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Lenny's Story: Cancer and the Quality of Life
Michael Lerner, PhD

Michael Lerner is the president and founder of Commonweal, a health and environmental research institute in Bolinas, Calif. He is also the co-founder of the Commonweal Cancer Help Program and the author of Choices in Healing: Integrating the Best of Conventional and Complementary Approaches to Cancer.

"I've studied complementary therapies for 15 years all over the world. I've studied hundreds of complementary therapies for cancer. In all that time, I've had four things that I've found have stood the test of time for me, in terms of findings.

"The first is, there is no clear-cut cure for cancer among the complementary cancer therapies. There is no cancer that clearly is cured by any complementary therapy. It's a very important thing to say, because that's why curative conventional therapies are the starting place for any reasonable person who has a curable cancer.

"The second is, there's very little scientific evidence on which to evaluate the much more interesting question, which is not whether there's a cure, because there isn't yet a clear-cut cure. The question is, do some people do better when they seek to integrate the best of conventional therapies and the best of complementary therapies in ways that make sense to them.

"The third is, that there is some scientific evidence, and strong anecdotal evidence, that many patients do better when they seek to integrate the best of conventional and complementary therapies. Clearly better in terms of quality of life, and potentially better in terms of survival or prevention or recurrence, as well.

"And the fourth finding is that while the fight continues in the trenches between the true believers in conventional therapies alone, who regard all complementary therapies as quackery, and the true believers in complementary therapies alone, who regard conventional therapies as a conspiracy against cancer patients of some kind--what's happened over the last 15 years is that at the top of the field, there's been this tremendous reaching out, this integration, a sense on everybody's part that none of us have all the answers for cancer. What we need to do is help patients do what they want to do, which is not to give up conventional therapies, but to integrate the best of conventional and complementary therapies.

"People with better functional status, in many cancers, tend to survive longer.This, to me, is the authentic meeting place, right now, given the science, between conventional and complementary therapies. So if that's the case, then why shouldn't oncologists actively encourage patients who say, 'Doctor, I thought maybe a change in diet would help, or a support group would help.' Instead of dismissing that, why doesn't the oncologist say, 'I want to encourage you in ways that make sense, to take care of yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. If I see you doing something that I think might be harmful to you, I'll tell you.'

"I think Lenny [is] in the business of helping oncology rediscover its true calling as a healing process. Which, by the way, I believe many oncologists are profoundly committed to, themselves. But there is the other aspect of oncology that has forgotten that there is not only 'curing' but 'healing.' Curing is what the physician seeks to offer you, and healing can only come from within ourselves. Healing is our province, as human beings."

Program Description
Lenny Zakim
David Eisenberg, MD
Ken Anderson, MD
Michael Lerner, PhD
Peter Churchill, LMT
Help YourSelf
Tell Me More

Body & Soul is currently airing Monday-Friday at 7:00pm and 8:30pm on PBS YOU.

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