The Journey Through Cancer: Healing and Transforming the Whole Person
Three Rivers Press: 2006
Six years have passed since the first printing of The Journey Through Cancer, a book written from my heart as well as from my experience as a Western-trained, board-certified medical oncologist. The Journey Through Cancer also drew on my background in Eastern philosophy and medicine, and complementary and alternative therapies. Then, as now, my intention was to guide and assist people dealing with cancer to find comfort, healing, and a greater sense of possibility and hope at every step along their journey. My intention has also been to provide an inspiring and practical model of how every dimension of human beings can be honored and cared for with equal skill and integrity on the cancer journey, and to demonstrate how this can be accomplished within the context of modern medicine and modern life.
Though the greatest truths about wellness and healing are timeless and remain unchanged, in recent years remarkable technological advances in science and medicine have made treatments for cancer and other serious illnesses possible that were unimagined even a decade ago. Many were not available when The Journey Through Cancer was first published, and many more are on the horizon. Despite these advances, millions of people are still seeking an approach to medicine and healing that is more holistic, compassionate, and sensitive to their needs as a whole person. This is particularly true for those facing the extraordinary challenges encountered with a diagnosis of cancer. In light of this, when I was asked to prepare an update to the The Journey Through Cancer, I felt it was something that had to be done. Thus, this revised and updated edition was born.
In one way or another, cancer impacts virtually all of our lives. On an individual level, it is a life-transforming experience that often challenges the mind, heart, and spirit of patients and family members as deeply—if not more deeply—than it challenges the physical body. More than ever before, patients, family members, and health professionals must grapple with a dizzying array of conventional as well as non-conventional treatment options which are ever-changing and often openly in conflict with each other. Those dealing with cancer must make decisions in the midst of what, for many, is the greatest health crisis of their lives. They must do so while searching simultaneously for meaningful ways of embracing the mental, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of healing. This process has never been more complex or challenging.
In this context, a number of very important questions arise: What is the most conscious, empowered, and comprehensive response to a diagnosis of cancer? How can we honor and care for the whole person along the way? What constitutes a truly integrative or multidimensional approach to health and healing? What are the essential elements of a comprehensive healing program? And how can all of this be accomplished within the context of modern medicine and modern life?
The Journey Through Cancer addresses these questions, and more. Offering practical guidance, it describes seven essential areas of inquiry and exploration that are necessary for healing and transforming the whole person—The Seven Levels of Healing. This approach embraces the best of conventional medicine as well as complementary and alternative therapies. It also embraces every dimension of who we all are as human beings, and serves patients, practitioners, and caregivers alike.
While writing the first edition of The Journey Through Cancer I was directing the Geffen Cancer Center and Research Institute, in Vero Beach, Florida. I had established the Center explicitly to provide answers and solutions for cancer patients and family members seeking a genuinely holistic approach to understanding and treating their illness and themselves—in addition to receiving meticulous, conventional cancer care. It demonstrated, in a real-life, clinical setting, a new and inspiring paradigm of medicine: one that promotes awareness, healing, and transformation at the deepest levels of the body, mind, heart, and spirit.
For more than a decade, I was privileged to serve as physician, guide, mentor, and coach for thousands of patients and their family members on their personal journeys through cancer. During this time, I discovered the principles of The Seven Levels of Healing and directly saw their power to transform the experience of everyone involved. Through this compelling process—working with individuals from all walks of life, facing illness of all types and stages—I became increasingly convinced of the universal nature and applicability of the Seven Levels.
In 2003 I closed the Center to focus full-time on sharing the ideas and principles of The Seven Levels of Healing with a much wider audience, through writing, speaking, and working with individuals and organizations. The experience I gained from my years of research and clinical work with the Seven Levels, as well as my understanding of cancer as a journey, has deepened my conviction in the power of this whole-person approach.
Since The Journey Through Cancer was first published, cancer has remained a predominant health concern in this country and worldwide. In fact, the social costs and implications associated with cancer are actually growing and expanding, despite the remarkable scientific advances in its diagnosis and treatment. This has occurred along with a significant movement in the United States involving the increasing use of complementary and alternative (CAM) therapies by millions of people, costing billions of dollars. Many hospitals and clinics are also now beginning to explore how these therapies can be integrated into mainstream care, and more than 60% of US medical schools now include CAM topics in their curricula.
The revised and updated edition of The Journey Through Cancer addresses these trends and provides information on important scientific developments in the understanding, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. Numerous updated resources for information and support are also included. The fundamentals of The Seven Levels of Healing—and the inspiring true stories of patients who directly experienced them—remain intact, and indeed, are ever more relevant.
One in three people alive today will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. Clearly, the need for a powerful, holistic approach to responding to cancer has never been more urgent or compelling. The Seven Levels of Healing program described in this book is an effective, tested model for healing and transforming the whole person. It could be widely adopted in hospitals, clinics, offices, cancer centers, and medical schools throughout America and beyond. It can also inspire many more patients and families to discover, and experience, the peace and comfort it can bring. It is my wish that The Journey Through Cancer will contribute to this vision, and continue to serve as a beacon of light for all who feel the impact of cancer in their lives.