Creating Your Future
What I have learned is that when you follow your heart magic happens. Years ago when I was struggling with the pain of being a physician and surgeon, due to all the things I wasn’t trained to deal with, Dr. Carl Simonton came to Connecticut to present a weekend workshop about his work with cancer patients. I thought his non- medical techniques would empower me and give me more tools with which I could help my patients.I became a doctor for what I call healthy reasons. I liked people, fixing things, painting and the mystery of science and life. So being a surgeon incorporated the use of my hands and all the other elements. However, once I started to practice I realized I wasn’t trained to deal with all the things I couldn’t fix or cure and I wasn’t prepared to help my patients either. It was an emotional and painful time for me. If you became a doctor for unhealthy reasons, like the human body fascinated you, what did you do when people showed up in the body? I ended up shaving my head when what I needed to uncover was my spirituality, as monks do, and not just skin. I was a wounded soul.
Simonton’s workshop and book, Getting Well Again, I felt would help me to provide patients with the things I felt I wasn’t trained to do. I presumed the workshop was for doctors as Simonton was a radiation therapist and MD. When I arrived I found 125 people in attendance. 123 were patients, 2 were psychologists and I was the only doctor present. It blew my mind that not one oncologist from the state of Connecticut was there.
Little did I realize how my life would be changed by attending and how the conference would alter my life. As Jung said, “The future is unconsciously prepared long in advance and, therefore, can be guessed by clairvoyants.” First, my patients sat next to me which led me to put my office desk against the wall so I was no longer separated from the people I was caring for. Then one patient’s life changing words, “You’re a nice guy. I feel better when I’m in the office with you but I can’t take you home with me. So I need to know how to live between office visits.”
Simonton engaged everyone in a guided imagery experience. I thought it was nuts and sat staring at him until he looked at me. Then I shut my eyes to make him think I was doing it. As an artist I am a visual person and the results were amazing. Since then I have learned to believe and accept what I experience even when I cannot explain it. I meet many physicians who say they can’t accept what I am saying because they cannot explain or understand it. Even though they know what I am saying about a patient is true and happened. When a patient does well please don’t tell them to just keep doing what they are doing. Ask them to tell you what they are doing so you can pass the information on to other patients too.
Well the weekend led me to start support groups for my cancer patients and help them to live. I also was shocked by how few patients wanted participate because of their unhealthy emotional issues. No one is against success so many things I was considered nuts for became hospital policy. But when you help people to live it also extends their life span so I would say to you, follow your interests, don’t let others impose a life upon you and explore what healing and curing are about.
In closing what impressed me also was on the Monday after the conference one of my partners, Dr. Richard Selzer, said to me, “You are gone.” When I asked him what he was talking about he said I was a totally different person and would be leaving surgery. He was right as I began a new path. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Karl Menninger and others became my teachers because they had experienced what I was struggling with. Ten years later I did retire to spread the word as resistance to my work lessened.
I write this to share with you that you are creating your future. So choose to follow your heart and caring for people’s experiences, not just treating diseases. The early years of AHMA helped rescue me and many others as we shared our differences with traditional medicine but also learned about their value. I learned to do what I believed in and not preach to the non-believers. What changed them was seeing that what I did was of benefit to patients and doctors as well.
It is hard for me to stop telling stories but I will close with this. When I wrote articles about my work and sent them to medical journals they came back with a note saying, “Your article is interesting but not appropriate for our journal.” So I sent them to psychology journals and again they came back with a note saying, “Your article is appropriate but it is not interesting.” So expand your horizons and open your minds and let us help to truly integrate medicine so we are not limited by beliefs.