What a surgeon learned about cancer

Some 30 years ago when I began asking the big questions – “why is this patient sick with cancer? why now? what more can be done? “ – I came across the Dr. Siegel’s books. I really identified with his story.

Bernie, as he likes to be known by colleagues and patients alike, was a general surgeon who, in the mid 1970s, became very discouraged with the outcomes he was getting for his patients with surgery and standard cancer therapies. However, one day he happened to step back and reflect on his results and realized that out of a hundred patients, some 15 or so did far better than expected. They beat the odds. He determined that he needed to talk with those patients to find out what they were doing that was making the difference.

In doing so, he learned that these patients were not fighting cancer, not falling victim to cancer, and not remaining helpless, powerless and fearful. They were all, in one way or another, seeing cancer as a signal or a sign post that the way they had been living their lives was not working. Rather than resisting having cancer, they accepted the cancer as a needed wake up call to motivate them to make changes in their lives.

In addition to medical treatment, these patients took steps toward restoring their health physically, mentally and emotionally. They looked to where they were holding toxic emotions of regret, bitterness, anger, lack of forgiveness, guilt and unresolved grief. They took responsibility for clearing their own unhealthy behaviours, reactions and beliefs and for doing their part to heal their relationships. Dr. Siegel has written several books that chronicle his learning from these aware and empowered patients which he calls exceptional cancers patients or ECaPs. Further he believed that any patient can become exceptional.

After attending a teaching seminar given by Dr. O. Carl Simonton, oncologist, and his psychologist wife, who as pioneers in mind-body medicine were introducing visualization and other techniques with cancer patients, Bernie started therapy groups for cancer patients in 1978. He recognized the vital need to treat the patient with the disease rather than the disease alone. ECaP groups are established in many centres throughout the United States offering programs ‘designed specifically to integrate the power of mind, body, and spirit with the best traditional medical care.’

Bernie has written several books and the one I most recommend is “Peace, Love and Healing”. His conclusions about the cause of cancer and how people can and do heal parallel many of my own.

Bernie's Book_

Over the last 40 years, Dr. Siegel and many other doctors, including myself, are showing the way to a whole person approach to disease. From my own experience and training, there is a specific stress or conflict pattern associated with every disease and illness, from colds to cancer, as well as ‘dis-ease’, which provides essential and valuable clues to those areas in a person’s life that need attention.

In other words, every disease carries a message of what the patient needs to know to clear obstacles to his/her own healing. What is the message of your illness – of breast cancer for example? What it is trying to tell you could save your life and help you recover your health and happiness.