Come Together, Right Now
by Joseph Carman
It's time for healers of all stripes to stop fighting and start cooperating
So often the phrase alternative medicine is bandied about to describe what some view as the ugly stepsister of mainstream medicine. Even POZ
used to run a column called "Alternative Health," which commented
(although favorably) on many therapies I’ve used in my quest for health
that were anything but alternative; in fact, I frequently considered
them to be primary care.
When I received my HIV diagnosis in 187, Western medicine had very
little to offer me. I refused the AZT then mass-prescribed and instead
turned to a multitude of "alternative" therapies: Massage, acupuncture,
herbs (Eastern and Western), dietary changes, vitamin C, chiropractic
care, bio-feedback, meditation and my own spiritual searching. Many of
my HIV positive friends thought I was crazy, and maybe some of the
treatments were a little nutty. Unfortunately, most of those friends are
Four years ago, my general practitioner gave up his HIV practice
because, he said, he felt frustrated by his inability to save lives. He
kept his patients with asthma an angina, but abandoned the ones with
AIDS, some of whom were extremely ill. I wondered what a person like
this was doing in any healing profession. Life insurance sales probably
would have been a more appropriate calling. Through it all, however, my
acupuncturist, massage therapist and all the other "alternative"
practitioners stood by me, supported me and became my primary
My purpose here is not to bash MDs, because their wisdom and training
are indisputably valuable. But I do think it’s important to realize
what we need to sustain our health and not leave out any possibilities.
Perhaps by using the terms cooperative medicine or complementary medicine,
we could start reducing the polarization between the words of standard
and holistic care. In 1992, the National Institute of Health (NIH) set
up, by congressional mandate, an Office of Alternative Medicine. This
was a big step, and I hope they finally get the bucks they need to do
serious research (so far, they’ve only been given a pittance). I would
also love to see the name changed to the Office of Cooperative Medicine.
On 1993, I took an amazing workshop with Rosalyn Bruyere, a Native
American – trained medicine woman from California and a NIH consultant.
She demonstrated the ancient technique of "running energy" (using one’s
hands to direct a specific frequency of energy into a patient’s body),
on which she had conducted extensive scientific research with Dr.
Valerie Hunt, professor emeritus of physiology at UCLA. I started seeing
a local healer trained by Bruyere and had more stamina after each
But by 1996, my Kaposi’s sarcoma had spread to my lungs, and I
realized I needed to treat it more aggressively. I called Bruyere, and
to my astonishment, she urged me to start chemotherapy while continuing
the running energy. I tried several different chemo drugs, DaunoXome
being the most successful. Later I went to see Bruyere, who treated me
for five days with hands-on healing and gave me several valuable tools
to combat the KS: Baking-soda baths, massage, martial-arts exercises and
self-administered running energy directly into the lesions. Eventually
the integration of therapies was successful: The healing sessions
boosted the chemo’s effectiveness while reducing its toxicity. Today the
lung lesions are gone and only a few external ones remain, all stable.
Cooperative medicine has also kept me alive long enough to enjoy the
benefits of protease inhibitors. I thankfully have a fine physician who
is a dog soldier when it comes to finding drugs for AIDS-related
illnesses. He also has books like Vibrational Healing on his office shelf and is open to healing methods outside the conventional realm. This is cooperative medicine at its best.
The Native American Medicine Wheel is a tradition of solving problems by
convening a circle of representatives from each lodge. That is,
everyone cooperates. Shouldn’t the healing professions also cooperate?
The New Age belongs to us all now. We can’t afford to shove it into the
corner of a select few. And in case you haven’t noticed, meditation,
energy work and other "alternative" approaches are not solely the domain
of metaphysical junkies anymore. I urge conventional doctors and
holistic practitioners to come together, do research together and stop
fearing each other. We don’t have room for a physician who laughs at
acupuncture or a charlatan who thinks all doctors are evil. When our
brothers and sisters are gravely ill, it would be wise to embrace all
possibilities wholly. As a person living with AIDS, I have bet my life
Search: alternative medicine, cooperative medicine, complementary medicine
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