#343 Cancer’s Roots & Leaves

Modern Medicine: Strengths + Weaknesses

In Conquering Cancer 101, we talk about how powerful modern medicine is in dealing with acute illness. For example, the surgery my brother had to remove the cancerous cyst that was blocking his stomach literally saved his life.

So, it’s easy for me to celebrate the astonishing knowledge and skill required for his surgeon to go in and take care of business. I’m also amazed and grateful that the pathologists and oncologists can stain the samples and come back with their informed ideas about what might be going on and offer their best recommendations.

These professionals have literally given their lives to take care of ours. That’s truly amazing. I beam them love and gratitude as I type this.


As I’ve engaged in my brother’s process, it’s been eye-opening for me to see just how narrow his team of traditional MD’s field of expertise is.

I’ll never forget walking into the oncologist’s office and seeing a bowl of candy (!!!) at the check-in counter. (!!!)

My mind remains boggled by the disconnect between the source of the cancer (unquestionably related to overconsumption of sugar, flour and processed foods) and the treatment of that cancer (“Trying to conquer cancer? Nah. Let’s feed it on your way in to get rid of it!”).

I’m reminded of wisdom from the renowned integrative MD Alejandro Junger. In his great book Clean, Dr. Junger tells us: “To kill the symptoms without changing the conditions that caused them is insulting to the body’s intelligence.”

Think about it for a moment.

Again: Modern medicine is AMAZING at dealing with the symptoms of our chronic diseases.


Modern medicine tends to be ATROCIOUS at “changing the conditions that caused” those symptoms.

Dr. Junger tells us to imagine that you have a sick plant. You call a gardener. Imagine that guy coming out, looking at the brown leaves and then cutting them off and calling it a day. Or spraying them with something or maybe even just painting the leaves green and calling it a day.

You’d think that gardener was crazy. Of course, the wise gardener knows that if the leaves are sick that’s a sign that the roots needs some love. They take a systems approach to the whole thing rather than just a symptoms approach — focusing on getting at the root CAUSE of the symptoms.

Today’s +1. Let’s celebrate the genius of modern science when it comes to treating acute issues. AND… Let’s recognize the limitations when it comes to addressing the underlying causes of all our chronic conditions.

P.S. Practically and tactically speaking, if we and our loved ones are faced with a health crisis, we want to follow my friend Pilar Gerasimo’s advice and ask if there’s an integrative MD on staff at our traditional treatment centers. They’ll rarely be assigned without you asking but they tend to hang out in the wings. Find them. Bring them onto the team.

(Unfortunately, the integrative MD that used to be on staff at my brother’s hospital was so underutilized (and expensive) that people didn’t use him so we’re finding the right people on our own!)

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