I’m just back from speaking to my colleagues at the annual Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians conference in Phoenix. In three days largely devoted to the latest and greatest in medical procedures, I was asked to offer a talk on how to heal trauma in cancer survivors (yes, cancer can absolutely produce trauma).
I gathered the latest research on post-traumatic growth in survivors. I included an inspiring case study. I practiced that talk over and over. I’m happy to say it was very well received.
When it was over, I sat down to listen to Dr. D, who followed me.
Dr. D, a veteran in our profession, could have delivered a whiz-bang scientific talk. But hers was different. Over the last year she’d been primary caregiver to her mother – also a physician – who chose to journey through late-stage ovarian cancer without conventional treatment.
There was no research in Dr. D’s presentation; instead, it was full of personal stories and photographs about the lives of patient and caregiver. About the physician who, when push came to shove, chose not to receive the treatment she’d been trained in. About the daughter who put her US practice on hold to witness her mother’s last chapter in the tiny European town she’d grown up in. About how the mother found ways to create meaning and joy even as her appetite and strength were slipping away. About how the daughter had to refine her habit of constantly giving in order to preserve her own sanity.
I’m not writing this to advocate for anyone’s choices – I support everyone’s right to choose whatever treatment, or lack thereof, makes most sense to them. What I loved about Dr. D’s talk was its demonstration that when it comes down to it, we have the wisdom within us to make choices that are right for us…and our choices deserve full support and respect.
Science is helpful in showing how things work, and demonstrating trends. But it can’t possibly predict what works best for you as an individual.
Doctors can be wonderful guides, bringing years of experience to inform your choices. But you’re the ultimate expert on your own needs and values, and therefore the best placed to choose.
Recently a number of clients have come to me overwhelmed by the avalanche of choices out there. What the heck do I eat? How do I know which supplements to take? My doctor’s pushing me to start a new treatment, but I don’t know if I can handle it – what do I do?
While we discuss the pros and cons of various alternatives, ultimately what I tell them is always the same: trust yourself to know.
There’s a still, small voice within you that’s incredibly wise.
Get still. Listen to what it has to say.
It will never, ever lie to you.
(Not sure you can hear that voice above all the din? I’m here to help you.)
You are wiser than you know, my friend.
Comments? Questions? Post them below. I’d love to learn from what you have to say.
In awe of your brilliance,