/ˈprɒsəlɪˌtaɪz/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [pros-uh-li-tahyz] Show IPA–verb (used with object), verb (used without object), -ized, -iz⋅ing. to convert or attempt to convert as a proselyte; recruit.
Why is it that when a good friend informs me that she has high blood pressure I feel the need to mention flaxseed as an alternative to medication? Or when I hear that a young person I love is contemplating divorce I send a letter about how difficult my first years of marriage were? I briefly hesitated giving my opinion on both counts because no one actually asked me, but in each instance something from my personal experience led me to share my thoughts, gently and I hope without offense.
As for the high blood pressure, my husband had high blood pressure for years, even after losing 40 lbs. during cancer treatment. The medication he was on was no longer doing its job, as his blood pressure readings were all over the place; sometimes with dangerously high spikes and other times leveling off. When I read about flaxseed oil making a real difference in some patient’s blood pressure, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try it. Within a month of taking flaxseed oil, David’s blood pressure was low enough for him to discontinue medication. Now, whether or not that would have happened without the flaxseed is up for debate, but the fact is that was the only change David made at the time, and he has continued taking a daily dose of flaxseed ever since. Now, whenever I hear about someone having problems with their blood pressure I recommend they at least try flaxseed oil. They don’t have to drink it like my husband does because it is available in pill form too. If nothing else, they can sprinkle the ground flaxseed on their cereal or add it to their muffins. Because even it doesn’t lower their blood pressure, it does benefit their health. Science has proven this.
As for marriage, because of my own evolving relationship with my husband, I am convinced that a bad marriage does not have to stay that way, and I like sharing that insight.
By the time David’s cancer treatment ended I realized all the scribbling I’d been doing during his chemotherapy treatments was actually evolving into the very book I’d wished for upon his diagnosis; a book written by a caregiver in which the patient does not die. There were certainly books written by caregivers, but when I picked them up at the library or the bookstore and noted that the patient died by the book’s end, I put them back so quickly you’d have thought I’d burnt my hand on the cover. I WAS NOT GOING TO READ ABOUT DYING. I refused to believe that my husband would die and I didn’t want him thinking about it either. From all my research I’d garnered one indisputable fact: A positive attitude was crucial to David’s survival. The last thing he needed was a caregiver who was wallowing in her tears. Oh, I did plenty of that, but definitely not in his presence. To this day he is under the delusion that I am a strong woman.
And so I wrote the book I had needed then. I wrote it for all those couples just starting their own journey through cancer, for the newly diagnosed cancer patient and their families.
But by the time I’d finished it, I realized my book was not just about cancer. Instead, what had started out as a guide for couples through cancer became a guide through a troubled marriage. What was a less than ideal marriage in early 2006 because a newly revitalized relationship that left me reeling with its’ intensity and passion. I feel a great sense of power, and yes, responsibility, knowing what I know about marriage. I believe that a reader of our story will come away with the sense that they just read a book about marriage, not illness.
So when I hear about a faltering marriage, I do feel a sense of responsibility to tell my own story. If that is proselytizing, well then at least I am proselytizing about something good and wonderful, something worth sharing. Something worth thinking about.
And then there is cancer, itself. During David’s treatment, we heard our share of stories; how someone “cured” their cancer with a special juice, an herb tea, or positive thinking. We didn’t mind the testimonials because we knew the person sharing them cared about David. All of the proselytizing about alternative therapies came from the heart. I even researched every single thing we were exposed to in the alternative realm of cancer treatment. I wanted so badly for David to not have to go through with radiation and chemotherapy, so I looked into every possible avenue, making notes, reading books, and eventually, coming to the realization that David’s best chance for survival was within the realm of a medical establishment I had long ago learned to distrust. Even then, I wanted to combine some of the alternative with the standard. This is called complementary care, a combination I can more readily accept, even with my distrust of Big Pharma and the medical establishment. I am willing to proselytize about complementary cancer treatment.
Therein lies the crux of the matter. I know what it is to distrust medicine, to question vaccines, to turn away from a conventional treatment and try a natural alternative. I strongly believe in natural and alternative cures for so many things. I understand the desire to find something other than the conventional treatments that seem to destroy the very body they are trying to save. I once read someone describe chemotherapy as “bringing the body as close to death as possible without killing you” in order to kill the cancer cells. Someday I imagine future generations will look back at our methods of removing cancer from the body as rudimentary and even barbaric. But the fact is that it does work. There are millions of people living today because of the conventional medical treatment. My husband is one of them.
So, do I proselytize about standard cancer treatment when I hear someone mention alternative treatments? In the end, the person has to make that decision for themselves. Everyone should do the same when confronted with medical choices. I firmly believe that. But at what point does support of another’s person’s choice become an encouragement of what could be a dangerous choice, one that could end in death? There is a fine line between support and encouragement, one that Oprah never seems to worry about when she chooses her guests. Surely she is aware of the fact that whoever and whatever she chooses to feature on her show is an endorsement of that very thing, product or person, whether it is Suzanne Sommers injecting bioidentical hormones into her vagina to stay young or the believers of the power to manifest your own destiny.
What if a person’s religious beliefs preclude conventional treatment for cancer? What if they believe strongly that a tea or an herb will “cure” their cancer? Who am I to question their beliefs? Am I 100% certain they are wrong?
And yet, I wake up at 3:00 a.m. and wonder if today I should confront them with my fears. Give them a book to read? Share a pertinent article? I hesitate. I don’t want to step on any toes, offend someone’s religious sensibilities, and hurt anyone’s feelings. I toss and turn in the darkness of the night, unable to fall back asleep until I turn my worries over to God;
“Please help them make the right decision. Please help them find the treatment that will accommodate their beliefs, yet save their life.”
And, if I do decide to share my opinion;
“Please let them understand it is because I care.”