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Selections from Peace, Love and Healing by Bernie Siegel, Copyright © 1989 by Bernie Siegel. Reprinted with permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.  HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"What you have to understand is that there is a biology of the individual as well as a biology of the disease, each affecting the other."

Bernie Siegel, Peace, Love and Healing, Part Two

Two weeks later he was back in my office, complaining that his stomach was upset, and I thought, "Aha, itís the cancer again." It turned out to be a virus, which I treated symptomatically, and he left my office.

In March of 1987 I arrived at my office and saw Johnís name in the chart rack. "you must have the wrong chart," I said to the nurse. "No, thatís the right chart," she said. "Then there must be two people with the same name." "No, no," she insisted, "heís sitting in there." Then I showed her his pathology report to explain why I assumed she made a mistake. If you think pathology reports predict the future for an individual, it wouldnít seem possible that I could be seeing John four years after his operation. But thatís who I saw when I walked into my examining room.

I again feared that his visit would be related to cancer. Before I could ask him anything, the first words out of his mouth were, "Donít forget, this is only my second postoperative visit." I think he wanted to make sure the insurance would cover it. "But why are you here?" I asked. "I have a question," he said. "Iíd like to know what you can eat after a stomach operation." "Four years after, anything! But tell me, why are you here?" "I have a hernia from lifting boulders in my landscape business." Since he refused to be admitted to the hospital, I repaired it under local anesthesia on an outpatient basis, and he was off and running again. If he rested at all Iíd be surprised, even though he promised to have two young men do his normal work for the first few weeks after surgery.

John is one of those exceptional patients who seem to most clinicians to defy understanding. But I have learned that all of these exceptional patients have stories to tell and lessons to teach. Itís not just a matter of being lucky or having "well-behaved" diseases (slow-growing tumors, "spontaneous" remissions and so forth). What you have to understand is that there is a biology of the individual as well as a biology of the disease, each affecting the other. On the day of diagnosis we donít know either well enough to use a pathology report to predict the future.

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