02 January 2012

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition

For the Monty Python fans, remember their skits where in daily life situations the Grand Inquisitor would dramatically sweep onto the scene while the soundtrack trumpeted “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition”?

It was the scene that came to mind when one of the most surprising propositions of my life was put to me recently. At first the suggestion seemed laughable.

“Would you like to put your name to a scientific paper with me that will claim you never had cancer and that what you really recovered from so famously was widespread TB?”

Think about this. How would you respond if what you believed in deeply were to be questioned? Would you simply dismiss it? Would you investigate, or would you attack it? Maybe just stay silent and let it all blow over? Or observe who else may like to take up the argument?

This is the situation I found myself faced with back in March 2011 when Associate Prof. Ian Haines put the suggestion to me that I never had secondary cancer. I feel some explanation to my readers is warranted, and have submitted an edited version of this piece to The Age as an Opinion Piece.

Haines had approached me as a friend. He had spoken at a Gawler Foundation Conference, we had worked on other projects together; he had even been in charge of treating my father who had died of bowel cancer.

But then to confuse the matter further, the article was already written and the co-author was Prof. Ray Lowenthal, a long-term critic of my work. What to do?

In my experience, the mind is like a parachute; it works best when it is open. I have always had a deep commitment to seeking the truth and to responding to the best evidence available. There was no choice.

I checked with all my original doctors. All were confident all the necessary tests had been performed to confirm the clinical signs that the boney masses that appeared around my body were secondary cancer and not TB. A biopsy was not included in these tests as it was deemed unnecessary and to biopsy a bone cancer can necessitate a surgical procedure under general anaesthetic (as it did for my original diagnosis).

All my specialists confirmed I had both secondary cancer and TB. Two had expertise with TB. Dr. Alistair Robertson said
“I certainly do not think that it is at all likely that you just had TB”.
Dr. Jonathan Streeton said
“One gets calcification from TB, but nothing remotely of the appearances of your calcification”.

Furthermore, in 2004 my left lung was surgically removed due to damage caused by the TB and the cancer. The lung contained a large boney mass and the examining pathologist reported its histology was consistent with “osteosarcoma after chemotherapy”. There was no suggestion that this cancellous bone could be from TB, just cancer.

Another crucial point is that I did have a course of heavy chemotherapy after the secondaries were diagnosed. Such treatments are well known to severely depress immune function, thus making even minor infections potentially life-threatening. If I did actually only have widespread TB, not only would my oncologist Dr. Ivon Burns have been negligent, but the chemotherapy would have killed me.

So, for Haines and Lowenthal to contend “unequivocal evidence that the patient was cured of widespread metastases is lacking” insults the doctors who established my diagnosis. The article was not based on speaking with the treating physicians or examining the large number of X rays and pathology reports. In my view their theoretical speculation is scientifically sloppy and mischievous.

It attacks me personally and they clearly aim to imply that if my case history was invalid then my work is invalid. In my view this makes their article dangerous, as it could lead vulnerable and needy cancer patients away from self-help measures that could improve their quality of life and their chances of survival.

So, I said “no” to Haines and the Medical Journal of Australia refused to accept it without my permission. However, Haines and Lowenthal went ahead and published it (against my expressed wish) in the Internal Medicine Journal, which must have different standards.

And then came the front page of The Age and a few other newspapers. Last time I was on the front page of The Age was in 1981, 30 years ago when it announced my plan to start the first Melbourne Cancer Support Group.

What has changed since? A paradigm is a particular way of thinking about a subject. It is common to accept things that reinforce and to reject everything that conflicts with our point of view.

What would you do if you were a cancer specialist who had an experience that did not match your paradigm?

I know that for me one of the biggest obstacles I needed to overcome to recover was my Veterinary training and the belief that secondary osteogenic sarcoma, the bone cancer I had was uniformly and rapidly fatal.

But what if you were a busy oncologist and somebody did do just that; recover from advanced secondary bone cancer? Would you dismiss it? Would you investigate? Would you attack?

I have been attacked quite a deal over the past 30 years.

Of course I believe in good diagnosis. Of course I believe in appropriate medical treatment. Of course I believe that people can influence their own wellbeing and the course of their disease.

