chapter from Cancer Cathedral: Prevention is the Cure
Psyche: Mysterious Stranger
When cancers have metastasized to secondary locations, long-term survival with or without treatment of any kind is rare. Michael Lerner, PhD, founded Commonweal Institute in Bolinas, CA, and led retreats for cancer patients referred by their oncologists for complementary care for over thirty years. He examined the files of alternative and conventional treatment clinics on site, and reported in his book, Choices in Healing that long term remissions for metastatic cancers were less than 10% for any choices.
However, the treatment you choose could cure you. After all, somebody has to be in the ten percent. Choosing a treatment or not should consider the quality of the life remaining in case you’re not. Or you could spend them chasing a cure like Christopher Hitchens. When he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2010, the British atheist chose “the most highly advanced expertise uniquely available” at M. D. Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. The five-year survival rate for this cancer is less than 5%, but his belief in science was adamant. U.S. News and World Report had rated the Cancer Center as the top oncology center since 2003.
His eighteen months in Tumor Town, as he called it in his posthumously published memoir Mortality, was one of “countless, minor horrors”, while a “blind, emotionless alien colonized” his lungs and “rendered him a eunuch.” His suffering was from the treatment, but he faced it without falling to his knees in prayer. One of the most famous skeptics of belief in God, Hitchens faith in “scientific” medicine was practiced “with a radical, child like hope” his widow recalled. He was “captivated by the cutting edge proton radiation treatments he underwent” and died ensnared in the Cancer Cathedral.
Mark Nepo cured his first bone cancer with “a miracle”, using “religious visualizations, meditations and intensive prayers.” When this devotion failed to heal a recurrence, he realized “the surgery was the miracle. In the dark center of my pain, this unwavering voice said the treatment is the miracle”, even through the agony of chemo treatment, when he “opened his arms to measured poisons.”
During a wellness group meeting four months later, while drawing an image of his cancer, he “knew the cancer was gone. Now the treatment was killing me. This miracle appeared as silent certainty.” He refused to undergo further poisoning. Thirty years later he leads inspirational workshops shared his transformative healing experience.
Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues, said the agony of her conventional treatment for ovarian cancer allowed her to reconnect with her body through pain. Childhood sexual abuse by her father had disassociated her from the healing power of internal somatic communication. Reconnecting with those painful memories shattered the glass shielding adult Eve from feeling her body.
When Anna Halpren was diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer more than sixty years ago, she rejected prescribed medical treatments. She began exploring her inner world with dance, art and journaling. She mystified her doctors by “spontaneously” healing, although it required sustained focus, conscious effort and physical movement by tuning into internal demands. Anna is still alive and has taught her form of Expressive Art Therapy to thousands who have taught it to even more people with no illness, only curiosity about what lies within.
In Spontaneous Healing, Dr. Andrew Weil describes witnessing many and receiving hundreds of testimonials of “miraculous” cures of long standing illnesses, including cancer. The executive director of Japan’s Holistic Medical Society cured his terminal kidney cancer by learning to “love my cancer, not attack it as an enemy.” He also changed his life and diet to macrobiotic, and views illness as “a gift, a way of transformation and new life.” Some swore by drinking their own urine (that’s cheap), foreign clinics, leaving their family’s toxic circle, wheat grass shots, macrobiotic diets or a product they’re now selling, but all involved changing their beliefs and habits.
Cancers may be physical manifestations of psychic phenomena, but orthodox oncologists aren’t buying it. A set number of psychological counseling sessions can be reimbursed as palliative care for orthodox cancer treatment, but the establishment is dead set against psyche therapy being reimbursed as a potential cure. Most people with cancer aren’t cured spontaneously or otherwise. The quality of their dying is at least as important as its length, but that’s not a selling point for cures.
Those who achieve spontaneous healing or spontaneous remission as oncologists call it are a rare breed, but not unicorn rare. It’s a documented phenomenon with thousands of case studies attesting to complete cures of people, with no recurrence of cancer. They often resolved spiritual, relational or psychological crises. Less compliance with their oncology treatment was typical, but their common factor was reaping hope from despair and autonomy from dependence.
That’s when statistical survival rates are just words on a plate, not the communion host. Even people who died experienced a deeper appreciation and sense of living through these changes. Rather than gambling on a faith based cure, choose prevention practices to avoid joining the almost half of Americans who will be diagnosed with cancer.