Over the past fifty years I have been present uncounted times at the point of clarity that forms between the moments of living and the moments of dying. Through many activities, including operating a clinic, treating hospice patients, and previously in the military, wilderness rescue, fire service, and other activities while I was refining my path, I learned two things. First, death is merely the opposite of birth; it is an event that often defines the completeness that one personality has achieved during their experience as a human being. Second, neither medicine nor any other action ever “saves” a person’s life. We are all going to die; it is just that sometimes particular actions give someone more time. These realizations contribute to the basic structure of how I approach the treatment of someone dealing with end of life issues.
Western biomedicine tends to focus on the concepts of survival and cure. Survival means that a person lives for a certain length of time after diagnosis or treatment. Cure means that a person has no evidence of the particular disease after treatment. Other words are remission, which means that the disease disappears or is no longer life-threatening, and recurrence, which means that a disease again becomes active. These very useful words describe state and status, but also tend to frame conditions in terms of success or failure. I step outside this framework and view a person’s condition and treatment as a dynamic process.
Process-based treatment addresses what is occurring as a complex disharmony rather than a disease. No attempt is made to directly “cure” anything; treatment aims at assisting the body to find some balance that slows disease progression, and increases physical and emotional comfort. This philosophy often allows a person to have more time. It is then up to the person to use what wisdom their illness gives them, and the unknown amount of time they have, to the greatest value. Sometimes a disease will disappear, or a person may form a stable relationship with what is going on and live much longer than anyone could predict. Someone may also achieve a realization that allows them to move-on rather than hang-on. In any case, I believe my task in situations involving conditions such as cancer, renal disease, COPD, or heart failure is simply to give someone sufficient time. This is very different than trying to preserve life at all costs.
My treatments are generally based upon the use of herbal formulae to build strength and specifically work to reduce the burden placed upon the body by disease. These formulae are compatible with Western treatment, and can often address specific aspects of a condition not well treated otherwise. I also use acupuncture to assist with control of pain, digestive disturbances, reduction of inflammation, and anxiety.