I was surprised to be discovering this book 28 years after it was first published. It seems very current and progressive, so much so, that I had to think I must have been sleep walking to only be discovering it now.
Dr. Siegel who is now retired but was a general and pediatric surgeon writes this book of his first person account of working with many patients on a more personal level. He writes that he got tired of thinking of his patients as ‘cases’ and missed the person to person connection.
He created a support group called Exceptional Cancer Patients (ECaP) “to help people mobilize their full resources against the disease”. The group’s motto was “In the face of uncertainty, there is nothing wrong with hope.”
According to Dr. Siegel, exceptional patients refuse to be victims. They educate themselves and become specialists in their own care. He notes a study from London that showed a better 10 year survival in patients who show a ‘fighting spirit’ as opposed to ‘stoic acceptance’.
He believes in a mind-body connection to disease and explains this in the “surveillance theory” which states that cancer cells are developing in our bodies all the time but are normally destroyed by white blood cells before they develop into dangerous tumors. Cancer appears when the immune system (controlled by the brain) becomes suppressed and can no longer deal with the cancer cells. This is because the brain becomes so disrupted by other concerns (like stress, or unfulfilled lives); it takes its attention away from the cancer cells.
He reminds us that the way we react to stress is more important that the actual stress itself. He quotes Elita Evans who wrote A Psychological Study of Cancer in 1926 “Cancer is a symbol, as most illness is, of something going wrong in the patient’s life a warning to him to take another road.” I think this must have been pretty ground breaking in 1926, because in 2014, I think there would still be many skeptics of this belief.
Before he can help a patient, Dr. Siegel needs the answers to these 4 questions:
- Do you want to live to be one hundred?
- What happened in the year or two before your illness?
- What does your illness mean to you?
- Why did you need this cancer?”
I could go on with great quotes from this book. It definitely resonated for me and I enjoyed reading it even if it was only a few pages at a time. If any of these quotes hit the mark for you, then I suggest you order it and give it a read.
If you do end up reading Dr. Siegel’s book, then please leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts. I’m interested to know if we are on the same page. Happy reading whatever you’re reading.