18 November 2013

Ian Gawler Blog: A Good Life

They used to say a picture is worth a thousand words. What price then a movie? What does a good life look like? And what does the American Society of Integrative Oncology have to say about cancer treatment?

In 2009 the ABC program “Compass” put together a documentary on my life and work and gave it the imposing title of “A Good Life”. With that exceptional interviewer Geraldine Doogue at the helm, we ranged over the trials and tribulations, as well as the deeper issues and some of the successes – the some that adds up to make a good life.

It is a revealing program and anyone interested in what is on offer through the paradigm I represent (the way of thinking and how I teach) may find it helpful, so this week, an introduction and a link to the program.

Then some news from the New Zealand tour, but first

Thought for the day

If we know the Laws that govern Botany

We can take a diminutive acorn

And grow a massive oak tree

Amidst a beautiful garden

If we know the Laws that govern our mind

We can take a simple idea

And grow something meaningful 

Amidst a beautiful life 

PS - the garden features heavily in the Compass program

A Good Life – according to Ian Gawler - Here is the ABC’s introduction:
In this three-part series prominent Australians present their views and ideas on ‘a good life’. Each program features one guest whose argument is then examined in interview with Compass presenter Geraldine Doogue.

In Episode 1, Ian Gawler, cancer survivor and renowned healer, talks about his pioneering work in integrated ‘mind-body’ medicine and the therapeutic use of meditation and nutrition. He claims his prescription for healthy living is synonymous with a good life.
Story producer: Dina Volaric
To view the program, CLICK HERE

Integrative oncology in North America
The American based Society of Integrative Oncology (SIO) recently published guidelines for integrative medicine in lung cancer, which were developed in accordance with American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP) evidence-based clinical practice guidelines (Chest. 2013;143[5 Suppl]:e420S-e436S).

The SIO guidelines recommend, for example, mind–body therapies as part of a multidisciplinary approach to reduce anxiety, mood disturbance, sleep disturbance, and acute or chronic pain, and to improve quality of life.

Another suggestion is that acupuncture or related techniques can be used as an adjunct treatment option for nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy or radiation therapy, and for cancer-related pain and peripheral neuropathy.

Clinical guidelines provide evidence-based recommendations for clinicians, explained Gary Deng, MD, PhD, from the integrative medicine service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. This is even more important for integrative medicine because clinicians might not be as familiar with it, he added.

"When patients ask them about therapies, they may not know what to say," said Dr. Deng, who spoke about the guidelines during a plenary session at the 10th International Conference of the SIO, and is first author on the guidelines. "This gives them something to fall back on, and makes them more comfortable making a recommendation."

In 2005, the ACCP asked the SIO for information on integrative medicine that could help physicians address questions from patients. Guidelines were published in 2007, and then updated with more current data. To date, the SIO has published 4 separate evidence-based clinical guidelines; the latest are for the diagnosis and management of lung cancer.

Current Guidelines
There were 2 main goals for these guidelines, said coauthor Heather Greenlee, ND, PhD, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York City, and SIO president-elect.

"The first was to assess current evidence on the benefits and risks of complementary modalities as adjuncts to mainstream medicine to control symptoms associated with cancer and cancer treatment," she said. "The second was to form the evidence base from which specific recommendations can be made to guide clinical practice."

Dr. Greenlee noted that the goal was to be conservative, to look at where the evidence is right now, and to ask, "What can we say given the evidence to date?"

A systematic literature review was conducted, and a large number of randomized controlled trials, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses met the predetermined inclusion criteria, as did a number of prospective cohort studies.

The included trials addressed many issues faced by lung cancer patients, such as symptoms of anxiety, mood disturbance, pain, quality of life, and treatment-related events. Available data covered a wide variety of complementary interventions, including acupuncture, nutrition, mind–body therapies, exercise, and massage.

The authors conclude that the "the body of evidence supports a series of recommendations. An evidenced-based approach to modern cancer care should integrate complementary therapies with standard cancer therapies such as surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and best supportive care measures."

In the summary of recommendations, they note that "it is suggested that all lung cancer patients should be asked about their interest in and usage of complementary therapies. Counseling on the benefits and risks of those therapies should be provided."

The next set of guidelines from SIO will be on breast cancer, specifically integrative therapies for related adverse effects and quality of life.

The Cancer Council's Australian Guidelines on CAM

Ruth and I are currently presenting a range of public talks, workshops and retreats around New Zealand

There are a range of events still to come in Auckland, Christchurch and Nelson.

We are delighted to be including our first meditation retreat in New Zealand (which quite a few Aussies have also booked for already!) - December 2 -8.

Please do let anyone you may know in NZ about the visit -  all the details are on my new public Facebook page: Dr Ian Gawler,    or the website.

The events in Auckland (evening public lecture) and day in Rotorua have been well received. In Auckland, I had conversations with 8 long term cancer survivors who had used the approach I advocate and were there many years after their initial prognosis had run out. It was good to ask them what had been most helpful, and to hear them say it was everything, the diet, especially the meditation, and the hope they received in the first place to think it was possible to defy the odds and to recover.

The Rotorua organisers, the Aratika Trust are doing an exceptional job. Having first benefited from attending the Foundation’s programs, they have now trained there, bring Foundation staff over to run local programs and provide excellent support to their local community. Ruth and I received a formal Maori welcome – very moving – and were made most welcome.


  1. I was in Sydney this weekend and pleased to see that the Chris O'Brien building is finished but not open yet. I believe that integrative medicine will be part of it's ambit, is this so?

    1. This is correct and many people are optimistic that the Centre will stay true to Chris" vision and be a model for other centres around the country, maybe even the world!