The New Language of Medicine: Part I
Cancer and Treatment
When Lisa Duhl was diagnosed with breast
cancer in 1982, it seemed she had two treatment options. She could have a
masectomy and undergo chemotherapy, or she could give alternative medicine a
Instead, the then 36-year-old Berkeley resident decided on a
course of treatment that was quite unusual for the day: She decided to do
And now, seventeen years later, she's still free of cancer
and hasn't had a recurrence.
Today, many people are finding that a combination of
conventional and alternative therapies is the best bet for fighting diseases
such as cancer, heart disease and other serious medical conditions. It's a new
brand of medicine: Integrative medicine.
Ahead of Her Time
At the time that Duhl learned of her cancer, advocates of
conventional and alternative medicine were at odds with each other, leading
many people to believe they had to choose between the two kinds of
Duhl didn't see the situation that way. Her life was on the
line, and she was willing to try any and every approach to stay alive. She
decided to combine elements of both conventional and alternative medicine into
a treatment plan that best addressed her physical, mental and emotional
"I felt a lot of pressure... to use alternatives instead
of conventional medicine," recalls Duhl, who just completed her doctorate
in psychology. "People said chemotherapy would kill me, and that if I
didn't do alternative medicine, I'd die.
"I told them I had a ten-year-old daughter who wouldn't
forgive me if I didn't do everything I could to save my life."
Duhl's treatment regimen included visualization, the use of
mental imagery to stimulate healing responses in the body. She practiced a
Chinese form of meditation called chi kung and relied on acupuncture to reduce
the nausea caused by chemotherapy. She also worked with a Native American
medicine woman and several spiritual healers.
The Cheering Section
Fortunately, Duhl had the support of her husband, who was no
stranger to integrative medicine. As a professor in the University of
California, Berkeley's School of Public Health, Dr. Len Duhl had always
encouraged his medical students to open their minds to the world of
unconventional health practices and to integrate them into a more complete
approach to healing.
"We depended upon the best and most advanced
chemotherapy protocols available," he said. "We also found that while
conventional medicine was important and excellent, it ignored certain issues
that were important.
"The alternative practitioners supplemented Lisa's
treatment, and as a team they were formidable."
This formidable combination of conventional and alternative
medicine is fast gaining mainstream acceptance. In fact, insurance companies
and HMOs now provide coverage for acupuncture, massage and other treatments
that were considered "unconventional" when Lisa Duhl was diagnosed with