Have you ever had an experience where the simple act of reading a book planted a seed, and eventually became the impetus to change your life, forever? For me, the book that led to me want to learn more about the field of integrative medicine was “Love, Medicine, and Miracles: Lessons Learned About Self-Healing from a Surgeon’s Experience with Exceptional Patients,” by Bernie Siegel, MD.
This book was a great introduction to the intriguing connection between mind and body, and the impact that positive, loving thoughts can have on the healing process – even in the face of chronic illness. At the time, I was in my early 20s completing my master’s in public health degree. I had never heard physicians (let alone surgeons) talk about and share their belief in this so-called “mind-body” connection. Regardless, I knew in my heart that what Dr. Siegel was sharing in his book existed. One chapter after the next, I became more and more inspired by who he was as a physician, and had a new-found appreciation and growing interest in the mind-body connection.
Needless to say, it sparked a fire inside! I knew in my heart that some day I wanted to be someone helping patients tap into their own healing potential. It may have been premature at the time, but I was so interested in this area that that I tried convincing my master’s thesis research committee to allow me to do a small study to explore the role of humor in healing. Unfortunately, they thought it was going to be too complicated, and suggested I do something else. While I was disappointed, I didn’t let their disinterest squelch my interest in the field.
After graduating with my master’s in public health, I worked in variety of interesting professional settings. While I enjoyed what I was doing, I knew that I was meant to do something much more personally meaningful. After weighing all of my options, two opportunities presented and, like Dr. Siegel’s book, they changed the course of my professional life. One was enrolling full-time in a Master of Chinese Medicine program, and the second was an opportunity to work part-time as a research assistant with Janice Zeller, PhD, at Rush University College of Nursing.
Dr. Zeller had just been awarded a $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health/National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and I was hired to help Jan and the rest of her team create and implement complementary medicine related materials into the nursing curricula. This was a wonderful opportunity to educate nursing students about the evidence-based role of complementary medicine in health and illness.
While working on NCCAM grant, I completed a four-year master’s in Chinese medicine program, and joined the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program in 2006. I’m thrilled to say that I am doing what I consider my “life’s work.” I am working one-on-one with patients in the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program, helping each person in their personal journey with healing; involved in research; publishing; and lecturing about integrative medicine to health care providers and patients. I love what I do, and often dream about what’s next!
Having worked with hundreds of patients, in the midst of chronic illness, I can say with confidence that the mind-body connection is real, and it’s very powerful. With a little guidance, it’s an easily accessible tool people can use to decrease pain and anxiety and increase energy and an overall sense of well being – just to name a few. If you are looking for a gentle way to encourage healing, and are interested in learning a variety of safe and effective mind-body skills, contact the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program office. We have a wonderful team of practitioners here to help. For more information, call us at (312) 563-2531.
Angela M. Johnson, Dipl OM, MSTOM, MPH, LAc is a nationally board certified diplomate of Chinese medicine. She provides acupuncture for patients in the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program. She is also currently conducting research to further understand the role of acupuncture for pain management in pediatric patients. To inquire about eligibility, call (312) 563-2531.