What I recommend is best described as Lifestyle Medicine. It is to do with what you eat and drink, your exercise and emotional health, the power of your mind and techniques like meditation. This is not “alternative” medicine. It is good medicine. It is safe medicine.

There is a need to make it clear my life is not work. My work started with my life and my recovery, but 30 years later that work has evolved in response to new experiences and research and now stands in its own right.

Happily my life is fully congruent with what I teach. Anything I recommend I either did or more likely, continue to do. I have never heard of an oncologist trying a course of their own chemotherapy to find out what it is really like. That would be absurd, but to claim that what I do is dangerous or risks taking people away from effective treatments is equally absurd.

No one I know of ever died from eating well or meditating too much. However, are we allowed to say that people do sometimes suffer inordinately and die from chemotherapy and its complications?

There needs to be a realistic and balanced perspective and patients need to be helped to make well informed decisions.

My understanding of science is that it advances by observing unusual events and investigating them. Thirty years later I have observed many people recovering from cancer against difficult odds.

Around 20 years ago on ABC TVs Couchman show Lowenthal challenged me to present my 50 best cases for evaluation. I readily agreed but he subsequently claimed that he was unable to gain funding for the research. My feeling is that project would have been a much better use of energy.  Maybe it is time for a cooperative investigation and a real sense of everyone working together.

If you feel motivated, letters to the Editor of The Age or The Sydney Morning Herald would still be useful.
Or add a comment below.

Happy New Year. May 2012 be a year of peace, good health and deep seated happiness.

Link to The Age article

          to Monty Python and the Spanish Inquisition


My biography which documents my case: The Dragon's Blessing by Guy Allenby

You Can Conquer Cancer which documents my cancer work

The Gawler Cancer Program: the CD that presents the paradigm I work with

Mindbody Mastery: online meditation program


  1. Great post, Ian. I have been thinking over the last few days since reading something online about this situation about how disappointing that those in the medical profession who seek to attack, do not investigate instead. I am not sure whether it comes from a place of ego or the old 'thinking they are God' syndrome but in any event it reflects poorly on them. Unfortunately, the consequences may be that people who really need to find out about the importance of lifestyle measures are persuaded against this.

    It would be wonderful if your best 50 cases could be evaluated but to be so critical without that evaluation is a pretty low act. I would have hoped that by now the medical profession would have advanced a bit further. Well done for the unbelievable contribution that you have given to so many people.
    Kind regards
    Claire Kerslake
    (Registered nurse)

  2. I have been interested in Ian Gawlers writings and teachings for over twenty years with a great thirst. His writings led me to adopt an organic eating program 9 years ago. I enjoyed one of his meditation workshops and enjoyed reading his biography and also two of his books. Cancer is rampant through my family. My Mum died of cancer and my Dad has recovered from bowel cancer, he is still alive today.
    In addition I do regular yoga and avoid chemicals and have prayer in my life. I live by the beach in a sleepy hollow, an hour away from Melbourne because l want to breath fresh air. I enjoy good physcal health at age 50.
    What l personally got from Ian's books was that adopting some of these lifestyle choices was a good way to help prevent cancer if one was predisposed to it. I am very grateful for learning from his experience.
    I was appalled to read the article by the doctors in Saturdays age. I did not believe a word of it.

  3. I am not surprised at this chain of events. I admire the way in which you have reported this to us - thank you Ian for being passionate without irrational emotions (because these kind of people are just so small minded and annoying you really do just want to scream don't you!!)!!

    There is emotional reporting (such as you've described above) how harmful all sorts of natural healing can be, such as relating to homeopathy, herbs and other forms of wellness making which have been around for centuries.

    I know homeopathy works both on the physical and emotional levels. Recently I travelled through Africa with people who I previously didn't know. Several had various complaints/illness over the two months we were together yet only one person, who had been exposed to homeopathy before, considered trying the homeopathic remedies I had. At times there were no alternative treatments - despite being sick they refused to be open enough to try something available to them due to their fear of being willing to listen and consider a change in wellness making.

