Excess, Deficiency and Cancer

Let’s be honest: For the past week, I’ve been asking everyone I cross paths with to go out and buy my book. BUT WHEN I HAVEN’T BEEN DOING THAT, I’ve been thinking about what Chinese Medicine has to offer.

When a client comes in to see an acupuncturist or Doctor of Oriental Medicine, one of the first assessments that we make is a very simple one — excess or deficient? In other words, is the patient sick because they’re lacking something or is it because they have too much of something? It sounds simple, but making this distinction can be profoundly beneficial. It can even save a life.

For a patient with cancer, this rubric determines the course of treatment. If someone is excess, you would, in the archaic language of Traditional Chinese Medicine, begin “clearing fire toxins.” (How that is done is too big a topic for today’s post.)  However, if someone is deficient, you would attempt to subdue the pathological process while you “tonify.” Only once the patient regains their strength would you try to clear  those fire toxins.

Even if you’re not interested in medicine, you’ve probably heard of people with cancer dying because of the treatment. Chemotherapy is so toxic that it could kill you, not just shrink your tumor. Who is more likely to experience this outcome? I’m obviously going out on a limb here to suggest that it might be people with deficiencies. There is currently no way of measuring excess or deficiency within the western paradigm — and certainly no double-blind studies about outcomes for excess or deficient patients. (The whole idea deserves a LOL, no?) But it’s common sense, people. Patients without a lot of strength (qi in TCM terms) are going to be less able to withstand treatments that require a lot of strength.

Here’s a story that illustrates the benefit of making this distinction. A colleague of mine, a well-respected acupuncturist working out of Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles, had a client with stomach cancer who sought her opinion before beginning chemotherapy. My colleague assessed her as being deficient and advised her to regain her strength (with acupuncture and herbs) before beginning treatment. Once my colleague determined that her patient was strong enough, via pulse, tongue and other forms of diagnosis, she sent her off to the Western doctor. But then a funny thing happened. The oncologist could no longer find any trace of cancer. What had been a four-inch tumor had vanished.

That’s not to say that acupuncturists achieve miraculous results with every patient, but it should suggest that outcomes for patients might be improved if the western world borrowed this basic parameter from the East.


Recommendation for Star Sister

Dear friends and colleagues,

I want to highly recommend the new book “Star Sister: How I Changed My Name, Grew Wings and Learned To Trust Intuition” by Stella Osorojos. It is really deeply inspiring, it’s a spiritual path, an awakening journey describing all the unexpected and surprising paths that “awaking” takes, the ups and downs, the fear, sometimes even the terror , the bliss and most of all the humility of staying open to the unknown.

It is a personal journey that explores how some awakening processes lead us to reconsider what mental health is, and how ancient traditions, whether it be Chinese, shamanic, Christian mysticism, or even extraterrestrial (believe it or not!), help us make sense and bring light in a realm where our western rational perception would just put negative labels.

It’s also a couple journey that embodies what I often say to couples: when you get to a place which is quiet enough and safe enough, there, in that space between two souls, the best decision for the relationship can emerge. Sometimes growing up means staying together and sometimes it’s moving apart, but doing it from a loving place, honoring and blessing each other for the learnings and the shared journey.

Sometimes real love takes the form of letting go and letting be. Allowing the other to be himself, freeing him from our expectations, and trusting him for the upcoming path. That’s unconditional love… It’s not about staying together at all costs but about learning the teachings of life, and of course it’s not just running away at the first conflict (otherwise I wouldn’t be an Imago couple therapist!). And that is also true about real love towards oneself, by staying open to everything and attached to nothing, letting go of trapping expectations about oneself and trusting our inner wisdom, or as Stella may say, our intuition.

It’s also a great inspiration for couples who are stuck in the impasse of having a child or not wanting to have one and how this struggle to make a decision may be excruciating for both because it touches a core value / dream. It’s a moving testimony of what this issue brings up in a relationship and she gives a wonderful example of getting out of the “blame it on the other” mode to move towards honoring the sovereignty of each one and staying connected nevertheless.

And finally it reminds us of our interconnectedness as humans beings with other humans, with the planet and the cosmos and how 2012 may not be the end of the world as the Mayas predicted it, but the end of one way of being in the world, moving away from an attitude of getting and consuming to one of embracing and giving more love and consciousness.

Last but not least, the wonderful woman that wrote this inspiring book is my cousin, Stella Osorojos, and I am deeply proud of witnessing and promoting her work…




Here she comes…!

Only six more days until Star Sister will be released on March 20th. In anticipation of that date, North Atlantic has put together a compilation of spiritual awakening memoirs. You can find it here.

It’s been a year and a half since I wrote that memoir and much has happened in my life since then. Nearly everyday I wake up thinking that I might fill you all in on what some of the changes have been, but I simply haven’t had the time—nor the emotional fortitude. My fortieth year was about as tumultuous as a year could be. And the stardust hasn’t settled yet!

Is that a sequel I hear? Maybe. But before that I will get back to blogging, I promise. Until then, enjoy the memoir! And do let me know what you think about it. I’ll do my best to respond to every email.