Published in the Jerusalem Post magazine: “What’s the difference between being ‘healed’ and being ‘cured’?”

When I was 25, my father was diagnosed with end-stage colon cancer. His diagnosis pulled the carpet out from under me, and changed the course of my life. He was only 54 at the time, and by 55 he died!

He was given a book by Dr. Bernie Siegel, Love, Medicine and Miracles; in my spare time I devoured this book, hoping to find a way to help my dad. It was a phenomenal read, and I couldn’t believe that a doctor was writing this way. He believes in empowering patients to be active participants in their healing journey.


Siegel says, “It’s not about curing the disease, but healing the life; then the physical benefits come.” This was my burning question, “Was everything up to doctors, or does the patient play a role?” His book delivered a resounding YES, but not from the medical perspective that I was expecting. He spoke about life, relationships, love, nutrition, dreams, intuition, being passionate and authentic, and about feelings! This was revolutionary. He says, “Healing may not be so much about getting better, as about letting go of everything that isn’t you – all of the expectations, all of the beliefs – and becoming who you are.” I was strongly pulled by these ideas about healing that I eventually changed careers to accompany people on their own healing journeys.

The etymology of the words “healing” and “health” are linguistically related to “whole” and “holy” – a “restoration of wholeness, becoming whole.” The word “cure” means “restoration to health – eliminating all evidence of disease.”

Siegel speaks about illness coming to an “address.” The “address” being the patient as he is today, not just the physical body; but mind, body and soul all combined together. When we are able to change the “address,” then the illness is in the wrong place and can leave. We have to look at the WHOLE person to come to a place of healing. Lissa Rankin, M.D., says, “You can cure without healing, and you can heal without curing. In medical school and residency, most of our training focused on curing. Very little attention was focused on healing. You might heal a fracture or heal a gaping surgical wound. But healing a person? Nah.”

It’s important to note that the goal of life is not to live forever. The greatest of human beings have not achieved this, like Moses, Mandela and Gandhi. The goal of life is to fill our years with life and not to just fill our lives with years. From this perspective, it helped me to understand that even although my father was only given 55 years, by the time he died, he had come to a place of his own “healing” and acceptance of the time he was given and what he had been privileged to achieve in that time.

Cures are only effective if healing takes place on a deeper level. This is the partnership between doctors and patients. The role of the patient is to look deeper into his/her life. The symptom or the disease is just a bodily “wake-up call” that something internally (mental, emotional or spiritual) needs to be addressed. I call this “unfinished business.” Everybody has challenges in life. Nobody lives in Disneyland. It doesn’t matter what race, religion, sex or age you are. Life happens to everyone. How we process these challenges has an effect on us. You will know if something is “unfinished” if someone asks you how you are doing about “that” incident, and you reply, “I don’t want to talk about it!” This is unfinished business. Where does it go when we stuff it away hoping to never interact with it again? It has to go somewhere. Just like an onion continues to grow in a dark cupboard, so too, “unfinished business” grows. It came into our lives for a reason, and it wants to be dealt with. So, it may take months or years before it starts to “speak up,” but eventually it does. Our job in this life is to deal with our challenges, and bring them to a place of completion. This brings healing.

THERE IS a beautiful quote by Akshay Dubey: “Healing doesn’t mean the damage never existed. It means the damage no longer controls your life.” If you can take responsibility (which really means our ability to respond) for what is wrong, and what needs to change, then this is helping yourself. Illness is often the jolt people get; an “opportunity” to turn their lives back on track. The good news is, it’s not too late to make life changes. You don’t berate yourself for your past, you now have a loving opportunity to make changes to come to a place of healing. When we change internally, our lives can change externally.

This work is difficult. It connects us to our vulnerabilities. Be kind to yourself along the way. Your body is a source of great wisdom. Your symptoms are like a doorway into yourself. They are the way your body speaks to you. In looking for answers and clues, it’s important to ask yourself, “How am I choosing to grow with this illness/symptom?” instead of blaming yourself and asking, “Why did I choose to have this?”

I have a meditation teacher who told me that taking care of yourself and prioritizing your well-being is actually not being selfish; on the contrary it is being selfFULL! Somewhere along the line, we have learned to be kind and generous to others, but have forgotten to do this for ourselves. Hillel says, “If I am not for myself; who will be for me?” And of course we are taught, “Love your neighbor like you love yourself.” Well, how can you do that truthfully if you do not really love yourself? Loving yourself includes making a space to heal and become whole again. When we are living our lives from this space, then we are able to fully love others as well.

In researching this article, it was clear that people perceive a difference between healing and curing. One caregiver wrote that even if the patient knew that their disease was incurable, they could still find healing on a deeper soul level. Another wrote that healing is not a destination we arrive at, it is more of a state of ongoing mind, body and soul work that constantly needs maintenance in the kindest way.

We need to have a combination of healing and curing. You are the most important healer in your life. You know your body better than anyone knows you. Start trusting this intuition. Dr. Viktor Frankl said, “When we are no longer able to change our circumstances, we are challenged to change ourselves.” This quote has brought me immense empowerment in dealing with my own life struggles. It has also been the springboard with which I work with patients to arrive at their place of “healing.” It is not about controlling the outcome of being cured, it is about coming to an inner place of healing, despite the outcome.

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