    It saddened me to see that Africans are being convinced that Western drugs are more effective than their traditional brews from local herbs and trees. Few can afford the costly chemical cocktails but somehow, through seeing (not feeling) what we have in the West, they believe what we have is better therefore the pharmaceuticals must be better at healing - plus the advertising sure looks attractive with every patient rosey and fit!! The local medicine doctor does not advertise ancient knowledge - this knowledge is known and felt through centuries of experiences but not advertised on huge billboards. But like our Western doctor's and many of us in the West, these beautiful people are slowly being disconnected from the Earth and their attachment to ancient knowledge and the natural healing powers of the mind and the energies around us. And like us they will have to reconnect.

    Being a pioneer of change (or reconnecting with what has worked for centuries!!!) means being different and standing up for something outside what is considered normal at that time. Making different decisions would mean often mean you would have to go against centuries of traditional decision making and against the entire tribe. Going against your tribe - choosing to isolate yourself from your social connections. We are such social animals. I feel few of us have the courage to stand up for what we can feel with our intuition is good and working. We need to be accepted by the tribe - as these doctors obviously needed to be.

    Thank goodness we have people such as yourself Ian who are willing to lead the tribe so we have the courage to voice our inner opinions and show solidarity to all the mediating, healthy munching "heretics".

    As you said, no one has ever died from healthy food or too much meditation!! So why do people, seemingly "educated" people have to find fault with it???? Shouldn't we all be entitled to be healthy or unhealthy by making our own choices rather than having them being forced upon for us eg mass medication by fluoride; families won't get some monetary benefits if they choose not to vaccinate their children.....????

    We each need to realise that even if we don't have the courage to be public "heretics" like you, that we have enormous power by being private heretics by voting every day with our wallets and forks.

    2012 is a year of great mystery - may it include a mysterious shift in our purchasing choses so that people are healed and therefore the earth.

    And hopefully 2012 will mysterious bless the blinkered health professionals with a more wholistic (deliberately written with a "W" to indicate the wholeness of the person, the imbalances and the cures!) view of health/illnesses and wellness/imbalances.

    Love your articles. I admire and respect what you write - you often provokes discussions here in our home!! Thank you.

    2012 - it will be a great year!! All the best to you Ian and your readers.

  4. The article in The Age made me cringe! Especially the part about how they 'have seen beautiful young girls with their whole lives ahead of them and they go into these holistic therapies and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and then in the end we have to look after them. They all eventually get to us'.

    Being one of these (beautiful) young girls, having a rare inoperable tumour myself and having attended your retreats, I feel The article in The Age made me cringe! Especially the part about how they 'have seen beautiful young girls with their whole lives ahead of them and they go into these holistic therapies and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and then in the end we have to look after them. They all eventually get to us'.

    Being one of these (beautiful) young girls, having a rare inoperable tumour myself and having attened your retreats, I feel appalled by this remark!
    Not once have I come across a suggestion made by you that cancer clients need only chose alternative therapies, nor have I heard it from any of the other professionals associated with the Gawler Foundation. It is very clear to me that you advocate for an integrative model- one that incorporates medical options with lifestyle & dietary choices. So this attack on you and the suggestion that you encourage clients to stay away from medical treatments is absurd.

    I went to the 10 day retreat at the Gawler Foundation in March last year, one week after I was diagnosed! I can not talk highly enough about it and how it had changed my life. I have made a lot of changes to my life and have embraced meditation, a plant based diet, guided imagery, exercise and spirituality and I have no doubt it has (and still is!) helped me enormously in my healing journey.

    Keep up your work Ian and don't let 'them' get you down!
    Thank you

  5. Dear Ian,
    My wife and I are confused as to why this "Explosive new Medical Report" was aired on the front page of the Age, along with typically tabloid traits such as the mention of the term "mind training" replete with inverted commas. Is not discipling our mind the first step we are taught in resisting temptation in any sort of religious or ethical context? Is it not what separates us from the "beasts"? The next thing you know the "C" word will be being bandied about.... "Cult" that is. As you so rightly point out, oncologists are not asked to partake of their own treatments, and as a fellow cancer patient I wouldn't want to subject anyone to that unnecessarily. We never hear anyone decrying conventional treatments when patients don't survive, but as soon as any "alternative" treatment is involved, non survival becomes a "failure" of the treatment involved.
    Your treatment offers hope, choice and dignity no matter what the outcome and no amount of questionable "journalism" can diminish that. As you say, no one ever died of eating well and meditating. To go back to the Python analogy... the "witch hunt" (Buuuurn Her!!!) stacks up right next to the Spanish Inquistion.
    Now what's that burning smell coming from the Age offices?
    Rob and Cathie Gray

