup of tea yet experiencing reflexology may make you to feel as if you can walk on water. I know a woman who cannot tolerate massage – it is too invasive and too intimate for her - but she loves the safe healing touch of a Reiki practitioner.  The movement and breathing of thai chi and yoga practice can help strengthen the body and the immune system while bringing balance, calm and a sense of well being.

When my mom was stricken with brain cancer, she was swept onto what we called the treatment train. She was quickly railroaded into a surgery to remove the tumor (the accepted proposed treatment) by the oncologists. This surgery left my mom without her full mental capacities. She was not my mom anymore and she lived this way for a year before she died. In retrospect we feel that this surgery and the chemo treatments that followed may have given her time, but not necessarily quality time. If she really understood that the operation could take away her consciousness would she have chosen a different treatment plan? Everyone must make their own decision on how they would like to fight and battle their disease; it is a very difficult and personal journey. To make the right decisions, knowledge and understanding must be gained through education and research. Whatever the choice for each individual, it crucial to have the support and respect of family, friends and health care professionals.

Below is a list of many CAMs (complimentary and alternative medicines) and some may provide relief to someone in need. Included are web links for a quick definition and references from the National Institute of Health National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) - in alphabetic order:


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