Respecting choices, offering care

caring hands healingEver since the news broke about Angelina Jolie’s decision to undergo a double mastectomy to reduce her odds of getting breast cancer, the holistic health community has been awash in opinions regarding what she “should have” done instead. In particular, there was some judgment about her decision to have surgery instead of exploring holistic treatments first.

The only thing our community should be offering Ms. Jolie right now is support for her decision, while she recovers from her surgeries and completes the healing process.

As a holistic healing practitioner and teacher, I absolutely do believe in the body’s innate ability for self-healing. I also believe that our genetics are not our destiny.

But I also know from personal experience, and from seeing loved ones and clients live with fairly complex issues, that health and healing are concepts and not absolutes. A person who appears to be symptom-free is not necessarily healthy, while another person living with an illness can also be in a state of healing.

Suspending judgment is the most important thing we can offer when someone is in the process of making a decision about their health. The next most important thing we can offer is caring, supportive space. Finally, if and when they are ready to hear it, we can offer information or suggestions about how they can support their well-being.

When a person receives news about a complex health issue such as cancer, they are dealing with their own emotions, as well as a barrage of tests, treatment plans, and plenty of well-meaning (but not always immediately useful) advice from the medical community, family, friends and their community. It’s an overwhelming, bewildering and scary time.

Angelina Jolie has access to the best medical care and holistic health care that money can buy. We don’t know everything that was involved in her decision-making process, beyond what she graciously shared with us. She was given some choices, and for her own reasons, chose conventional medical care to reduce her immediate odds of developing breast cancer. But Ms. Jolie may also be taking advantage of holistic treatments to assist in her physical recovery and emotional well-being. If so, that’s great.

In my holistic healing practice, I work with clients who have or who are currently undergoing cancer treatment. Everyone’s story and situation is different, as well as the options they chose for maintaining their health and well-being. The reality is, some get better and some don’t. It’s always hard when a client passes away or their cancer resurfaces, but I know that each of my clients made decisions based on what they felt was best for them at the time. If they walked in my door, they felt empowered enough to seek whatever they thought might help.

Sometimes the path leads people to my door, and sometimes it doesn’t. Regardless, the options and support should be there for people to make knowledgeable decisions and feel cared for during a challenging time in their life. It’s not about us; it’s about them.

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