Wisdom from the Medical Community

The medical community offers wisdom beyond chemotherapy, radiation, and other treatments designed specifically to slow, stop, and eradicate cancer. Pharmaceuticals and surgical instruments are gifts that can prolong and save lives. Researching these treatments, and understanding the specifics of each, is part of what it means to fully participate in the process of our own healing. Any treatment option is an invitation for us to learn more. The knowledge we gain empowers us, giving us a deeper understanding of our own bodies, and of what needs to happen physically in order for us to heal.

Concurrent with chemotherapy and other conventional treatments is another form of treatment which the medical community offers us: palliative care. This form of treatment does not mean, on any level, that we have given up or stopped trying. On the contrary, palliative care has been scientifically documented as a life-prolonging, life-enhancing measure, as real as any other medical treatment.

In August of 2010, a study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine on the value of palliative care. The findings were gripping: “Early palliative care can lead to significant improvements in both quality of life and mood. As compared with patients receiving standard care, patients receiving early palliative care had less aggressive care at end of life but longer survival.” “Early Palliative Care for Patients with Metastatic Non–Small-Cell Lung Cancer”

The word palliative connotes “soothing” and “calming.” The Mayo Clinic’s website confirmed palliative care means providing pain relief, support and holistic care for those facing a serious illness, including their emotional and spiritual needs. Mayo Clinic Pallative Care

With this study comes scientific validation of the value of treating the whole person: body, mind and soul. The study is our green-light, as patients, to search out and find a medical team who will support us on all levels. Palliative care includes discussion regarding the emotional and spiritual aspects of our illness, respecting our deepest concerns and our beliefs. We can ask that palliative care be part of our treatment, either formally, by seeing a palliative care nurse or doctor, or simply by asking our doctors to extend compassion and support in a way that goes beyond prescriptions and referrals.

For patients everywhere, facing every variety of illness, the palliative care study changes the dynamic of healing. Gone are the days of authoritative medicine; gone is the temptation to say, “You’re the doctor.” Palliative care welcomes patients as equal partners and seeks to meet their individual needs and beliefs as they face a serious illness. Given this whole-patient approach, doctors and patients are invited to come together on a more genuine level.

The mutual respect generated from this dynamic creates its own healing energy and offers a deeper understanding, not only of medicine and cures, but of what it means to be human, what it means to heal, and what it means to be fully engaged in the miracle of our lives.

If palliative care means approaching others in a supportive and holistic way, why can’t this go beyond hospital settings, and into our daily lives? In sickness and in health, we all have the potential to offer our own unique compassion to the people we encounter, including our own selves. Palliative care is a new trend for Western Medicine, yet it also transcends hospitals and patient-doctor relationships. Palliative care invites all of us to come out of a special place of true tender loving care, not only for those in our lives, but also for our own mind, body and soul. For these reasons, and many more, offering ourselves self-love, giving ourselves permission to take a break, and being gentle with ourselves, are actually ways of healing that can help us on every level.