Editorial Reviews of The Journey Through Cancer

Science/Health Section
Tuesday, April 23, 2002
By John Langone

A Frightening Diagnosis and Soothing Reassurance

The Journey Through Cancer
Jeremy R. Geffen, MD
Three Rivers Press
Paperback edition, 2001

A diagnosis of cancer, a disease with more than a hundred different faces, is a frightening event, one that overwhelms the patient with myriad questions: How did I get this? What will happen to me? Does my doctor really know what's going on? Will I be in pain? Am I going to die?

Full of such doubts and worries, the cancer patient understandably finds it difficult to make the best choices about treatment or, as the author points out, to derive maximum benefit from it.

In this reassuring, empathetic book by a medical oncologist with a deep interest in the spiritual and healing traditions of the East, cancer is dealt with through an emphasis on the emotional as well as the physical aspects of healing.

Designed to allay the fears and anxieties that can hamper the healing process, the book focuses on the often ignored fact that the experience of cancer includes much more than the technical aspects of care.

Dr. Geffen, who is the director of a cancer center and research institute in Vero Beach, Fla., offers a seven-level program "for healing and transforming the whole person" that addresses psychosocial support, conventional therapies and their effects on the body, what alternative therapies can and cannot do, and how patients' feelings and beliefs affect their journeys through the illness.

If feelings aren't dealt with, he says, "whether the tumor shrinks or even goes into complete remission, genuine healing will not have occurred."

The author's practical advice on fostering emotional healing includes keeping a daily journal that addresses such questions as what emotions have been experienced in the past 24 hours, how the patients feel at the moment they are writing, what the patients are willing to give up because of the cancer, what "gifts" the cancer can bring to the patients and their families, and what the patients can do to help themselves feel better on a given day.

"By putting your feelings into writing," Dr. Geffen says, "you will begin to make room for new feelings. You may also find out some surprising things about what your deepest emotions really are."


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