  6. Hello Ian
    Thank you for sending this thru' to us and also the link to the papers. I am rarely moved to comment on blogs, not becoz I am disinterested but mostly becoz I agree with people's opinions and dont' see the need to re-hash what has already been so eloquently written.
    But this one is different!!.......I am incensed and felt a need to show 'support' to someone who has given thier life to helping/teaching/supporting people who, on being diagnosed, are in a state of anxiety & fear.
    I have been following you (but can't catch you!?!) since 1989 when my Mum was diagnosed with secondary cancer to the brain. Before making the trip to PErth to visit her in hospital I bought your book "you can conquer cancer" and read it the nite before I visited her. I was full of hope after reading it but on giving it to my MUm (then 59yrs)- she said ..."I can't read this here, what will the nurses think?" I took the book home with me and she passed away 9 months later.Those 9 months were full of fear & she virtually waited to die as the "DRS" told her she had 9 months to live!
    It's not that the book will necessarily cure you of cancer , and you regularly point that out, but as has previously been stated in teh above blogs , gives hope & strength and offers some logical suggestion to improving your health.
    I reiterate what you & others have said "no-one has ever died from healthy food or too much meditation"!
    I am a volunteer with the Cancer Council WA & facilitate a Cancer Support Group in my local town on a monthly basis and often say "where there is life there is hope"...and I feel that is the message you mostly want to impart - this continually gives hope to our group members.
    People who attend the Support Group want ALL information. Some have attended your retreats & are happy to give us feedback on that. The group tell me what they want & I faciltate it - we begin with a meditation. I regularly invite our local naturopath as the group constantly ask for him as his view is very similar to yours - you need ALL modalities on your journey.
    Since my Mum I have lost my Dad to bowel cancer, have had my own melanoma & my 25 yr old daughter has also had melanoma.......but we are open , cherishing & embracing all things being offered......and really loving & enjoying life-(I'm 57yrs & my melanoma was 18yrs ago!)
    What the article oozes is ego based, tall poppy syndrome, one-up-man-ship & very mischievous.
    To say that people spend hundreds & thousands of dollars on your "alternative" stuff is actually incorrect. I beleive your services are extremely well priced and I had the pleasure of going to your DAY seminar in Bunbury recently for less than $100 for a hands on workshop.......we are farmers and AN HOUR of a consultant's time is $120 .....+ GST!......!....which is value??
    Ian I know I speak for many many people - your compassion for people oozes from you and our world is a much richer, healthier & joyful place for all your efforts.
    I'm looking forward to the Mind Body Mastery program - I can't get enough of your valualbe teachings.!....and that I am able to impart my knowledge onto others keeps the teachings gathering speed.....I'm sure our letters to the editor will fill the whole paper & your head will be well & truly held high.
    Happy New YEar to you & many many thanks.

  7. May you be able to once again overcome and survive those who wish to critize you. You have been an inspiration to many, many people,with the information available to them, to make their own decisions for their health recovery. It is a pity your critics cannot put their mind to more worthwhile projects than to take away the hope that you have given to countless people.

  8. I also attended the 10 day retreat in March, having been diagnosed with breast cancer. The support I have received from the Gawler foundation and the people I met has been overwhelming. I am very happily organic vegan and so well. My life has changed dramatically for the better, based on completely sound healing principles, I go forth with confidence. A HUGE thankyou for the knowledge I now have.

