Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Of diseases, ailments…. and thoughts

I read these two pieces of articles today that got me thinking about ailments, diseases, and their cures & treatments. At first glance, the articles appeared totally un-connected. The first one talks about this new method of treating Cancer – threateningly yet comfortingly named “CyberKnife”. It is a robotic radio surgery system which has been imported to India for the first time that will enable Cancerous cells to be destroyed through minimal surgery without affecting the surrounding tissues. The procedure is completely automated, does not require any monitoring by doctors or experts, and the patient gets cured of Cancer within as short a time as a week compared to the 5-6 weeks treatment under the traditional surgical method of Cancer treatment. The article makes one imagine the patient getting up and walking away after the surgery (maybe a few days later), returning to the life as he knew it (at least the semblance of one) before he discovered the disease.

The second article is about the holistic healing of mind and body. It is an excerpt from a book called “Heal Thyself” and talks about how treating diseases with just material intervention is totally useless. The excerpt starts with saying that diseases are manifestations of the unrest between mind and soul in the physical body. It is merely a symptom of disquiet in your self (beyond the physical body) and treating just the physical body is like doing away with just the symptoms and not really the underlying cause of the disease.

Now, let’s go back to the first article on CyberKnife. By just killing the cancerous cells in one’s body if one can do away with their disease it is wonderful. But what about the underlying cause of those cancerous cells? How did they come about? What caused them? What is the guarantee that they won’t recur again? In a few words, no. No guarantees. The doctor (or the robot computer) does not know why the patient got Cancer but what they can do about it is to make sure the Cancerous cells are destroyed. Maybe as fast as the body can produce them. So in essence, the procedure only treats your symptom- in this case the undisciplined cells, and not what caused the Cancer.

I am not being harsh. I do not expect people to live with their Cancers…..We all seek to get cured of the different ailments and diseases that strike us as quickly as possible, and if they can be done away with by a simple visit to the pharmacy, we are happy. Take for example, my daughter contracting the ordinary cold. By principle (and psychological fear of medicines), I avoid taking tablets and hope to get cured naturally (by which I mean letting my body take care of itself, believing in its immune system, and plain and simple willing myself to get cured). So I am trying to pass on this belief and follow the principle with my baby as well. I do not give her any medicines for the first two days. I watch her suffering with her dripping nose, put up with her irritable mood, struggle with feeding her, and generally get dejected myself before succumbing to the temptation of an OTC drug. I am relieved when I watch her breathe easy next day. My husband and in-laws are happy too with an “I told you so” expression in their face silently chiding me for not giving her the syrup at the first sign of a leaky nose.

With a passing thought to my principle, I forget all about the situation and we all get on with our life. I console my mind saying that I can’t impose my principle on others and make them suffer for it. If my daughter can get well within a day by taking medicines, by all means she should. Why would I put her through those miserable two days in the name of natural curing?

Now, if the situation were to be about me…….. My principle does hold good better than that. That is, if it is just a cold. Give me something worse than that, I’m as susceptible to human temptation as anybody else. For instance, some of the worst diseases/ailments that happened to me physically were Malaria, Jaundice, and an arm ‘almost-fracture’, not to mention those endless hours of toothache. I have memories of twisting and turning long into night in pain and “something else” which only the diseased know about. I would have gladly worshipped the docs who had treated me. No natural cure for me sir, no. Bring on those painkillers and antibiotics as soon as you can get them, please.

Ha! How fickle the mind is. How vain in touting principles.

Now coming back to Cancer and treating the underlying cause. I had this friend once whose father had died of Cancer. During one of our many conversations, we happened to discuss that and what he said about his father’s death made profound sense to me. His father had been fighting with Cancer for a long time before he succumbed to the disease. My friend remembered his father as a strong man, some one who never believed in defeat and who always fought till the end. He was the kind who wouldn’t let anything affect him much, not even the most terrible of diseases. So naturally, even after he discovered his disease, he kept up his good spirits and those around him. But soon, the pain and suffering caught up with him. But he fought for years. And his family really believed that he would come out of it. Until the day before his death. That day, his father just admitted defeat. He became mentally exhausted and told his family that he couldn’t take it any more. He was giving up. He died the next day. To this day, my friend believes that his father did not die of Cancer. He died because he chose to die. He died because chose not to fight any longer.

This leads me to another thought (or theory if you will) that I have heard about Cancer. They say that Cancer is just a manifestation of the fear of death in your mind. You fear dying and slowly the cells in your body get that message. They start refusing to die themselves. And there you have it, uncontrolled growth of cells that don’t die. Cancer in other words. Yes, all of us fear death in one way or another but maybe those who get Cancer are more afraid of it than the rest. Maybe it is more psychologically deeper than that. The theory goes on to add that ultimately the cure to Cancer is tackling that fear in your mind. Just accepting death as a natural consequence of being born. If only that was as simple as it sounds.

Tying all this back to the article on holistic healing of mind and body….. One does need to be really strong to believe in one’s own sense of healing. Healing both mentally, physically, and spiritually. Not giving into the easy ways of curing just the physical body. Difficult. Very difficult indeed.


Anonymous said...

I totally believe that we invite our own diseases. In fact I have fallen physically ill just by being negative and pessimistic. I think the mind definitely has an influence on our bodily functions. And really, it is all in the mind.
And that is why PLACEBOs work well...even for ADULTS:p

What do u think, VJ?

Rags said...

I bit disagree with the mind thing. I think (i just dont "think" - i am "sure") this theory is floated by those set of people who hate taking medicines!!