In March 2012 I was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. Although I quickly assembled a wonderful team of competent, caring, compassionate MD’s (radiologist, surgeon, and oncologist), I chose to treat my cancer primarily with classical Chinese medicine and to chronicle my experience for others faced with this disheartening diagnosis. Biomedical treatment options buy time, sometimes a lot of time, but at great physical, emotional and financial cost, and often with no meaningful healing involved. Classical Chinese medicine offers a heart-centered path back to vibrant health because it understands the terrain and etiology of the disease, gently nudges your whole being onto a healthier track, and teaches you how to heal yourself. It encourages you to change your life and fulfill your dreams.
I’ve been practicing classical Chinese medicine for 20 years. I’ve treated hundreds of patients who have cancer, HIV/AIDS, and other serious diseases, but these treatments fell into the “complementary medicine” category of helping patients tolerate their medications and cope with stress, anxiety, pain, insomnia and other conditions secondary to the main disease. As adjunct medical care, Chinese medicine has rightfully earned the respect of biomedical doctors and patients.
A few years ago I took a series of classes on cancer treatment with Jeffrey Yuen, a master teacher of classical Chinese medical arts. Jeffrey insisted that classical Chinese medicine should also be considered a primary, not adjunct, treatment modality for cancer. I took careful notes, even though I assumed no one would ever ask me to take on that responsibility, especially since I practice near a major biomedical hospital/medical school complex that includes a highly regarded and community supported cancer treatment center.
I was only half right. After learning I have cancer, I sought out another student in those classes to shoulder that burden. I’ve also asked my family and friends to calm their fears and support my treatment decisions, and they have. This is as much their story as it is mine.
As you might expect in all good adventure stories (and what’s life if not an adventure?), even in these early months unexpected allies step in, healing talismans suddenly appear just when they’re needed, and paths light up to point where to go next. Oddly, this story lacks villains, but I’m sure there will be a gatekeeper or two for me to pacify or trick along the way. I suspect most of those will be my own inner bridge trolls.
I promise, in spite of my strong bias toward the healing power of Chinese medicine, to write honestly about this journey, even if I eventually decide to turn to my “complementary medicine” team for surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy.
I don’t know where this story will go. I already know that I feel stronger, more at ease in my body, and more aware of my blessings than I felt BCC (before cancer consciousness). This is not an “experiment”. Being who I am and having devoted so much of my adult life to the study and practice of this profound medicine, I completely trust that this amazing healing organism–my body–will be guided back to health by classical Chinese medicine. This is my gift to myself.
I invite you to join me on this healing path.