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Mindful : April 2013
as the solution,” she says. “ I wanted to see if improving my overall health and well-being would increase our chances of getting pregnant naturally.” Stacy is not alone in her gut feeling that first addressing her overall health and well-being—before investing in more invasive solutions—might be a key element in her health care. High- tech, high-cost approaches clearly have their place, and modern medicine can boast many silver-bullet solutions. But millions of Americans feel that’s not enough. They spend more than $30 billion a year out of their own pockets for alternative treatments, according to data compiled by the National Center for Complementar y and Alternative Medicine. Funding for NCCAM— the U.S. government’s “lead agency for sci- entific research on complementary and alternative medicine”—hit $128 million in 2012, a 156% increase since its incep- tion in 1999. “Complementa r y and alternative” is the federal government’s current label for approaches that lie outside the main- st rea m. However, a nationwide sur vey shows that approximately 38% of U.S. adults aged 18 years and over use some form of complementary and alternative medicine—anything from acupuncture to meditation. That’s starting to look pretty mainstream, which is one reason many doctors prefer the term “integra- tive” health care. In 2010, 600 health care profession- als assembled in Washing ton, D.C ., for a summit on integrative medicine. It was sponsored by the Institute of Medicine, which defines integrative medicine as “health care that addresses together the mental, emotional, and physical aspects of the healing process for improving the breadth and depth of patient-centered care and promoting the nation’s health.” The doctors who champion integra- tive approaches are not simply proposing “alternatives.” They advocate an updated model of health care that integrates mind and body, promotes more interac- tion and communication in the doctor- patient relationship, puts the patient at the center, and encourages self-care. Florence Strang’s successful battle with breast cancer is a prime example of integrative medicine—of taking care of the whole person while trying to cure a disease. She is alive today because of radiation, chemotherapy, a nd surgery. But Stra ng also attended a mindfulness retreat led by an oncologist, and she credits mind- fulness a nd awareness practices with helping her cope with the suffering that came with those life-saving treatments. “I was undergoing a lot of lengthy, painful, and uncomfortable treatments and procedures,” she says. “In one year I had six rounds of chemo, 25 radiation treatments, three surgeries, and I would not be able to tell you how many difficult tests and procedures.” Strang is a registered psychologist who works as an elementary school guidance counselor. She knew the chemotherapy treatments were helping her fight cancer. But in the process, her body was weaken- ing and suffering profoundly. By her sec- ond round of chemo, she knew that if she was going to get through it, she needed to stay focused on the positive. → Florence Strang is alive today because of radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery, but she credits mindfulness practices with helping her cope with the stress of her treatments. “The average doctor spends 7 minutes per patient, while the average integrative practitioner spends 30 minutes.” Dr. David Spiegel, director of the Center on Stress and Health at Stanford University 36 mindful April 2013 health PHOTOGRAPHBYKAITLYNJARVIS