The Magic Cure

I’ve read a few articles about the push back against the “magic cure.” You know, the magical one thing you have to do to keep from ever getting sick and, so this implication goes, dying. Eat paleo or vegan or vegetarian or whatever. Put an ice cube on GV 14 (which gets a big old WTF from me and most other acupuncturists). Take tumeric. Drink 7 smoothies an hour after waking up.

I made the last one up. How many got it? How many thought it was real?

Let’s talk about this. I was reading the Cult of Perfect Motherhood, the blog of a woman who is battling metastatic breast cancer. She has people telling her to do these things all the time. And there is the implication, you aren’t getting better because you didn’t do this one thing, whatever that one thing is.

Here’s the truth. No one knows her body better than her. Her doctor comes closest, having medical knowledge and well as a thorough medical knowledge of her body. Yes, he has biases because he went to school. It’s possible he did a lot of study to challenge those biases and may have found reasons to either dismiss the conflicting evidence or decided to incorporate it into his practice. Or maybe not. The thing is, how many of those people rushing up to her on the internet telling her what she needs to do to heal have any real medical knowledge at all?

Here’s the thing. Tumeric, for instance, is a minor herb in the pharmacopia I learned about in acupuncture school. It has certain energetic properties that mean that for some people it might be protective against cancer. There are many people, however, for whom it won’t be protective. And once you have cancer, particularly metastatic cancer, it’s efficacy is lowered. It’s not likely that the only reason someone got cancer was due to a deficiency of tumeric.

We do not live in a vacuum where we can magically keep all illness and death at bay. Illness happens. It happens to vegetarians, alternative care providers, paleo afficianados, and to fitness enthusiasts. It happens to fat people and to skinny people, tall people and short people. It happens to people who live on smoothies and those who live on bone broth. It happens to people who eschew anything but locally grown organic foods. It happens to people who live on fast food.

Health is a balance. I get sick and then I get well is the optimum balance. My immune system fights something off. But sometimes things overwhelm our immune system and we need to go with what works. What works for my body might not work for yours. There are any number of tiny factors that make a decision on what steps to take when fighting for one’s life that the idea that just doing one miracle thing is ridiculous. Someone fighting a life threatening illness has to make a dozen decisions that they may feel ill equipped to handle. But they have to balance out many medical options, traditional and alternative, against their own values, hopes and dreams for quality and quantity of life. There are risks in any decision. The question becomes, which decision can I live with most easily if it’s the wrong decision and I don’t make it?

We hate looking at death and illness. There’s judgment in many of those posts.  It makes those people who are sick, “other”. But illness and death could come to any of us. Fukishima carried radiation across the world, hitting the west coast hard. No one living there escaped that completely. No matter how they ate. They had to breathe and the poison was in the air. We do live in a polluted world. Here’s the good news. Our bodies are adaptable. If we trust them, maybe we’ll be fine. Maybe we won’t, but our knowledge and understanding is far less adaptable than our bodies because our bodies are working even before we can see and measure the problem. They’re amazing that way.

Adapting won’t be surviving for everyone. Success doesn’t always mean life at any cost. That’s a hard one, isn’t it? It’s our fear that we won’t survive that keeps us reading and sharing the stories about the miracle cure, whatever it is.

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Bonnie Koenig has been a licensed acupuncturist since 1999. She is passionate about helping people find real healing and real health. In the process she keeps asking about our attitudes towards sickness and health. Only by being clear on what sickness is, can we ever find health.

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