Friday, April 27, 2012

Cancer and Complimentary Medicine

Cancer is a complex disease. Since being diagnosed with lymphoma, I have felt the tension between conventional and alternative approaches to its treatment and cure.

One thing I’ve noticed since being diagnosed with cancer is the animosity between conventional and alternative approaches to the disease. It can be quite contentious, no doubt because the stakes are so high. The lines are drawn: Western vs. Eastern; big business vs. folk culture; MDs vs. doctors of chiropractic, naturopathy and homeopathy; pharmaceuticals vs. herbs. Both sides in this civil war have their weaknesses and blind spots.

Conventional medicine is misguided when it treats the human body as a machine to be serviced by white-coated mechanics. We are complex creatures who are much more than the sum of our parts. With apologies to Renee Descartes, our minds do influence our bodies in profound ways. The medical establishment is also remiss in not focusing more on prevention as the first line of defense against disease and in not seeing nutrition as a vital part of treatment.

Alternative medicine is dangerous whenever it touts exotic cure-alls. There are no magic elixirs that can put everything right, even if they do come from a prehistoric valley in Utah (Dr. Wallach’s colloidal minerals) or from Himalayan-grown amalaki (Zrii), or from the inner leaf of the Aloe Vera plant (Ambrotose). Proper diet is central to maintaining or restoring good health, but not every medical condition can be fixed orally.

Dr. Ralph Moss offers sage advice in his newsletter:

"Cancer is a complex disease. It requires professional help. Regardless of the sometimes uncaring attitude of certain errant members of the medical profession, one should not reject everything that conventional medicine has to offer in favor of a regimen discovered on the Internet. The answer is not simply to construct a do-it-yourself program, but to find expert and sympathetic guidance in the rapidly expanding realm of complementary oncology."

I like the term "complimentary." It is built into the approach of the Memorial Cancer Center where I am a client. (I am not a patient, but more on that in another post.) They proclaim, "By integrating complimentary therapies with traditional medicine, we will take a holistic approach to cancer medicine that addresses patients’ physical, emotional and spiritual needs."

A dose of humility is in order for professionals of every stripe. When it comes to medicine no one has all the answers; everyone is still practicing.


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