Years before the first of my two breast cancer diagnoses, I shared live harp music in chemotherapy infusion units, spoke to support groups about the healing power of music, and developed a clinical trial exploring the effects of specific music on patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer.
During this time, even though I enjoyed helping those with cancer, I did not fully understand the depth of their journey. Often, I found myself judging them as I secretly thought, “How can they sit there and let them pump that poison into their body?”
Those judgments and assumptions came glaring down on me when I was the one making those decisions. Immediately after my diagnosis, I called one of the doctors who helped develop our research and asked if she would be my oncologist. This journal entry describes our first appointment:
We met with Dr. ____ yesterday for over an hour. She was very willing and open to hear my perspective about why I felt my body manifested these cells…I also told her how much I respected her medical expertise and that I was willing and open to her suggestions for treatment. My only desire was to find a balanced way to walk this journey. She spent a lot of time describing the different ways breast cancer is categorized and that each is treated with a different protocol…Even though my CAT scan was clear, there’s a high probability there are still cancer cells somewhere in my body and the reason for chemotherapy is to treat the whole body. So, I have chosen to do chemotherapy.
Naturally, this choice surprised me based upon my previous beliefs. I credit the willingness of my oncologist to respect my perspectives and take time to listen, even if she did not agree with me. Feeling her respect gave me the confidence to listen and take in her medical advice. I never felt forced or pushed into a decision because of this mutual respect.
Another honest interaction demonstrating this mutual respect:
When I told her I was still having periods, she said, ‘Amy, we really don’t want that to happen because of the estrogen levels. You must have ovaries of steel.’ I smiled and said, ‘Yes we do because it’s my body’s way of saying I’m in balance.’ Then I acknowledged that the last period was a little different (longer) and I was feeling lots of heat, which I interpreted as my organs releasing toxins. She smiled, ‘No, dear, those are hot flashes.’ It’s funny how an experience can have so many interpretations based upon our beliefs. Then I said, ‘All the women in the research studies weren’t going to acupuncture three times a week and drinking Chinese herbal teas to balance their bodies.’ ‘Fair enough’ she said. I love sharing these insights and interpretations with my doctor!
…This somewhat concerned her and she asked if any of the herbs had estrogen in them. She ordered a test to check my estrogen levels just to make sure there wasn’t any interference happening between the herbs and the chemo…If the herbs don’t have estrogen and my body’s not producing it, then this is a step closer for me not to have to take hormone pills at the end of radiation. Dr. ___ knows I don’t want to take the pills so she also wants me to get as lean as possible — like a well-trained athlete with very low body fat. I said, ‘Oh, you mean like a yoga Goddess.’ She smiled. It’s so fun that we both recognize and respect each other’s paradigms. I just love her!
As a patient, if I did not feel comfortable honestly sharing my perspectives about what was happening in my body, I would be walking a journey based on fear and distrust, which is not conducive to healing. As a physician, if you only see the patient as someone with a specific diagnosis you need to treat, you miss the opportunity to fully support them as a whole person. Their disease is only part of the wholeness of who they are.
From my experience, when both parties trust, respect, and engage with each other through honest communication, judgments and assumptions dissolve and we discover new opportunities for healing.
Amy Camie CCM is a professional and therapeutic harpist, certified clinical musician, speaker, recording artist, composer, author, 2-time breast cancer thriver and co-initiator of the ORIGIN Methodology of Self-Discovery. As a pioneer in the field of harp therapy, Amy has co-authored several studies exploring how her solo harp music increases brainwave function, supports the immune system and reduces pain, distress and anxiety levels. Amy’s music is used throughout the country in hospitals, cancer centers and hospices as well as for general relaxation and stress reduction.
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