2011-03-11 / Columnists

Health & Harmony

Integrative Oncology
Commentary By Dr. Nancy Gahles

Our lives have all been touched by cancer in one way or another. Sadly, there are many elements to this disease that we do not understand. Hope, however, does indeed spring eternal as we look into the emerging field of integrative oncology.

Integrative work in the healthcare world means that the best of conventional or allopathic or Western medicine, as we know it, is combined with other systems of medicine to offer the best practices and cutting edge solutions to the treatment and care of the person who has cancer. There are other systems of medicine, one of which is homeopathy, the second largest system of medicine in the world, according to WHO. Ayurveda is another system of medicine. Both of these are called whole systems of medicine. Whole systems means that the whole person, body/mind/emotion/spirit, is taken into consideration when considering a treatment protocol.

Integrative oncology is a field composed of practitioners who specialize in the treatment of people with cancer. Medicine, naturopathy, nursing, chiropractic, acupuncture, massage, psychotherapy, yoga, meditation, Reiki, are some of the practices that are “integrated” in a care team.

When we invite disciplines into the system that offer care for the spirit/soul, we necessarily invite wholeness, wellbeing and joy to emerge. In fact, wellbeing and joy can be an integral part of cancer treatment, cancer survival and cancer thriving.

Lise Alschuler, ND, FABNO and Karolyn A. Gazella are the co-authors of The Definitive Guide to Cancer. I had the pleasure of attending a recent presentation of theirs at the Integrative Healthcare Symposium in NYC this past weekend. Both of these radiant, exuberant, brilliant women are cancer survivors. Moreover, they are cancer thrivers. Through the experience of their challenge with cancer they have mastered the art of collating the most relevant research and presenting it in a palatable way to audiences of all types. They have been gracious enough to share their experiences with the world. Speaking of palatable, you will all be pleased to know that the best practices in prevention of cancer include eating, sleeping, exercising and giving and receiving love. Visit them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cancerthrivers. Sign up for their free newsletter at www.cancerthrivers.net.

The whole idea here is that cancer is a disease that can be prevented, managed and eliminated. We are on the cusp of understanding how and why and what if. We do know that we need a community, a committed community to advance this agenda. We do know that we need each other to work together to make a difference. So, wait a minute, how is this any different from the pursuit of everyday happiness? Commitment, working together for the greater good? Isn’t this the stuff of relationships? Perhaps, here is where we begin to see where things can go awry and precipitate the conditions for disease.

“The idea that the development and course of malignant tumors might be influenced by psychological factors has gained increasing attention. Research has shown that an attitude of passivity and hopelessness in the face of life stressors, including the stressor of being told one has cancer, encourages the proliferation of cancerous cells.” Prisma, by Frans Vermeullen. Dr. Vermeullen goes on to cite research that identifies suppressed emotions as a factor in people suffering from lung cancer and breast cancer. One early study by S. Greer and T. Morris found that the suppression of anger was greater in women who had breast cancer com- pared to those with benign breast disease. According to this study, people who habitually suppress anger also have significantly higher levels of salivary IgA than people who are able to express it. High levels of salivary IgA seem to correlate positively with the spread of breast cancer, which means that anger suppression may be strongly related to the spread of cancer.

Many strong emotions such as those derived from severely disturbed childhoods, shock and trauma from loss of a parent or sibling, desertion, lack of closeness of parents, withdrawal, guilt, unworthiness, feelings of being uncared for, helpless or hopeless are described by Micklem in Carcinosin: A Compendium of References as possible susceptibilities to the development of this disease.

This brings me back to love … and relationships. We have researchers looking into this question of how and why people develop cancer. Some possible etiologies could be seen in the suppression and expression of positive emotions. DUH!!!!, as the kids say. It appears that it is elementary, my dear Watson.

What would it take to practice lovingkindness to all people? What would it take to practice lovingkindness to ourselves? What if we knew that the practice of lovingkindness could cure cancer or any chronic disease? The Center for Disease Control says that 80 percent of chronic disease is caused by emotions. Perhaps we could begin by prioritizing. That to which we give our attention is what we consider to be sacred. Take a look at that. What is your first priority? What do you give most of your attention to? What do you consider sacred? If you are not number 1 and your partner number 2 and your family number 3 … take a deep breath, close your eyes, go within and reprioritize. Think of that exercise as a primary prevention for developing cancer. Think of it as a way to create a whole, healthy life filled with love. After all is said and done … it’s all about love. And it’s yours for the taking. Free. No insurance coverage or co-pays. It simply requires courage. Taking a risk. Letting go of your ego. Forgiving the past. Forgiving others. Forgiving yourself. And on the other side of all that is Love. Bright, shining and deeply healing. And you don’t have to wait to go to heaven to find it. It’s right here in your own heart. In its brokenness and in its fullness. I promise you.

May The Blessings Be!

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