Too Good to be True? Meditation's role in cancer recovery…Grace Gawler comments
Meditation or I prefer to use the name relaxation can be a useful adjunct to a health restoration plan; however many patients expect more from meditation or relaxation than it can deliver. The Grace Gawler Institute assists cancer patients to discover and take advantage of authentic cancer therapies i.e. the best of conventional medicine whilst using proven complementary medicine. Relaxation methods are a helpful aaddition to a patient’s recovery program. Please pass on this blog’s URL address on so that we can spread the word about helping cancer patients.
Each week, large numbers of clientele approach the Grace Gawler Institute for help after they have taken an exclusive Alternative Medicine role; sometimes for years, in order to treat their cancer. As a result,we see some horrendous cases of physical tissue destruction; where self-help and self empowerment in combination with the internet, books or workshops including the thought that meditation alone can cure their cancer; has led to self destruction.
By that stage often afraid to visit a doctor/oncologist, these patients often fall though the gaps in all systems of care and spend their final moments in palliative care, often in pain, isolated from friends or family and wondering where it all went wrong for them. People often ask me if working with cancer patients is sad or depressing – I have always said an emphatic no! However during the past 10 -12 years with the tremendous shift in how patients choose to treat their cancer & information available to them, I have found new feelings arising. Not depresssion – but anger towards those who influence patients down such a self destructive path in the name of healing. Yes – anger is an appropriate action- even for a meditator!
This brings me to the subject of today’s blog which is dedicated to the subject of the role of meditation in cancer recovery. In response to patients questions on my email since the Melbourne Age’s recent article “Too Good to be True“- that challenged the fact that Ian did not have secondary cancer; primary bone cancer yes…but secondary cancer no! I offer the following which will answer the majority of questions.
For several months now I have been trying to convince a woman from the Sunshine Coast to seek a surgical solution for her advancing breast cancer. We have never met, but she maintains contact and occasionally sends a photograph of her suppurating breast: swollen, red, about to fungate and as tight as a basketball; she has had faith for 2 years that meditation in particular, and alternative medicine will cure her. Sadly she has reached a point where she can no longer cope with the pain! As well the cancer has likely spread internally.
Why do some cancer patients make ideological choices that override rationale? Many patients tell us they are inspired by the late Ainslie Meares work with cancer patients and most patients who come to see me believe strongly in Ian Gawler’s story – of how he conquered his cancer using meditation, diet and positive thinking. But patients do not know the necessary details of this now famous story. So they can make wise choices about what meditation or relaxation can achieve in reality; it is important to examine Ian’s case history – first published by Meares in an October 1978 MJA Abstract, 1978 Meares article Although the article launched the idea that intensive meditation could influence the growth of cancer – the information that Meares published was severely flawed. He may not have been aware of this when the article went to print.
- A important timeline had been reversed – an error 19 months in the clinical timeline gave an impression that the patient, Ian Gawler had more disease than he actually had. When he “first saw Meares”- Dcember 1975 – there were no visible tumours as had been reported in the MJA – these “bony lumps” were in fact in line with the date on “famous chest wall photos” photographs published for the first time in the same article and labelled July 7 1977. Meares did not mention that at that stage Ian had advanced TB-likely he did not know or thought it incidental or post chemotherapy immune deficiency as Ian had not formerly had sessions with Meares since February 1976.
- This error – obvious if you do the maths; has never been challenged but has dangerously been a factor in creating the myth that meditation was a pivotal factor in Ian’s Gawler’s cancer being cured. The Meares Abstract title “Regression of osteogenic sarcoma associated with intensive meditation” says it all. This has had a huge influence in promoting unrealistic benefits of meditation. No wonder patients not privy to Ian’s actual story have been misled – believing if Ian can do it then they can do it too!
- Only recently (published in the Australian Doctor), did Ian agree that Meares had indeed been wrong with timelines and that he saw no need to correct it!
- Has anyone thought to ask that if Ian Gawler actually had lethal secondary bone cancer… and it went away…then why didn’t the meditation also influence the TB to disappear?
Even a quote in A Dragon’s Blessing – Ian’s Biography-Page 164 states that when he had his “all clear” – June 1978, when the TB was first discovered; that the TB was visible on x-rays for at least 2 years prior! i.e it was at least visible June 1976 – meaning Ian would have definitely had TB before his chemotherapy which began in October 1976. Now IMJ 2012 Haines and Lowenthal, two oncologists suggest that there was no secondary cancer – just advanced TB creating calcified abscesses mimicking bone cancer. With no biopsy- they are likely right! Many health professionals now have no doubt including prof Alex Herzog from famous integrative oncologist from Germany.
- So…What can meditation do for cancer patients?
Deep relaxation: The most important thing you can do for your self. Can be very helpful especially lying down upon the floor and surrendering your body to gravity, breathing deeply, letting go of muscle tension…….or sitting in a comfy chair works for some. Yoga exercises are excellent for this and it does help with becoming more aware of your body and where tensions lie. It is ESSENTIAL for the majority of would-be meditators to deal with past trauma before beginning meditation. Relaxation is safe and you see and feel benefits quickly.
- Mindfulness meditation can be helpful. I recommend the work of Herbert Benson – “the Relaxation Response”, Jon Kabot-Zin’s “Wherever You Go – There You Are!” and Thich Nhat Hanh – ‘The Miracle of Mindfulness”. These are classics-simple, practical, do-able-no mystique approaches to relaxation.
- Focussing- Being Present: Many meditation techniques can be “mind-games” …while you ask your body to relax – it simply doesn’t listen!! Reduction in unnecessary physical tension caused by chronic stress, is overall, a huge deposit in anyone’s health restoration bank account!
- Other helpful practises: Tai Chi, QiGong. Go fishing, look at a sunset, re-engage with a lost passion and more. Anything that brings you into the moment will help get more out of life rather than trying to use meditation to cure cancer.
But …………Can meditation “cure” cancer? I think not. When combined with physical relaxation – it can however increase life quality.
I often ask patients if they have a bump or skin tag/mole that they would like to get rid of…I then set the task saying…When you can meditate your mole away you might be ready to try and tackle a cancerous growth.Is it important that the true & accurate version of story of Ian Gawler’s recovery be known to cancer patients? Absolutely – their lives depend upon it !Read more: Jack Kornfield has some very good articles on meditation. Click the link below to read some insights about trauma, old wounds and meditation. Highly recommended reading!
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