Here are the guidelines of four people who have studied or treated illness and whose insight stands out from the crowd for me. I have distilled down into sentences what their books cover. Consider this just a starting point as you think about your own course with your illness. I would recommend reading further into the thoughts of these four. This is just a quick and simplified version.
I was fortunate to listen to CDs of a cancer conference just after I was diagnosed (Cancer As A Turning Point, 2 volumes.) Not only did it give me much needed support, but so much of it was funny, something I desperately needed right then. The funniest was a team of two women who had done research on remissions. I remember vividly how they laughed as they recounted the numerous people in remission they had talked to who were, as they said, “difficult” patients, i.e. they asked their doctors questions and sometimes said no. I knew that I would probably be considered one also, and I laughed with delight. That CD lead me in various strange and twisting paths, to these four people.
KELLY TURNER, Ph.D
First, it led me to the Institute of Noetic Sciences and Dr. Kelly Turner. Dr. Turner is a statistician who became fascinated by what she calls outliers, those results that don’t fit into an easy statistical analysis. In cancer’s case, this would be remissions. From her perspective, it is the outliers that are interesting, that might be telling a story that we’re not seeing. She has drilled down, studying all the cases of spontaneous cancer remission she can find. It is possible, she documents it and it gave me hope (I remember looking for information on this right after my diagnosis and read that there was never a remission from pancreatic cancer). Her book Radical Remission was just recently published and her website is www.drkellyturner.com. For starters, here is an article by her on the similarities among cancer remission patients: http://www.noetic.org/noetic/issue-seventeen-december/unexpected-remission/
Her conclusion is that there are a core group of things that those who survive have in common. Taken from the chapter headings of her book, these are the 9 things she found everyone in remission had in common:
RADICALLY CHANGING YOUR DIET
TAKING CONTROL OF YOUR HEALTH
FOLLOWING YOUR INTUITION
USING HERBS AND SUPPLEMENTS
RELEASING SUPPRESSED EMOTIONS
INCREASING POSITIVE EMOTIONS
EMBRACING SOCIAL SUPPORT
DEEPENING YOUR SPIRITUAL CONNECTION
HAVING STRONG REASONS FOR LIVING
The Institute she wrote this article for has also been working on this subject for awhile: www.noetic.org. Information on their researches on cancer can be found at: http://noetic.org/search/?q=cancer. From the IONS site, you can access many interesting conversations on healing. All by itself, it is a fascinating website to tour – astronaut Edgar Mitchell founded this Institute after having an epiphany during his time in space.
KAREN WYATT, M.D.
The following is taken from an article in Light of Consciousness (Vol. 26, No.2, Spring 2014). Her book is What Really Matters: 7 lessons for Living from the Stories of the Dying. The writing in italics is my take on what she’s saying.
EMBRACE YOUR DIFFICULTIES. I experienced this when I started Tonglen meditation and realized we all suffer, we all hurt, we are all in pain, one way or another. I’m no different from you, and you are no different from him, and he is no different than me. This is something we all share, all sentient beings. Life is both difficult and beautiful; running away from the hard parts won’t lead to success, because they are part and parcel of the good parts.
LET YOUR HEART BE BROKEN: There is no way to get through life without suffering, if we love. And if we don’t love, well then why are we even living? Yes, it hurts. Yes, it is necessary. No other way out than through.
HOLD NO RESENTMENTS: Forgive others, forgive yourself.
DWELL IN THE PRESENT MOMENT: There isn’t anywhere else. The future isn’t real and the past is only memory. But your mind can take refuge in both of those illusions to keep away the pain of the present. Let your heart be broken
FACE YOUR FEARS: Nothing lasts forever. And that’s probably a good thing.
WHAT REALLY MATTERS: Don’t worry about the externals or what the neighbors think. What really matters to you?
SPIRITUAL LESSONS: There are so many lessons, so many transformations we can make. It’s up to us. I know from personal experience that getting through this would have been infinitely harder if I hadn’t reconnected strongly with my spiritual heart.
Over time, since my diagnosis, I have come across some other things that have been written about, attitudes that may very well lead you to health. Some of these are from Dr. Andrew Weil.
DO NOT TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER: I have come across this several times, in one form or another. Usually it’s called being a difficult patient.
ACTIVELY SEARCH FOR HELP
SEEK OUT OTHERS WHO HAVE BEEN HEALED
FORM CONSTRUCTIVE PARTNERSHIPS WITH HEALTH PROFESSIONALS
DO NOT HESITATE TO MAKE RADICAL LIFE CHANGES
REGARD ILLNESS AS A GIFT: Argh, so hard. I have written on this elsewhere. It can be the greatest gift you’ve ever received if there is transformation needed in your life. And if you choose the path of transformation.
CULTIVATE SELF-ACCEPTANCE: Love yourself, forgive yourself. This can be very challenging, especially for those of us who are older and have accumulated a lot of choices that were never in our best interest. Nevertheless, we must find a way to allow ourselves to be wrapped in grace, or at least understand that we all are doing the best we can, and probably always have.
LEWIS MEHL-MADRONA, M.D., Ph.D.
I give you all those letters behind his name because he is both an emergency room doctor and a psychiatrist. As such, he has studied health & illness in both mind and body. Additionally, he is of native american descent and has studied and uses native healing techniques. There are no other books on healing I would recommend as highly as his – Coyote Healing, Coyote Wisdom, Coyote Medicine (he has written many others, but these are the three I think are the most accessible to non-medical folks). His focus is different from the others in this entry because it is not fully western medicine as we think of it. Because of this, it’s a little hard to boil it down for you. If you would like a more in-depth understanding, please read his book Coyote Healing,
A STRONG INTERNAL FOCUS which includes:
understanding the disease and its threats belief that you can heal yourself belief that change is associated with healing belief that healing is possible belief in a personal ability to heal sense of self-empowerment
A BELIEF THAT LIFE HAS MEANING AND PURPOSE
A PERSONAL TRANSFORMATION THAT IS COMPLETED DURING THE COURSE OF THE ILLNESS (that one just keeps coming up again and again, doesn’t it?)
A CHANGE IN VALUES AND SELF-IMAGE THAT IS IN LINE WITH THIS TRANSFORMATION
SURRENDER TO WHAT CANNOT BE CHANGED
RUDIGER DAHLKE, MD. Dr. Dahlke writes in German and only some of his works are available in English. But he’s worth seeking out. He has great insight into illness and its emotional and spiritual aspects.
CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE. Stop thinking “illness is bad” and start asking “what is my body telling me? Looking at things differently makes things different.
CHANGE YOUR DIET.
ADDRESS YOUR PROBLEMS AND SYMPTOMS ON BOTH THE PHYSICAL AND MENTAL LEVELS.
LOVE YOURSELF. That includes your symptoms
GO WITH THE FLOW. Don’t waste your energy resisting . Invest yourself in the places where your life says “Yes!”
LIVE A COURAGEOUS, REALIZED LIFE.
INTEGRATE DEATH INTO YOUR LIFE.
BE OVERTLY AGGRESSIVE. If you aren’t daring, if you let fear sink into the body, you will have war in the body: inflammation, autoimmune diseases, chronic diseases, cancer (yes, I know what you’re thinking, he’s German. Rephrase aggressive in your thoughts if the word bothers you. I like bold).
WORK WITH THE WISHES OF YOUR HEART. Oh this one is so important. What do you want?
LOOK BEYOND YOUR PROBLEMS TO THEIR MEANING, TO WHAT THEY WANT TO TELL YOU. Be willing to work with your resistance every time you encounter it.