The last time I read Spontaneous Healing by Andrew Weil M.D. was probably sixteen years ago. It was right after I graduated from massage school. From the first day of class I was hooked on massage and alternative healing/medicine. I also had a part time job at a massage kiosk located inside a Whole Foods Market in San Francisco. The booth was next to the “Whole Body” department, so in between customers, I learned as much as I could about herbs and supplements by asking questions from the staff. There was also a nice selection of books they let me read in my booth.
Dr. Weil has been around since the 70s. He has a medical degree and has written several books about alternative medicine and the mind/body connection. I am in the middle of Spontaneous Healing again and came across an idea asserted by Dr. Weil to “view all illnesses as a gift.” This isn’t the first time I heard someone say that illnesses (like cancer) can be seen as a gift, because having it changes the person’s life (usually). I do agree that cancer did change my life on all levels but I won’t refer to my cancer episode as a gift. I got plenty of weird gifts in my life, so if getting rectal cancer was a gift, it was a pretty crappy one (pun intended).
In 1986, my dad died at the age of fifty-six from heart disease, which sent me into what I call, a “spiritual crisis.” After a couple of months of being in a “funk,” I went to see a shrink. She gave me several self-help books which led me into reading spirituality books. Back then the western medical profession considered such writings as “New Age” psychobabble, but was becoming more accepted by mainstream America. Western medicine still won’t acknowledge the mind/body connection when it comes to disease, except for a small percentage of doctors.
Cancer was not a gift for me but it was my “wake up” call. Even when I was working as a massage therapist and eating vegetarian, I didn’t focus on my whole self. Stress was something I constantly dealt with. I did visit the Zen Center a couple times a month to sit Zazen but I didn’t practice it on a daily basis at home. We left the City and moved to Chico, thinking that it would be quieter there. It was, but I still felt stressed out. During that time the economy tanked. My hours were cut at the restaurant I worked at. Massage wasn’t as popular in Chico as in San Francisco, so I stopped doing that. We moved again to Southern California thinking jobs would be better there. I ended up working three part time jobs which caused more stress for me. I didn’t eat fresh home cooked meals. Who had the time?
Then cancer hit me. That changed everything. I did what everyone does who has been diagnosed. I wanted to know why I got cancer. I thought I was healthy. The truth is I convinced myself I was but my lifestyle proved otherwise. Dr. Weil also writes how stress is a major player when it comes to us getting sick. That I agree with. It’s been proven that stress lowers the body’s immune system. When the immune system is lowered for a long period of time, all kinds of diseases develop because the body’s defense system is to weak to fight them off. Throw in a diet that comes from a package, that has no nutritional value and you have a recipe for cancer.
Luckily, I didn’t dwell on the “why me?” question to long and instead looked for answers as to how to start from where I was at. Everything on the Internet I read about healthy living was really not news to me. It was in the books I read years before, but at the time, I guess it didn’t sink in. It looked good on paper but I didn’t put it into action in my own life. Now I get it. There is no going back to my old habits. Meditation, yoga, exercise, mindfulness, and plant based foods are part of my daily life. My stress is almost nonexistent. I got the message loud and clear and for that I thank cancer… sort of.
Live Well and be Happy!