Sunday August 5, 2012
10 years of change
ART OF HEALING
By DR AMIR FARID ISAHAK
My journey from conventional to holistic integrative medicine.
THIS month marks the 10th anniversary of this column, which first started as Art of Qi, and later transformed to Art of Healing to allow me to write on a wider scope.
During the last decade, I have also transformed gradually, becoming more committed to promoting natural health-improving methods and natural therapies, and getting more critical of the drug-based conventional medical model (and irked some of my colleagues in the process).
I also got deeply involved in interfaith activities that brought me all over the world.
Lastly, I didn’t imagine the spiritual stuff that awaited me, although I must admit that this is the most intriguing of all my exploits and adventures.
Today, I would like to share with you my journey from being a typical conventional doctor to one who embraces the holistic integrative model.
I have been practising medicine for nearly 35 years, but I regret that I did not practise holistic medicine in the first 15 years of my medical career. Like others, I went through medical school where we were taught the current model of medicine – reductionist (reducing every health problem to a single cause if possible), restrictive (not allowing any consideration of other methods of diagnosis or therapy that are not among the “approved” methods), and recalcitrant (stubbornly adhering to the established paradigms, methods and therapies, although research shows that some of these are not true or don’t work).
What amazes me is that this goes against the very principle that governs science, and therefore, scientific (modern/conventional) medicine — that is, “evidence-based” practice. We are taught that any claim must be proven, and only the proven methods can be practised.
Yet, when the evidence works against some vested interest, then it is selectively ignored.
For example, consider the following findings published in the most respected medical journals about chemotherapy:
·One of the best large-scale studies on the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatments was published in 2004. This important study was published in the journal Clinical Oncology (2004, 16:549-560). The study looked at the number of cancer patients who survived more than five years following diagnosis and treatment. The conclusion: overall, chemotherapy contributes just over 2% to improved survival in cancer patients in Australia and USA.
All three authors of the study are oncologists. Lead author Associate Professor Graeme Morgan is a radiation oncologist at Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney, Australia; Prof Robyn Ward is a medical oncologist at University of New South Wales; and Dr Michael Barton is a radiation oncologist at the Liverpool Health Service, Sydney.
·The September 1993 edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute of NIH (US) reported that a major study, which included just about every type of cancer, showed that chemotherapy provided a “durable response” in just 3% of all cases. Another 4% of patients in the study were found to have a “significantly long survival period”. In other words, only about 7% of all patients who undergo chemotherapy actually benefit from it.
Yet, all patients on chemotherapy — including the 93% who don’t benefit from it — suffer the side effects of hair loss, vomiting, poor appetite, and even death (some succumb to infections due to suppressed immunity).
Consider also reports about companies being fined for deliberately misleading the public by withholding information that could cause the banning of their drugs.
It is my opinion that modern medicine has been hijacked by the drug industry, and many doctors are willing conspirators in this scam. Many of the drugs prescribed for chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension do not aim to cure patients of their diseases, but instead to “control” their problems (eg blood glucose level and blood pressure) as long as they consume the drugs.
They will end up with gradually increasing doses of the drugs as the diseases are bound to worsen in spite of the drugs. The patients become dependant on the drugs until they die.
It is this realization that spurred me to have a re-look at my approach in helping my patients. I did not become a doctor to become a legal, glorified drug-pusher. I wanted to be an honourable healer and help my patients become healthy again, without resorting to drugs if possible.
As a full-time gynaecologist for two decades, I was guilty of prescribing many drugs to many patients, because those drugs were the accepted, recommended therapies for their problems. Often, I had to prescribe oestrogen to these patients, and many gained weight as a side effect.
After many years, these overweight or obese women developed other problems. All I could tell them then was that they had to tolerate the side effects if they wanted to retain their feminity.
I felt guilty. And my suspicions were enhanced when I read a book about natural hormones written by Dr John Lee of the US, who revealed that safer, natural hormones (bio-equivalent or bio-identical to the human hormones) were available for many years, but the drug companies were not interested because these could not be patented, and therefore, there is not much money to be made selling them.
It also means that there is no big money available to do enough research on these natural hormones.
I began using these natural hormones, and my practice and my perception of the medical industry were changed forever.
