Story II: Cancer and the Search for Healing
Michael Lerner, PhD
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
"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."
David Eisenberg, MD
Ken Anderson, MD
Michael Lerner, PhD
Peter Churchill, LMT
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