Having cancer can be really scary. And then there’s cancer treatment. It can be a rite of passage that asks for resources you didn’t know you had to give. The good news, though, is that cancer can also be a profound, if unasked for, invitation for personal transformation.

How are you supposed to face cancer, this Unwanted Guest, in order to discover the blessings hidden beneath its heavy burden? Yes, a cancer diagnosis can be a doorway to healing with a capital “H”; but it can also be a frightening threshold to cross. I assure you you’re not alone if you’re feeling caught off guard and totally ill-equipped to make this journey. But, I also promise you can make it. You can Heal and become whole again in the process.

When facing the enormity of cancer, it helps to do something kind of radical: Let’s simplify what very often seems incomprehensible, because cancer, in spite of all the tests and treatments, really isn’t that complicated. Come along with me for a few moments, and I’ll explain what I mean. Perhaps it will shine a little light for you amidst the dark forest of cancer…

Good cancer treatment is a lot like good farming, and good cancer doctors are a lot like good farmers.

What? But what do farmers know of treating cancer, you ask?

Good farmers listen, they’re astute students of nature, and they’re masters when it comes to finding simple solutions to complex problems. Imagine, if you will, that your tumor is akin to a weed, and that the rest of you that is not tumor—your body, your mind, and your spirit—is like soil that the weed has taken root in. The tools in conventional oncology’s powerful arsenal—surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation—are a lot like the herbicides that are employed in conventional farming. The principle is the same: Eradicate the weed in order to cultivate the crop you want. While this is a valuable strategy, it’s not complete because if forgets what every wise farmer knows:

Healthy plants begin with healthy soil.

In cancer, we need to do two things: pull the weed and tend the soil, for it’s only in the soil—in the rest of you that’s not cancer—that we will find it’s true causes and be able to address them in order to facilitate your healing.

In practice then, a cancer care program needs to have three essential elements in order to be most effective.

1. A thorough understanding of the tools of conventional oncology, of how they work, and of their potential side effects:

When the practices of conventional oncology are well understood it’s possible to craft an individualized plan that simultaneously enhances the effectiveness of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation while it prevents or minimizes potential side effects.

Your conventional oncology treatments can be supported with the right combination (that’s not overwhelming) of proper nutrition and supplementation, herbs from eclectic Western, Chinese, and ayurvedic traditions, Iscador (a special Anthroposophical preparation of Viscum album, or mistletoe) homeopathy, acupuncture, and hydrotherapy.

2. A paradigm that comprehends “cancer” as a complex disease process that is more than just your tumor:

If you were trapped in a dark room and wanted to lighten it, you could try two things: You could attempt to take away the darkness, or you could find ways to add light. When we work to add light, when we focus on making you healthier and reversing the causes of cancer, then we become like the wise farmer who grows healthy plants through careful attention to the soil.

Some of the ways we can “add light” and make your soil less friendly to cancer include optimizing nutrition, enhancing immune function, reducing inflammation, promoting detoxification, normalizing cellular behaviors underlying the cancer process, and supporting your emotional and spiritual well-being.

3. Recognition of the fact that cancer is a life-altering experience:

If you are the soil and your tumor is a weed, then your inner experience of having cancer is a lot like the weather. Some days are easy and reminiscent of summer mornings. On other days it can feel like you’ve been swept up by a hurricane. The right support helps you to find the still point at the eye of the tempest so you always have a place to come home to when the skies grow dark and seem foreboding.

I help you find that still point by providing ample space for you to bring your whole self, not just your cancer, to our work together. Prayer, meditation, counseling, supportive relationships, bodywork, and acupuncture—these are a few of the ways that people access the fierce grace that resides at the eye of the cancer hurricane. I’ll meet you where you are and support you with practices that feel right to you.

Cancer is tough. But, hope and the indomitable human spirit can transform fear and despair into healing. To learn a little more about what this journey can look like, I encourage you to subscribe to Meaningful Medicine, my monthly eZine. You may also like to download my Cliff Notes Guide to Nutrition and Cancer, which distills a ton of confusing nutritional advice down into a few easy to follow, powerful guidelines.

Are you wondering what it’s like to actually come and see me at the office? It might help to check out my Programs and Services, where I describe the process I go through one-on-one with folks and delineate the therapies I use in a bit more detail. Oh, and please remember, you can always contact me if you have questions about your care; whether or not you’re a patient, I wholeheartedly welcome them.