Do you try to actively participate in your own healing, and do you believe that you have the capacity to alter your own body’s physical destiny? If so, you may be what Dr. Bernie Siegel calls an “exceptional” patient.

Bernie Siegel, M.D., author of Love, Medicine & Miracles, a renowned surgeon (and one of my greatest heroes!), spent the bulk of his career developing & facilitating a loving, safe, therapeutic approach to personal empowerment in healing. He founded Exceptional Cancer Patients (ECaP) in 1978, with a mission to make everyone aware of his or her own healing potential.

In spite of the legions of critics he faced along the way, Dr. Siegel worked diligently to help patients and doctors understand the capacity that we all have for participating in our own healing. He knew deep-down that he was on to something, because he’d witnessed it hundreds of times in his practice.

Once he made the decision to pay attention to patients as human beings rather than as machines to be “fixed”, his eyes opened to a whole new world. Dr. Siegel noticed, over the course of many years, that when offered the choice between an operation and a change in lifestyle, about 8 out of 10 people would choose to have the operation, because they felt it would be less disruptive. Many patients were fearful or otherwise resistant to altering their way of life, even if it would potentially mean better health, a higher quality of life, or living longer.

{I’d like to point out here that this is not about blame or shame. Guilt is not a productive way of leading one to healing. Rather, recognizing one’s power in contributing to healing can be motivating and very empowering. In my own case, I am forever grateful to my (long) list of illnesses, because I have been able to use them as guides and teachers, showing me that there is a better, happier, and more satisfying way to live.}

At the opposite end of the spectrum from those who were very resistant to change were the patients he called “exceptional,” because they were driven by an exceptional life force and were determined to become empowered throughout their healing process. Steadfast as they were, he noticed that these patients were very loving and caring toward others as well as themselves. They were assertive when necessary, and diligently remained resourceful and open-minded.

These patients demonstrated the assertion that our minds, and particularly our attitudes toward life, directly shape our lives’ quantity and quality. This is often called the mind-body connection. It has been widely studied in the case of stress having a direct effect on our physical health. Of all the controversial topics in healing and medicine, I believe you would be hard-pressed to find someone who disagrees with the assertion that “stress is bad for your health,” or “stress is hard on your body.”

Yet, conventional medicine still has a long way to go in acknowledging & addressing the integral connection between our minds and our bodies. We still teach doctors to treat symptoms & systems (apart from the whole), and to focus on what’s going wrong with people rather than on what is (or could be) going right.

Things like “spontaneous” remission or other incidences when seemingly miraculous healing occur are often rationalized away or simply ignored.

Dr. Siegel reminds us that “one generation’s miracle may be another’s scientific fact,” and he adds, “Do not close your eyes to acts or events that are not always measurable.”

For example, with the emerging science of epigenetics, we are learning that even our genes do not play nearly as big a part in our “health destiny” as we may have thought only a few years ago.

So, when you think of your own health and happiness, how empowered do you feel? How empowered would you like to become? How strongly do you feel that you’d like to be in partnership with your doctors and other members of your healing team?  How exceptional are you?

If you’d like to learn more, or to find out how to become as empowered as you would like to be, contact me and I’ll help you get started.