This time next week I’ll be on my way to West Palm Beach, where I’ll present a talk on survivorship medicine at the 9th annual Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Cancer Conference. I’m honored to be on a very distinguished panel of speakers, including Kelly Turner, PhD, who for my money wrote the most important book published in this field in 2014: Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds.
Dr. Turner, a researcher in the field of integrative oncology, noticed that oncologists, who rely heavily on research to guide treatment decisions, often avoid talking about or further exploring cases of people who achieve statistically unexpected remission by means other than standard medical protocols. She asked herself, “if we are trying to ‘win the war’ on cancer, doesn’t it make sense to talk to those who have already won?”
Radical Remission is the very readable product of her subsequent research, filled with absorbing personal stories of people who found their way back to wellness against long, long odds. From over 1,000 interviews with such people, Dr. Turner compiled the 9 top reasons they believed they had overcome their cancers.
The book offers two striking takeaways that made it more than worth the read. First, only 2 of the 9 items on the list – “radically changing your diet” and “taking herbs and supplements” – were directly related to care of the physical body. The majority of reasons given for statistically improbable remissions of cancer – a full 7 out of 9 – were of an emotional, spiritual or social nature.
That emotional and spiritual health affects our ability to recover from disease – even advanced disease -is probably no surprise to you. Studies are more and more closely correlating psychological wellbeing with disease-free and overall survival. It’s for that very reason that I’ve integrated life mastery coaching into my holistic medical practice: to be able to guide healing at whatever level calls out for it. But even I was surprised by this new evidence of the potential power of the mind/body connection in healing, particularly in advanced disease.
Second, it’s remarkable how little fear shows up in the personal stories. Most people interviewed report having gone through significant fear at some point during their journey. But as of their interviews, that fear is long behind them. They know there’s no guarantee that their remission will hold, but they keep their focus steadily on creating a healthy, fulfilling life day by day, knowing that if their number comes up again they will have lived on their own terms and created their legacy.
As Dr. Turner freely admits, her research doesn’t definitively prove anything. But it does provide a broad base of evidence to guide the direction of research on cancer treatment and cancer prevention. It offers an illuminating view of the surprising effectiveness of some “unconventional” ways to heal. And its portraits of successful healing in people who reclaimed their power of choice over the direction of their cancer treatment are nothing short of inspiring.
I’d love to hear your comments below – I respond to every one!
- Have you read Radical Remission? What was your most memorable takeaway from it?
- What role has emotional wellness played in your healing?