I was working at the Owning Pink Center, the integrative medicine practice I founded in Mill Valley, California, when I met Sandrine, who had been diagnosed with endometrial cancer, an often-curable type of cancer of the lining of the uterus. Her doctors moved quickly to get her scheduled for a hysterectomy, which is standard treatment for someone with endometrial cancer. But Sandrine didn’t want treatment. It’s not that she had a death wish. In fact, she had never been happier in her life, and she was doing everything within her power to cure her cancer, including radically changing her diet, meditating, and engaging in guided visualization. Cancer, she said, was the best thing that ever happened to her.
But her decision to opt out of treatment didn’t go over well with her doctor, who promptly dismissed her and insisted she find a more “open-minded” doctor who would be willing to support her self-healing journey, which is how Sandrine wound up in my office.
She had read some articles I had written in magazines and on the internet and felt intuitively-guided to me as the doctor who could help her navigate her self-healing journey.
Conventional Medicine For Cancer Vs. Self-Healing
I felt torn. On one hand, I totally believe we hold within us the power to heal ourselves. On the other, I believed that her cancer would likely be easily cured with surgery and worried about facilitating any delay in treatment that might cause her cancer to spread. I also worried, in this medical-legal climate, that her family might blame me if she died as a result of declining treatment after I supported her autonomy.
So I straddled the fence. I told her I believe conventional medicine has much to offer and that cutting out her cancer could hasten the process while she activated the self-healing mechanisms she would need to make sure the cancer disappeared for good. For medical-legal reasons, I made it very clear that my advice would be to proceed with the surgery while also engaging in self-healing behaviors that would facilitate a full recovery. I recommended a surgeon friend and told her I would even come to the visit with her if it would make her more likely to seek treatment.
She Believed She Could Heal Herself
But Sandrine was adamant about refusing treatment. So I agreed to support her, offer her tools, and monitor her progress with endometrial biopsies so she could follow whether her self-healing methods were reversing the disease.
At least once a week, I received an email from Sandrine, chronicling her mystical self-healing journey, ripe with intuitive dreams and signs from the Universe that she was on the right path. She fully, 100 percent believed full recovery would ensue. She tingled with excitement.
But each time I read her emails, I felt a pang in my chest. The skeptic in me was kicking and screaming “Stop the madness! Make this delusional woman get a hysterectomy! Save her life, doctor! Remember, first, do no harm.”
But another part of me thought, “Who am I to say she can’t cure her own cancer?”
For a few weeks, I hedged my bets, responding to her emails with support and affirmations of belief.