Lan (not real name) came to see us on 14 November 2011. She had leukemia and had undergone one cycle of chemotherapy without success. Her doctors wanted her to undergo more chemos with more potent drugs. She declined. Listen to her conversation that day.
After having heard her story, I could not help but remember what Dr. Remen wrote in her book, Kitchen Table Wisdom.
“I have always assumed that a hospital was a healing environment. The first twenty years of my work with sick people was in hospitals, and by the time my training was completed I had worked in hospitals all over the United States.
All hospitals look, feel, and even smell the same. Once you are inside a hospital you cannot tell whether you are in Maine or in Mississippi.
I had always thought that this was an example of high standards and quality control. I now know that it is the reflection of the lack of connection between most hospital environments and the natural world around them.
This sort of disconnection from the natural world weakens everyone.
In 1988, during my last surgery, every plant that anyone brought to me in the hospital died. Day by day I would watch these plants dying all around me and worry: If plants could not seem to make it here, was this a good place for me to be?
One of the most common things people with cancer tell me is that experiences of hospitalization and treatment are profoundly isolating. I suspect that this sense of aloneness may even undermine the will to live.”
Dr Rachel Naomi Remen is one of the earliest pioneers of the mind/body medicine and was one of the first to develop a psychological approach to people with life-threatening illnesses and educate their physicians about their needs. She is cofounder and medical director of the Commonweal Cancer Help Program and is a Clinical Professor of the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine.
The title of her book does not sound “scientific” at all but for sure its content is not intended for house wives who mind the kitchen! Her book is for medical doctors and alternative healers – they should read it. Listen to her wisdom and her perceptions of what a holistic, honest and compassionate medicine is all about.
As a closing remark, let me quote what some doctors say about hospitals.
- Hospitals can be dangerous places – protect yourself at all times ~ Edward Creagan, Mayo Clinic cancer specialist (in: How NOT to be my patient).
- (Our) perception of a hospital is that it’s a safe place … we are surrendering ourselves to the loving care of substitute mommies in an all-protective environment where we will be treated for a disease and make well again. The reality is that, hospital-related errors in treatment kill an estimated 180,000 Americans each year and injure hundreds of thousands more ~ Sheldon Blau, professor of medicine, SUNY Stony Brook (in: How to get out of the hospital alive).
- Robert Medelsohn, chairman of Medical Licensure Committee, State of Illinois, USA; associate professor at University of Illinois Medical School and director, Michael Reese Hospital, Chicago. This was what he said: