From time to time, pain grips Anna’s belly so severely that she has to excuse herself, hide in the bathroom, double over on the toilet, and dab herself with lavender oil to try to keep from puking. The first time it happened, she called her best friend, who took her to the emergency room, where they poked, prodded, scanned, and examined Anna, only to dose her up with morphine, shrug their shoulders, and send her home with Vicodin and a referral to a gastroenterologist.
In this New York Times article, A-list actress Angelina Jolie bravely announced that she made the tough decision to undergo elective bilateral mastectomy after her doctors warned her that she has an 87% risk of developing breast cancer and a 50% risk of getting ovarian cancer because her mother died of breast cancer and she carries the BRCA1 gene. While I fully support Angelina’s right to write The Prescription for herself, and while I admire her courage to go public with what some might hide, as an OB/GYN physician with a passion for mind-body medicine, this breaking news concerns me for a variety of reasons.
I just finished my upcoming book Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself (Hay House, 2013), but I’m still researching the topic that has fascinated me for the past four years. I just started reading Consciousness & Healing: Integral Approaches To Mind-Body Medicine, by my friend and IONS president Marilyn Schlitz and Tina Amorok. Here’s some juicy stuff I found:
In my upcoming book Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself (Hay House, 2013) and in many recent blog posts such as this, this, and this, I talk a lot about the mind’s power to heal the body. But when you or a loved one is sick, how do you know when to employ the mind’s self-healing powers versus when to get thee to an emergency room lickety split? Knowing how to integrate the mind’s healing powers into the world of conventional medicine can be tricky, so I wanted to lay out some guidelines.
When I wrote The Story Of An Imperfect Woman, I ran it by my hubby to get his blessing since it referred, not only to my quirks and imperfections, but to his. He gave me his blessing, but then he said, “I’m not sure it’s such a good idea to tell everyone all of these things.” I asked him why, and he said, “But what about your reputation?” I had to laugh. I mean this guy knows me and loves me, in spite of all these imperfections that are a big part of who I am. He doesn’t expect me to be perfect. And finally, I don’t either.
As I wrote about here, I believe medicine is a spiritual practice because practicing medicine is all about being vessels for Divine love, so we can facilitate the process of self-healing for our patients. But nobody ever taught me this in medical school. I learned it by merely being human. Because of my ability to be both human and a doctor, I have always practiced love, with a little medicine on the side.
If you’re a patient who has incorporated complementary and alternative medicine into your health care regimen, you may have bumped up against some resistance on both sides of the healing fence. Your doctor may think your homeopath is a total quack selling snake oil, and your homeopath may think your doctor is a big thug, thwacking his pharmaceutical hammer at anything that moves. Your doctor may insist that you stop all of your herbs, cancel your acupuncture appointment, and ditch the flower essences that were lovingly prepared for you. On the flip side, your complementary and alternative medicine providers may poo poo traditional Western treatments that you choose to pursue.
When I went to medical school, nobody ever taught me that medicine was a spiritual practice - but it is. Or at least, in Pink Medicine, it will be. You might not think so. After all, philosophers like Descartes have been perpetuating the notion of mind-body dualism, suggesting that body, mind, and spirit have absolutely nothing to do with each other. But I beg to differ.