A Book Review: Love, Medicine, & Miracles by Bernie S. Siegel M.D.

Doctor Bernie shares a lot of life changing, lifesaving information in his book Love, Medicine, & Miracles.  The title is very fitting for the contents you’ll find inside the cover.  The book was first published in 1986.  You might think that the information would be dated, but it isn’t.  Instead it reaffirms my belief that there have been a lot of discoveries that do not become common knowledge.  We often re-discover or learn things over and over until for whatever reason an idea will spread like wildfire and become a part of the group reality or everyday society.  I’ve found a wealth of nutritional and healing information from books that were published decades ago.  This isn’t always the case, but the old saying of don’t judge a book by its cover should be edited to include or by its publishing date.  

Dr. Bernie introduces the concept of Exceptional Patients.  Making up about 20% of the population these people educate themselves upon falling ill.  They become specialists in their own care.  These are the patients that some doctors complain about “googling” their disease, or being “experts” in their own care.  Another 20% of the population welcomes serious illness as a way to escape their problems through death and disease.  I actually believe this number to be higher, but will play along with Dr. Bernie.  The other 60% of people will do exactly what the doctor tells them to do, hoping the doctor will do all the work and that the medicine won’t taste bad.  They’ll do what they are told unless the doctor suggests radical changes in lifestyle – like quitting smoking, changing their diet, starting an exercise program.  These are the people who given a choice would rather be operated on than actively work to get well.  

The book is full of information to help you find the tools you need to heal.  The Greats – doctors and scholars we’ve come to celebrate for their wisdom – have come to the conclusion that healing has more to do with the mind than the body.  Dr. Bernie puts forth another radical idea.  Medicine has been studying its failures when it should be learning from its successes.  We should be paying more attention to exceptional patients, those who get well unexpectedly, instead of staring morosely at those who die in the usual pattern.  

In his book, Dr. Bernie, raises a lot of questions that we rarely ask ourselves.  Like “What does your disease mean to you?”  He expands upon this referring to Plato’s Free Physicians who would ask patients what they thought caused the problem, what threats and losses or gains it represents to them and how they believe it should be treated.  To some this will likely seem pointless, but more and more science supports the belief that much of our illness lies in our lifestyles, thoughts, and beliefs.  The belief that we cannot get well greatly increases the chances that we won’t.  

The book discusses the meanings we give being sick and it requires you to look at yourself honestly.  It can help you to discover the meanings you have given both the disease and the treatments used to heal.  I actually spent one evening doing specific exercises found within the book to help me understand my feelings better. The body heals, not the therapy which is why different therapies work for different people.  This is why it’s important to see how you feel about a given treatment.  Sometimes we hide feelings from ourselves.  We may not realize how much we dread a given treatment, especially if we are trying to be strong for others.   Treatments chosen out of fear are unlikely to be helpful; you need to believe in their power to activate your body’s healing.  This doesn’t mean that you don’t proceed with a treatment that scares you, instead you change the meaning associated with the treatment so it no longer has a negative effect upon your body.  

Dr. Bernie doesn’t recommend that you skip traditional treatment.  While you can heal the body with the mind it takes time and effort.  It’s not something that you can do overnight and the stress of trying to do so can actually have the opposite effect.  I definitely agree with that sentiment, but I also think that you can choose to walk a path that doesn’t contain traditional treatments and have the time needed to heal yourself; however it does take effort.  Regardless of what path you’ve chosen this book will likely provide you with information that will help you traverse it.  

A short review can’t do this book justice.  I have notes upon notes from reading this book.  I finished reading through only to start over again.  That says a lot.  With all the information in the world I don’t tend to reread books, unless they are one of my personal favorites that I read for enjoyment.  This book required that I reread it and I will likely read it again in the future.  It’s become a part of my library.  It’s a book I’ll recommend to anyone currently touched by cancer, whether directly or through a close family member or friend.  

The insight and understanding available in this book came at a time when my confidence was low.  My doctor recommended it to me after our last visit.  He is a colleague of Dr. Bernie’s.   When I finished this book I thought to myself that I would be forever grateful to my doctor for introducing it to me.  It’s another reason why I speak of my doctor as being a healer, which in my world are two different things.  You can be both a doctor and a healer, but many are one or the other.  To guide my healing I require that you be both.  Dr. Bernie definitely falls into the category of both.  

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