In Part 1 of this four-part blog series, I talked about how it’s ludicrous to blame anyone for getting or staying sick. In Part 2, I talked about the importance of healing both the conscious and the subconscious mind (because you can do everything “right” consciously, but if your subconscious is poisoning your brain, it always wins!). In Part 3, I tapped into the spiritual aspects of why some people experience radical spontaneous remissions and others don’t. And in this blog post, I want to dig into something I consider crucial to this conversation—something we don’t discuss much in modern medicine—the difference between healing and curing.
My Father’s Story
After my young physician father was diagnosed with a brain tumor that turned out to be metastatic melanoma, his doctors gave him three months to live. At first, Dad was in total denial. But then, as the weeks passed, Dad was finally accepting his prognosis until one night, he heard a loud voice that awoke him from his sleep in the middle of the night.
The loving voice said, “David, you are healed.”
Sitting in the dark of the night, Dad felt a peace wash over him, and, deep inside, he knew the words were true. He was healed.
He spent the next few weeks skipping around like a teenager in love, relaying the story to anyone who would listen—at the hospital, at his church, on his ham radios, in the line at the grocery store. Dad was convinced he was cancer free, and aside from the fatigue the radiation was causing, Dad had never felt better.
Then came the proof. He finished the whole brain radiation, and it was time for his follow up brain scan. The results were disheartening. Not only had the tumor failed to shrink, it had almost doubled in size.
Dad stopped telling his story and never mentioned how he was healed again.
Less than a month later, I asked my father if he was scared to die, and Dad said, “I’m not scared. I’m joyful.”
His loved ones made pilgrimages to come out and say goodbye during the weeks that followed. Dad told us all how much he loved us. He told us he had no regrets in life, that he had loved and been loved by many, that he had fulfilled his purpose, that he was at peace with God, that he was ready to go.
Soon thereafter, Dad asked his family’s permission to die, and tearfully, we granted it. Dad pronounced that he was about to eat his last meal of spicy chicken wings (from “where the booby ladies are”—a.k.a. Hooters) and ice cream. He then kissed his family goodbye, told us he loved us, and went to bed to go to sleep.
He never woke up again.
We were watching his chest rise and fall when, with no apparent struggle, Dad took his last breath. I was the doctor who pronounced him dead.
My mother threw herself on Dad’s body and cried, “David, I love the way you died.”
My father had left no dream unlived. No love unexpressed. No resentment unforgiven. No lessons left to learn.
My father hadn’t been cured. But the mysterious voice in his bedroom had been right. Dad hadn’t been cured, but he had indeed been healed.
The Difference Between Healing and Curing
That’s when I learned that there’s a difference between healing and curing.
In medical school, residency, and clinical practice, most of the focus lies on curing rather than healing. If you get a simple bladder infection, you take an antibiotic, and BAM! you’re cured. Bye-bye bladder infection. This is how doctors are trained. This is what patients expect.
I spent twelve years of medical education learning how to cure people, but no one once spoke to me about empowering a person to heal, which is more of an emotional and spiritual process than a physical one. Curing can be more of an external process. We can inject you with an antibiotic and help your body cure your infection. But if your disease is an illness like cancer—and the medical establishment makes attempts to cure you without helping you heal what lies at the root of your cancer—your body will most likely fail to thrive. Even if you appear cured at first, you’re more likely to experience a recurrence.
Healing, on the other hand, is oh so different. Nobody talks much about it in the ivory towers of medical training or in the trenches of office practices and hospitals. You might overhear a doctor talking about a healing fracture or a healing wound. But a healing person? Nah. Woo-woo. Hocus pocus horseshit.
If we want to live vital, kick-ass lives, we need to strive for both—healing and curing. Although we tend to use the terms interchangeably, being healed is different than being cured. To be cured means to be free of disease. To be healed literally means “to become whole,” which means to repair inner fractures, restore emotional harmony, and attain peace, which can happen even in the presence of disease.
In fact, I believe you can be wholly healed even in the moment you die, as my father so beautifully demonstrated. This kind of healing is accessible to everyone.
While cure may elude you, healing is always possible.
Healing must accompany any attempts at cure. When you heal your mind, soul, and spirit, the body often follows. In a perfect world, we are both healed and cured. You heal your heart, connect with your spirit, shine your light, alter any biochemical imbalances, and disease disappears.
The Peace of Surrender
But that doesn’t always happen, and it’s not anybody’s fault. Herein lies the surrender that must accompany any healing journey. You can believe you will get well, find the right support to facilitate the healing process, tap into your Inner Pilot Light, diagnose the real reason you’re sick, write your own prescription, balance your Whole Health Cairn, and make your body ripe for miracles.
But in the end, you can’t force yourself to be cured. Even when you do everything “right,” some people will not get better, through no fault of their own. Some will even succumb to their disease.
Learning how to optimize the self-healing process does not guarantee cure. Some people’s destiny is to learn to thrive in the presence of illness. Making efforts to heal yourself doesn’t guarantee immortality. When it’s your time to go, it’s simply your time.
All you can do is set goals but release attachment to outcomes. Trust that everything is happening exactly as it’s supposed to and ride the wave of the uncertainty, never knowing exactly what tomorrow will hold.
Share Your Thoughts
What did this blog series bring up for you? Do you think it’s anyone’s “fault” if they get sick? Tell us your stories and share your wisdom in the comments below.
Still pondering all this,
Lissa Rankin, MD is the creator of the health and wellness communities LissaRankin.com and OwningPink.com, author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself, TEDx speaker, and Health Care Evolutionary. Join her newsletter list for free guidance on healing yourself and check her out on Twitter and Facebook.
BUY DR. LISSA RANKIN’S BOOK BELOW:February 20, 2013