Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Dinner at the Cancer Center

Hello, it is late and I should go home, but it is raining out and I am feeling lazy about walking to my car.

Went to dinner tonight with a friend from yoga, at the Cancer Center where she volunteers doing massage on chemo patients.

It was interesting. There is a big rift between the Reiki followers and the massage therapists. It's kind of amusing.

The doctor who runs the place has a big heart, but not much knowledge of science. So he tends to be kind of dismissive of science. So much so, that he's really pushing for alternative, spiritual treatments for cancer.

I agree that there are probably many factors involved in recovery and health, and that modern Western medicine tends to ignore the spiritual, energetic, emotional factors (whatever you want to call them). The attitude of the patient and the doctor do make a difference.

But obviously I wouldn't be writing this if I didn't have some problem with him being dismissive of science.

He was the perfect example of a medical doctor who is too busy with patient care to keep up with the latest developments in research. His idea of the 'latest' thing is the newest drugs approved by the FDA. And I'm working 10, 20 years further up the pipeline than that.

I can see why he thinks science isn't so useful if he's only exposed to outdated models and outdated thinking.

But it kind of annoyed me that he's such a hypocrite: on the one hand, his practice and treatments still rely heavily on the latest drugs, monoclonal antibodies, etc. He must realize where those come from. On the other hand, he talks about how ultimately it's all in the hands of the Divine Creator, so it doesn't really matter what we do.

Doesn't really renew my faith that my research makes much of a difference, when doctors have an attitude like that.

I mean, I kind of see where he's coming from: past a certain point, we have no control. But I hate getting lumped in with reductionists. I hate reductionism.

Well I am tired, or I might go on. You guys seem more interested in talking about some topics than others, so I am always curious to see what gets a response and what doesn't.

Happy hump day!


At 8:46 AM, Blogger Junniper said...

Why is it that the spiritual healing sometimes works? I always found it pretty weird. I mean, do the sick just convince themselves that they can do it? I know I've made colds "go away" by ignoring them, but cancer??

Does your friend do massage for a therapeutic reason or just to relax them? Does it do something for the chemo?

At 11:47 AM, Blogger BotanicalGirl said...

Hey, just found your site from a comment you made on GrrlScientist's page. I wish I would have found it two years ago when I was applying to grad school. Too late, I'm pretty well ensnared in it now.

You're definitely going on my blogroll.

At 12:09 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

In response to Junniper,

There is a lot of evidence- scientific, even!- that your emotional state has an effect on your immune system. I think this probably has to do with stress hormones, among other things.

The massage does a few different things- it's comforting and distracting during chemo, but also for some people, it can physically help if they have lost circulation (say, if lymph nodes have been removed, the lymph tends to pool in the extremities and massage helps with that).

At 12:11 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Oh, BotanicalGirl. I fear we have too much in common. I'm sorry I couldn't help sooner!

I will add you to my list, too.

In the meantime, hang in there-


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