Editorial Reviews of The Journey Through Cancer
Tuesday, July 4, 2000
By Laurie Tarkan
A Doctor Redefines Traditional Cancer Care
The Journey Through Cancer
Jeremy R. Geffen, MD
Crown Publishers, 2000
With thousands of cancer patients seeking alternative and complementary medicine, The Journey Through Cancer seems a timely addition to the medical bookshelf.
Dr. Jeremy Geffen, a board-certified oncologist and a self-described student of Buddhism and Ayurvedic and Tibetan medicine, lauds the benefits of complementary practices in treating the person as a whole. But he does not advocate swallowing these notions and potions instead of proven treatments. The book may actually have the effect of bringing those who have put all their hope into alternative practices back into the traditional fold.
At his Geffen Cancer Center in Florida, Dr. Geffen and his staff try to address the emotional and spiritual needs of his patients and provide traditional care. These efforts will sound refreshing for cancer patients, many of whom feel they are simply cases being run through a treatment mill. When Dr. Geffen asks a woman with advanced breast cancer how she and her husband were handling things, she answers, "No one has ever asked us how we're feeling."
Though Dr. Geffen's writing is more earnest than urbane, his points are important for patients and their families. The book covers the seven-level program his patients follow while receiving treatment. After Dr. Geffen explains the basics of cancer and traditional treatments, establishing himself as an oncologist first, he moves into less conventional terrain.
In Level 3, for instance, called "The Body as Garden," he emphasizes nurturing the body with a healthy diet, lifestyle and thoughts. The garden metaphor is a distinct departure from viewing the body as a battleground, the unofficial metaphor for cancer survivors.
He goes on to discuss how cancer patients tend to run around in a frenzy trying to treat the disease, never stopping to address their emotions. Dr. Geffen uses scattered studies to support his belief that ignoring emotions may affect one's survival, though admitting that it is not proven.
In the "Life Assessment" phase, he moves to the spiritual, asking questions like "Why do you want to live?" and "What is the real meaning and purpose of life?" Since many patients say that having cancer helped them see what was important in life, this chapter may help guide those who are ready to consider such philosophical questions.