Welcome back to The Pink Medicine blog series, wherein I share with you my vision for a new type of health care model, a model I call “Pink Medicine.” In a recent post, The Difference Between Sick, Well, & Whole, I talked about my father’s death and said that I learned that there is a critical difference between healing and curing. Today I want to expound a bit on that difference.
Key to my Pink Medicine model is the notion that you can heal yourself from illness, trauma, loss – whatever is holding you back from skyrocketing to the stratosphere in all aspects of your life.
But this notion is contingent upon one key bit of semantics.
While I also believe you can cure yourself, one gigantic lesson I learned in the past few years is that healing is not the same as curing. You can cure without healing, and you can heal without curing. In medical school and residency, most of our training focused on curing. Very little attention was focused on healing. You might heal a fracture or heal a gaping surgical wound. But healing a person? Nah. Woo woo, hocus pocus horseshit.
But healing and curing are inherently different. Curing means “eliminating all evidence of disease,” while healing means “becoming whole.”
In 16 years of being a doctor, I’ve learned this key distinction and it has revolutionized the way I practice medicine. A few health conditions are easily cured. A single bladder infection can be treated with an antibiotic, and three days later, it’s cured (though you may now have a raging yeast infection). A leg fracture may be cast, and two months later, the problem is cured. A basal cell carcinoma (skin cancer) can be lopped off, never to return again.
But most health conditions are not so easily cured – things like migraine headaches, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, fibromyalgia, chronic pelvic pain, arthritis, and emphysema. Most health outcomes are much more successfully treated if they are healed from the core.
For example, you can give someone with high blood pressure three pills that barely control their hypertension, but until they learn to manage the high stress of their job in healthy ways (or quit their job), you’re unlikely to “cure” their high blood pressure. The pills are merely a Band-aid.
If someone has ovarian cancer, you can cut out the cancer and treat any remaining cells with chemotherapy. But you can only “cure” cancer if the underlying physical/ emotional/ nutritional/ life imbalances are healed. Otherwise, the cancer just comes back.
In the case of chronic illness or emotional disease, “cure” is only lasting when healing happens on a deeper level.
Once I knew in my heart that there is a difference between healing and curing, I had this “A-HA!” moment that led me to realize that everything I had been taught in medical school was suspect and needed to be reevaluated. I spent 12 years of medical education learning how to cure people, but no one once spoke to me about healing. The past five years have been about that process for me, and I will share part of what I have concluded with you in this blog post series.
What if those of us in need of healing – and those of us committed to helping others overcome illness, trauma, or loss – aim to mix healing and curing? Whoa, Nelly! Now we’re talking, baby. When you marry healing and curing, you pave the way for magic to happen.