A recent New York Times op-ed stated that personality traits and attitude have no bearing on illness or one’s ability to recover. In that the writer, Richard Sloan, is a professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University Medical Center and a published author on the subject, his superficial and unfocused argument was a surprise.
The article begins with a reference to Representative Gifford’s husband describing her as a “fighter,” and then immediately introduces the idea that this personality trait will not factor into her recovery. The belief is that the “incessant pressure to be positive imposes an enormous burden on patients whose course of treatment doesn’t go as planned.” He calls this burden of guilt over a supposed failure to have the right attitude towards one’s illness “unconscionable.” In my opinion, taking the “fighter” advantage away from a patient, whether perceived or otherwise, is equally unconscionable. However, to hold that opinion, one must believe that even perceiving an advantage because you are a fighter is an advantage.
Fifteen years ago, when I was diagnosed with high risk cancer and faced eight months of intense treatment to include surgery, outpatient chemo, radiation, and a bone marrow transplant, the terror involved was indescribable. In that situation, a patient needs considerably more than a guy in a white coat giving you the worst news (hopefully) that you will ever receive in your life. It is a time for serious inner searching to determine if you are brave and strong enough to face every aspect of the illness and its dramatic and profound effect on every aspect of your life. And to determine if you are convinced that significant change in your life can promote and nurture the healing process.
A close friend called and stated that, with no conscious understanding of why, she knew absolutely that I needed to read Dr. Bernie Siegel’s New York Times number one bestseller, “Love, Medicine and Miracles.” In retrospect, I consider that suggestion a miracle in itself. Bernie, as he likes to be called, saved me although he has told me dozens of times that I saved myself. His book is full of examples of what he calls “exceptional patients” who used their illness experience to give themselves permission to find their true, authentic selves and in so doing, creatively induced a type of self-healing. Intuitively I knew that my illness was a true and, in some ways, literal symbol of my past and Bernie’s book was like a map to understanding that regaining my health was about overcoming, accepting and emerging from the darkness of my past. Even the very location of my huge tumor held profound significance in my story which, for the first time, I embraced. That doesn’t mean, as his detractors sometimes suggest, that I felt the disease was my fault.
read full news from www.huffingtonpost.com