  9. susan ferguson-brownJanuary 2, 2012 at 9:55 PM

    The following letter has been sent to the Editor - Age. I doubt it will get published as it is probably too long; however, if the Gawler foundation or Ian Gawler has some other use for it then feel free to use it.
    Dear Editor,
    On 31 December 2011 your front page piece on Ian Gawler sensationally announced that “an explosive new medical report” cast doubt on whether Gawler ever suffered secondary cancer. In short, the motivations of both the “explosive” report’s authors and the Age reporter are suspect.
    Like many Australian’s Ian Gawler gave me hope when the conventional system gave me little. I was diagnosed with breast cancer 6 years ago and like all good girls, I did as I was told and had the lump removed, 3 months chemo and 6 weeks radiotherapy. At that time the odds of recurrence was less than 20%. However, in 2009 I was diagnosed with a local recurrence in the same breast. All that the conventional treatment had to offer was a “protocol” that could have included mastectomy, up to 6 months chemo, tamoxifen for 5 years (if I lived that long) and removal of ovaries (just to be extra sure). I’ve never been the brightest kid on the block but I think I have enough grey matter to know that if something doesn’t work the first time then may be I had better try something else. So I embarked on the Gawler program of meditation, detoxification, juices and mainly raw, plant based food.
    Within three months of undertaking this program I was transformed from a unhappy, fat and frumpy, drone like zombie walking on the treadmill of 21st century life to a happy, healthy, trim, taunt and terrific 49 year old with a 20 year old body. Cancer free to this day.
    I am a trained economist and I am highly suspicious of Professors Haines and Lowenthal’s motives. For most of the 20th century conventional medicine (surgeons, oncologists, radiologists and multi- national pharmaceutical companies) have had a monopoly on the treatment of cancer. This poorly researched “explosive report” is seeking to attack a legitimate competitor to their market. Let’s face it, what would happen to the market for oncologist’s services if research suggested that fruit, vegetables, meditation etc cured cancer? Let me tell you! Demand for oncological services would decrease as consumers moved to a substitute. Ceteris paribus, any decrease in demand would result in a fall in price! Clearly Professors Haines and Lowenthal would be out of a job (not to mention the serious dent in the obscene profits of pharmaceutical companies). Ian Gawler’s philosophy is not new and it’s not “alternative” it’s just “bloody common sense”. His program is invaluable for those of us who the conventional system has failed. He offers another option for those given the terminal diagnosis – that discussion with the oncologist where they say there is nothing more we can do.
    I have extensively researched meditation, diet and exercise as a healthy way of life and as a treatment for my cancer. In all that research I have yet to find anything that remotely suggests my new way of life is dangerous to my health. On the contrary, most research supports it as a legitimate defence against cancer. However, there is a great deal of literature covering the side effects and deaths caused by conventional treatments. For example, an article by Barbara Starfield, M.D published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2000 stated that “physician error, medication error, and adverse events from drugs or surgery kill 225,400” Americans per year - the third leading cause of death!
    Perhaps it is now time for the Age to turn its attention to reporting on the tragic stories of cancer patients who die from the noxious, unintended and undesired effects of a drug.
    Yours Sincerely
    Susan Ferguson-Brown

  10. It's very sad that so many orthodox doctors have so little personal awareness that they continue to proffer dubious hypotheses under the guise of "protecting the public". Their real motivation is of course their own professional advancement, obvious to everyone but themselves. In this case, they needed to address the spicules of bone coughed up by Ian Gawler early in his illness and the bone mass removed from his lung. To propose an alternative thesis other than secondary osteosarcoma required signficant evidence which was not forthcoming, just a less plausible hypothesis. A much more likely explanation of the doctors' need to raise this matter, 30 yrs on, is the increasing evidence of the damage their own medicine does to people and the impotence of orthodox medicine to provide all the answers. No-one has all the answers and they might appear more reasonable, logical and compassionate to welcome views alternative their own, rather than continue with their un-remitting hostility to those alternative views.