Although I was happy with the results, when I tried to share it with my colleagues, I was insulted and scorned by the “experts” who proclaimed that because there were no studies done on these natural hormones, they, therefore, could not be effective!
I realised that the medical fraternity is largely brainwashed to adopt, promote and defend the prevailing drug-based model that benefits the drug industry, and anything that threatens this will be severely challenged. Thus, until now doctors are cautioned against using the natural hormones because they are “unproven”.
Two decades ago, two events helped steer me towards adopting a holistic approach, and preferring natural therapies as the first strategy in treating or helping my patients.
The first was my exposure to qigong. My first sifu (master) was a cancer survivor. He had advanced colon cancer, and despite undergoing all the medical treatments (surgery and chemotherapy), the cancer progressed, and he was given six months to live.
He went to Beijing and learned Guolin Qigong. Within one year, he was cancer-free. He then dedicated his life to teaching qigong to others, especially those stricken with cancer.
He is still alive today 30 years after that death sentence. I learned from him, and together with several of his other students, we founded the Guolin Qigong Association Malaysia. I was invited to be the founding president, and served the association for six years.
Over the years, I met many who cured themselves of cancer, even after their doctors had given up hope.
Of course, there were many others who did not fully recover in spite of practising qigong, but even then, most reported some improvements. The least was that their quality of life improved. And all this was achieved without any harmful side effects.
What is important is, if this method has helped hundreds of patients recover even after the best of what modern medicine can offer has failed, we cannot ignore it, for the sake of humanity.
The second was that during the time I was earnestly learning qigong, my brother-in-law, who was staying with me, was undergoing chemotherapy for lymphoma. He refused to learn qigong because he had full trust in the oncologists, and did not believe in any “alternative” therapy.
So there I was, a healthy medical doctor, learning anti-cancer qigong while my brother-in-law, a non-doctor stricken with cancer, refused to learn qigong because he trusted the doctors so much.
His first course of chemotherapy was pronounced successful because all the lumps disappeared and the blood results showed remission.
Six months after that, the lumps reappeared. So the oncologists gave him more powerful chemo drugs. This was again “successful” because the lumps disappeared. But he became so weak. He had a sore throat, and died within one week of completing the second “successful” course of chemo.
I realised that modern medicine is definitely on the wrong track – killing cancer cells with drugs that often kill the patients as well. There have been so many similar stories of patients dying after chemotherapy.
Because I know about qigong and how it can help cancer patients (and those with other diseases as well), I feel that it is my duty to inform the people that there are safer and natural alternatives to what doctors are prescribing.
As a medical specialist, I am well-suited to present this alternative/complementary method. At least, people can trust that I know what I am talking about when it comes to health and diseases.
Although qigong and other complementary therapies are not backed by sufficient studies compared to medical treatments, as long as these methods are safe, they should be made known to patients so that they can choose to use these methods instead of, or in addition to, medical therapy, after weighing the benefits, as well as the side effects.
Over the years, I realized that the best way to help patients is to take a holistic approach (ie look into all aspects of their lives that affect their health), and advise them on the basics of maintaining good health and recovering from disease (healthy lifestyle, diet, supplements, weight control, exercise, etc) before suggesting any treatments.
I prefer natural and nutritional therapies whenever possible. I still use drugs – sometimes as first-line treatment when it is essential to achieve fast results (eg hypertension), so that the natural and nutritional therapies can then be done safely (it usually takes some time for these therapies to take effect); or sometimes as the last resort when everything else fails.
Since many factors affect our health, common sense tells us that we have to look at all these factors to regain our health when we encounter problems.
The aim of any treatment should be curative (remove the disease permanently) whenever possible, and not just suppressive (control the symptoms or “readings” with drugs) as is being done by most medical doctors for most chronic diseases.
I believe that the best way to help patients is to restore their health through the holistic integrative approach — combining the best of modern, natural, traditional and complementary therapies.
Dr Amir Farid Isahak is a medical specialist who practises holistic, aesthetic and anti-ageing medicine. He is a qigong master and founder of SuperQigong. For further information, e-mail email@example.com. The views expressed are those of the writer and readers are advised to always consult expert advice before undertaking any changes to their lifestyles. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.