This is a brief article about the benefits of applying an integrated approach to cancer with qigong practice.
The information is taken from an article I had published in Qi Journal called: Conventional Medicine and Qigong: An Integrated Approach to Cancer.
I worked a few years at St Joseph’s Hospice, one of the largest and oldest hospices in the country as Lead Acupuncturist.
During this time I saw many patients with terminal cancer. When I started, there was very limited training in treating patients with cancer. There are almost no books on this topic. Certainly not practical stuff. I had to study and develop my own approaches to treating patients with cancer and undergoing chemotherapy.
Cancer and Acupuncture
I have written up a few articles so far in treating cases of cancer with acupuncture, So do have a look at my acupuncture and cancer articles section for more information. I will be writing more articles like this, but these kinds of articles do take time so my progress has been slow.
My friend Gwen in America is also working in this field and may be able to provide information if you are looking for more information on training in this field in the US.
Qigong and conventional treatment for cancer
This article is primarily about Qigong and cancer. When I worked in hospice care, we had one Tai chi teacher who taught a weekly tai chi class. His name was Awais (aka ‘Waz’) and he is a really great teacher.
When I passed by his class, I would often see the same members regularly attending his class. It meant a lot to them to be a part of that group. His group was made up of patients and carers. Some of the carers continued to return to his class long after their respected family member had passed away. It helped to keep them healthy and provided a great opportunity to be a part of something. It meant that they were not alone.
Awais showed me that there is a lot of value in the ancient traditional arts of qigong and tai chi in this setting.
Cancer isn’t going away, so we need to develop new strategies: The Integrated approach
Despite the West’s ‘War on Cancer’ for the last few decades, cancer rates have remained stubbornly high.
Our best approach is the drug, slash, burn, radiate approach using chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation or surgery. It is an approach which can be just as tough to deal with as the illness itself. So there is a need for other ways to help strengthen the immune system and to help people deal emotionally, physically and spiritually with the effects of this disease and the treatment.
This is where complementary therapies comes in useful. Especially practices like qigong which can be taught to patients and which they can easily practice at home whenever it suits them.
Cancer and Qigong: an Integrated approach
The traditional Chinese exercise system known as Qigong can be a useful adjunct as an integrative approach alongside conventional medicine in the treatment of cancer.
In my article, I looked at three case study examples of Qigong practitioners who survived cancer by combining regular qigong practice with either radiotherapy, chemotherapy or surgery.
The article also contained a discussion on one research article, which studied the effects of a 10 week qigong program on cancer sufferers.
Can qigong heal cancer?
I believe that there are multiple factors that cause cancer. As there are multiple factors, I believe that healing from cancer may require multiple approaches.
Pharmaceutical drugs, surgery and radiotherapy may be necessary when the disease is advanced. But there are other steps we can take ourselves to help our body deal with the side effects from these interventions as well as naturally build our immune system.
To support this thesis, I looked at three survivors of cancer who used regular qigong practice to help them recover whilst undergoing conventional treatment.
Healing cancer factors
Some cancers have a good survival rate, such as breast cancer. Other cancers have a poor survival rate like prostate cancer. More worrying is the increase in childhood cancers.
Some people may have the same type of cancer and undergo the same treatment. However, some people will survive and some won’t.
So those people who survive – what is the X factor that enabled them to do so? In my three case studies, I identify some factors.
One is mindset. These three people were determined to survive. Also they were prepared to make lifestyle and dietary changes in order to do so. Additionally, they all passionately threw themselves into qigong practice. This practice gave them hope which is important. The mind is important.
Another factor is the beneficial effects on the body that qigong brings. Qigong is a gentle type of exercise which helps stimulate the immune system. It also gently strengthens the body.
Integrative approach to healing cancer
There is no point in an antagonistic approach between western medicine and eastern or complementary medicine. We have to accept that the majority of people when diagnosed with cancer will undertake standard conventional medicine. With this, the most positive thing a complementary health practitioner can do is to support a person’s decision and work with the patient to help them boost their immune system and recover from the treatments. Teaching a patient simple qigong exercises is one such approach.
A regular qigong practice can help a patient during the three stages of treatment:
- Before conventional treatment begins – to help mentally.
- During conventional treatment and between cycles to help with side effects and stress
- After, when the body is recovering its energy and the immune system is weak.
Examples of Qigong practitioners who applied the integrative approach – conventional medicine, qigong and cancer.
In my longer article, I included case studies on three qigong practitioners who healed from cancer using the integrated approach. Their life stories are are really fascinating. In brief these three people are:
A Chinese professor who led a difficult life in wartime China and during the Communist takeover. In her middle age she was suddenly diagnosed with breast cancer. She had surgery and radiotherapy. At the same time, she discovered qigong and threw herself passionately into it. She met several qigong masters during the boom time of qigong in China. She survived her cancer and went on to teach qigong in America.
Geoff Pike was a Naturalised Australian citizen who was born in England. In his long lifetime he had a wide variety of experiences. I have already written an article about the Qigong master Geoff Pike here.
Whilst working as a successful advertising executive in South East Asia, he became increasingly uncomfortable with the awareness that he had neglected his health. He started learning qigong from an asian master. Unfortunately soon after, he discovered that the years of living the good life of excess – alcohol, rich foods and heavy smoking had caught up with him. He was diagnosed with throat cancer.
He threw himself passionately into his qigong practice whilst undergoing radiotherapy. He recovered from his cancer and shared his knowledge with the world. He made some great instruction videos and he wrote two books on qigong. 30 years later he was still going strong.
Hon Sat is an American who was actually a qigong and meditation teacher. His healthy lifestyle did not stop him from getting B cell lymphoma. Stubbornly he refused western treatment and tried to heal it himself with fasting and qigong alone. However the cancer continued to grow aggressively till he was given an ultimatum by his daughter: Go and see a doctor or she would never speak to him again.
He listened and did a full course of chemotherapy supplemented with regular qigong practice. The qigong enables him to deal with the effects of the chemotherapy and stay positive throughout the treatment. Hon Sat went on to survive his cancer and wrote about his experiences.
A disclaimer is necessary here: Not everyone will survive cancer by practicing qigong. Whether that is with, or without conventional medicine.
Sometimes this disease will run its course despite our best efforts. However by practicing qigong along with the western approach of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery, it can give us an extra resource to dealing with this illness.
As I said, cancer has multiple causative factors. I believe that to deal with cancer, multiple healing approaches can be applied. Qigong can be one of those approaches. What has a person got to lose? Most people that are sick will not have the energy to go to the gym. But qigong exercises can be carried out easily at home and only take 10 to 20 minutes to perform. Some exercises can be carried out in a sitting position.
I also discuss a study, which researched the effects of a 10 week programme on weekly qigong practice for cancer sufferers in a hospital setting.
Qi Journal article
My article in Qi Journal article was published in the Winter 2018 edition. The full article can be bought through their website. (Link here)
I won’t be posting the full article in my website as I gave Qi Journal full rights to it. However, this article can act as a short primer for you to decide if you want to buy it. The full article contains much more details about these three case studies and about the study. It also includes some of my own thoughts of dealing with cancer using an integrated approach.
Qi Journal is an American journal with lots of information on traditional Asian arts and medicine. If you buy a copy, you will be supporting their work. I don’t gain any remuneration if you buy a copy. These are not affiliated links. They also have lots of back issues with a wide range of articles. So if you have an interest in the Traditional Oriental arts, do have a look.
- Acupuncture in Palliative Care
- The path to become an acupuncture master, 10,000 hours and volunteering in a hospice setting
- Acupuncture and Chemotherapy: Contraindications and Guidelines