  11. Isn't it absolutely incredible the lengths the medical profession go to, to protect their careers. My husband Gary was diagnosed with a Glioblastoma Multiforme 4 years ago. Yes, he did have the "traditional" radiation and chemotherapy to "control" not "cure" him as he was only given a life expectancy of a couple of months to 2-5 years. This tumour usually regrows at a very rapid rate and when surgically removed it regrows again. We immediately implemented complementary therapies and were told of Ian's boook not long after and after doing some research I discovered the Gawler Foundation programs which we both attended the 10 day retreat in Spetember 2008 and the 5 day in March 2009. Gary has worked very hard implementing Ian's recommendations as well as trying a few other complementary therapies. Each time, Gary would go for an MRI Scan and it would be clear, the Doctors would say - "whatever your doing keep doing it" - at no time asking what he was doing. At Gary's last scan in November 2011, the Doctor said "you're extremely lucky - perhaps there was a misdiagnosis"????? How incredible!!! How can they turn someones life and their families and then 4 years later just say "perhaps" it was a misdiagnosis. We are confident that it was the Gawler principles that has helped Gary have this positive result. Diagnosing someone with a terminal illness has far reaching consequences - any application for Life Insurance or Accident cover is now tainted with this information. Are they prepared to put this misdiagnosis theory in writing? I would think not. Keep up the good work Ian. We constantly recommend the Gawler Foundation to everyone and anyone that we hear that has been diagnosed with cancer or knows someone that has. As a matter of fact, another man had a brain tumour operation at the same hospital on the same day as Gary with a similar diagnosis, we have kept in contact with him over the 4 years and told him about Ian and he also attended the Program and his scans also remain clear. Another misdiagnosis???? They must have been having a bad day in the laboratory! It is so sad that this negative publicity is given to such positive outcomes, we have had so many people we know in the past 4 years that have been diagnosed with cancer and they can see Gary's positve results but must be scared off by the medical profession as they don't want to try anything else while doing chemotherapy so it doesn't "interfere" with the chemo. I cannot understand how healthy eating and positive thinking and calming meditation can "interfere" with anything. They say they will try the chemo first - I try to encourage people to do both. By the time the chemo doesn't work, or the second round doesn't work most people have given up and don't have the strength to try anything else. My dream is for Ian's programs to be funded so they can offered in many states of Australia. Being from Central Queensland, many people in this area don't hear about programs such as Ian's unless they hear it from someone like us.
    Ian, you are such an inspiration and I know you won't let this mattter affect your very valuable work. Lucky most people in CQ don't buy The Age so the majority won't have seen this trashy article. I look forward to hearing many more positive stories from Ian.

  12. There is ignorance at every level of learning. These doctors are revealing their own limitations.

  13. Hello Ian and thanks for the response to this article. The whole episode has highlighted for me (on my second trip with cancer) how big an influence your life and your story have been on my strategy to surviving cancer. You are right when you say you have offered hope to many who were lacking hope. It seems to me Hope is fundamental for healing. Anyway I guess my response will be to donate a little more money to the Foundation than I otherwise would have this year. Maybe some others will follow suit and the Foundation will get a big fillip from this episode.

  14. We have never heard Ian encourage people not to get conventional medical help. It’s very disturbing to read that he has done this.

    Professors Lewenthal claim Ian’s cancer was wrongly labelled, that he had a mycobacterial infection (TB) and ‘crucially, no biopsy was taken’. On this basis, they say Ian and his doctors were mistaken. End of story! Well not quite. We are informed that one of them ‘likes, respects and admires’ Ian. What’s the point of this gambit? Should we not disagree with Professor Haines because he likes Ian?

    Far from it: to begin with, if the ‘crucial absence of a biopsy’ is so telling in relation to Ian’s past health, it is just as telling in relation to the professors’ argument. If they are right about this in relation to Ian’s cancer, Ian can just as validly argue that the absence of a biopsy throws grave doubts onto their own claims about TB.

    Then there is Professor Haines’ quotation: ‘I’ve seen beautiful young girls with their whole lives ahead of them and they go to these holistic therapies and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and then in the end we have to look after them. They all eventually get to us.’

    Whether this is true or not, it is a breath takingly emotive attempt to tug at people’s hearts, not get them to use their heads. Why ‘beautiful young girls?’ Why not ‘ugly old men?’ Is there a beauty test before he accepts patients? Are beautiful young girls more entitled to help than others? What about the plethora of men, women and children at all stages of life and with all sorts of different medical and other problems?

