Holistic Healing For Cancer: 4 Ways To Look At Illness


To achieve holistic healing for cancer, it’s important to do understand how your body works. It helps you open new lines of enquiry into your illness. This can bring fresh insights to support your healing.

Holistic healing for cancer: A full-spectrum approach

Mainstream medicine may propagate a singular view to illnesses and cancer. But the key to holistic healing for cancer is to understand how our bodies function and how illness affects it.

Based on available research, we propose four different views of the body and illness. While each view has its own considerations and implications, no single view is likely to be fully right. The challenge – and opportunity – is to hold all these views simultaneously to achieve overall healing.

1. The Body as a Machine

Here, you view the body purely as a machine, made up of many moving parts that function mechanically and repetitively. Illness is then the malfunction of a particular part. Healing involves either removing, repairing or replacing the faulty part. The physician, the doctor, the oncologist is fully in charge and directs the healing, which the patient receives passively.

2. The Body as a System

Here the body is a system. It consists of many moving parts that are interconnected and interdependent. Hence, illness is a systemic breakdown. Healing involves repairing or replacing the affected part along with addressing other parts of the body that may be impacted as a result. Once again, the physician leads the process with the patient participating to some extent.

3. The Body as an Organism

Through this perspective, we can view the body as an intelligent being, displaying a conscious intent. You know that your body is indeed alive, you know it is intelligent and you sense its intent. Illness is seen as a signal or a message from the body. However, you need to respond to your illness by working with it, as a partner.

Healing at this level therefore involves understanding and constant communication between the patient and his body as well as between the patient and the physician. In this paradigm, the locus of responsibility has clearly shifted. The patient has to participate actively and as an equal in the healing process.

4. The Body as a Symbol

When the body is seen as a symbol, it becomes a physical manifestation of a deeper impulse, a canvas of consciousness through which the soul expresses itself. In this view, illness is seen as the bodily manifestation of a distress, conflict or disharmony that is buried in the psyche.

The patient needs to rediscover the lost aspects of the self, acknowledge and reclaim them and, ultimately, reintegrate them with the self in a healthy manner. By doing so, the patient is able to become ‘whole’ again. Thus, the patient is the prime mover and takes full responsibility for his journey and its outcome. The physician (or therapist/coach) guides, advises and gives feedback. The process is transformative, but requires great courage, self-awareness and compassion.

Achieving holistic healing for cancer: your active participation is crucial

The four views of the body as a mechanism, system, organism and symbol can be placed on a spectrum ranging from the scientific (physical/outward/passive involvement) to the symbolic (psycho-spiritual/inward/active involvement), providing an easy framework for you to understand and address your illness and healing. The next step is to devise your own healing based on this renewed understanding.


  • How do you view your illness? What role would you like to play in your healing – passive or active?
  • What issues do you need to address urgently? Are there any high risk factors that you can spot?
  • Now that you are looking to achieve not just physical but holistic healing for cancer how can you use this framework when you discuss your own treatment options?

Nothing can prepare you for the cancer journey. But advice from someone who have been there, done that can certainly make you better informed. You can watch the Cancer Awakens video series here and read the articles here.



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