Twenty-three months ago, I underwent surgery to remove a huge mass from my heart. While the surgeon was able to excise most of it, a portion about the size of an apricot had become interwoven with my heart wall and could not be removed.
After the pathology report on the excised tissue came back, showing a form of malignant cancer called synovial sarcoma, I received radiation and chemotherapy. I was told by my oncologist that even with those treatments, I could expect to live an additional six to 18 months.
Those of you doing a bit of math in your head will realize that I’ve already sent this cancer game into extra innings. I’m very fortunate: My last CT scan showed that the remnant tumor has not grown, and no metastases have developed. And so, at the age of 61, I find myself in the weird and liminal state of having a terminal illness but feeling fine and having no immediate threat to my health.
Since my diagnosis, I have received a lot of unsolicited medical advice. Much of this fell into the category of “mind/body medicine.” In order to fight cancer, I was urged to meditate, breathe, pray or exercise in a certain way. While I appreciate these well-meaning suggestions, whenever I hear them my skepticism kicks in, as befits my job as a biomedical researcher. In fact, when the explanations offered for the efficacy of mind/body medicine employ vague terms like “energy flow” and “resonance,” my baloney detector rings out strong and clear.