Cancer’s just a word. It’s not a sentence. Have you heard the story about the patient whose doctor tells he him he has terminal cancer and has only three months to live?
A friend suggests alternative medicine. The patient is skeptical, but he figures he has nothing to lose, so he goes to see someone who specializes in alternative healing. The first thing he is told is to take off his shoes and socks. He finds this weird but obeys. The healer bends down, looks at the bottom of the patient’s feet, and says “I don’t see an expiration date.”
So how should we react when we hear those dreaded words “terminal cancer”? We should first think about what that really means. What the doctor is really saying when he or she talks about “incurable cancer” is “my toolbox is empty; I don’t have any tools left to fix you.” If doctors only said to their patients “I am out of resources” instead of “you are out of resources,” patients could approach their disease with much more optimism.
Doctors are usually down on what they’re not up on. But if oncologists only encouraged their patients to explore other options, if they only admitted that they were not knowledgeable about complementary and alternative treatments instead of dismissing them as useless, If oncologists only said to their patients “chemotherapy failed you” instead of “you failed chemotherapy,” patients would react with less despair.
Doctors, especially oncologists don’t like to give “false hope.” I think false despair is worse. Despair kills.
Dr. Bernie Siegel, oncologic surgeon, founder of Exceptional Cancer Patients, and author of Love, Medicine & Miracles and Peace, Love & Healing, tells a story I like to relate. Two oncologists are comparing notes on their lung cancer patients. One says to the other, “I don’t understand how your patients are surviving twice as long as my patients, yet we are both using the same chemo drugs – Etoposide, Platinol, Oncovin, and Hydroxyurea.” “Well, says the other oncologist, that’s because you call your treatment the EPOH protocol, and I call mine the HOPE protocol.”
Hope and empowerment is what our work at BeatCancer.org is all about. In my 36 years of experience in the cancer field, I have come to understand that there are no incurable cancers. Through holistic, complementary and alternative approaches, thousands of patients with all types of cancers have amazed their doctors and beaten the odds by living longer and better lives than expected.
Quality of life is more important than longevity anyway. Life is a terminal disease and no one gets off the planet alive, so the only thing any of us has going for us is quality of life. No one really wants to live long if he can’t live well – according to his own personal definition of quality of life. As I often ask my patients, if life is not worth living, why are you fighting to get well? Life is terminal. Cancer is only one of the ways we get there.