I've been revising an article on CAM for prevention for a book's second edition and I've been reading a dissertation by one of my students.
I was struck with the biomedical idea that psychological factors had to predict recovery from cancer if mind-body medicine's ideas were to be true. Now that seems so implausible to me. It strikes me that how illness comes about is completely separate (if anything is complete in this crazy, postmodern world) from how it is transformed, healed, or cured. I think illness always makes since within the totality of all the stories told about the person, but that doesn't need that reductionist science can predict who will get sick and who won't. I suspect ordinary people, reading narratives, could do a better job in predicting survivorship than all the experts in the world.
So, what I think now is that illness gives us the opportunity to transform. What we do with that opportunity is up to us and our communities. My graduate student, Patrick Baltazar, says that, "as painful and as difficult as illness may be, it can sometimes help us awaken previously undeveloped qualities, perceptions, sensibilities, and abilities....It has been called the Western path to enlightenment, comparing the illness experience to the excruciating physical endeavors which ancient spiritual seekers untertook for the sake of their own spiritual development." Could we add sun dance to that list? He says further that "illness can be an indication of imbalance and a teacher for aligning ourselves with our own sold, which perhaps mysteriously chooses this path toward wholeness.