    By the way, like Ian, we are not recommending that people not consult doctors; their expertise is fundamentally important at times. Also, we know many people who charge very reasonable fees and, as we do, reduce fees for people in need who cannot afford to pay our standard rates.

    As for the statement ‘They all eventually get to us’, this is patently untrue and grandiose in the extreme. We know plenty of people who went to other reputable health professionals because they were in flight from their doctors, or seeking other help because their doctors could do no more for them. We also know people who went to reputable non-medical practitioners and got real help, either in combination with their doctors or without help from them.

    So any implication in the above that the doctors are the only ones who can really help is untrue. Furthermore, the numbers who leave doctors to find some help elsewhere indicate graphically that doctors do not have all the answers that they sometimes, as above, imply that they have.

    And what’s the point of their article anyway? Read Ian’s latest book, The Mind that Changes Everything. There is example after example of people who were helped in a wide variety of ways through the meditation and life-style practices that Ian and his associates have taught for over 30 years. If the figures are accurate in the Johnston-Medew (The Age) article, in the region of 90,000 people have attended Ian’s and the Gawler Foundation’s events. The professors would be better researching what is going right with the Gawler approach, instead of trying to find fatal flaws. With numbers like these, something is definitely going right. We think their professional and academic reputations would be much more enhanced by doing this than by what they have done.

  15. The assertions of Professors Lewenthal and Haines have a familiar ring to us.

    During thirty to forty years of practice, we have observed many doctors following a predictable set of steps when non-medical (or even medical) practitioners use procedures that were outside their existing medical frames of reference.

    Step 1: They claim that the procedures and results are not real and are based on bad science.

    Step 2: Then they claim that they are dangerous and put vulnerable people at risk, that such practitioners are misleading many people, taking their money and, often, are charlatans. Anecdotal horror stories are told. Little exploration is done into the actual efficacy of the procedures, despite in Australia the legal requirement that doctors inform patients of alternative treatment regimes.

    Step 3: Adventurous medical colleagues and others are criticized at every opportunity without much factual foundation, professional associations may take positions on the issues, de-registration can result, publications in press and professional journals add to pressures to ‘wipe out’ the practices etc.

    Step 4: Then (maybe years later) some medical people start to take an interest and get training etc. in whatever practices are involved; in the process finding what and how the procedures do contribute to people as well as how to integrate these procedures with their medical training. (They become acupuncturists, chiropractors, interested in dietary contributions, study neurobiology/neuroplasticity etc.)

    Step 5: A climate of acceptance begins to develop amongst some doctors within ‘conventional’ medical orientations.

    Step 6: The original doctors get wind of this – perhaps their patients start to ask them about the procedures, maybe even demand that they offer them too. And the patients start to go to other doctors who are prepared to offer those procedures. (The hip pocket nerve is stimulated.)

    Step 7: At this point the original doctors shift their position to: ‘We (meaning medical practitioners) are the only ones who should be allowed to use these procedures/treatments because of our advanced training. No one else is equipped to do this.’ This is despite the fact that many non-doctors have many more years of training and experience while the medical newcomers by comparison have virtually none.

    Where would you place the Professors? We’d put them at Step 1 and 2, perhaps even 3.

    Examples from the last 40 to 50 years include:
    • the link between diet, life style and heart disease
    • meditation as an active change agent with many conditions (known for thousands of years)
    • acupuncture doesn’t do anything and is based on a myth, there is no anatomical basis for the acupuncture points or meridians (It, too, has only existed for thousands of years!)
    • chiropractic is dangerous, chiropractors are under-trained, don’t know the implications of spinal manipulation the way only doctors can
    • bacterial infection can cause some peptic ulcers
    • psychological/emotional patterns are causative factors in illness
    • exercise regimes can re-pattern the central nervous system and produce the return of function, recovery from strokes etc.
    There are many more examples.

    The above sequence turns medical science into a religion with a own dogma that doctors are encouraged to defend, not infrequently at the expense of other people’s livelihoods and lives. A scientific orientation goes out the window as the adherents pretend they are being scientific and use their science to destroy the opposition’s positions. This encourages prejudice, the narrowing of views and the rejection of all that is not yet sanctioned by the ‘medical hierarchy’. Natural curiosity, openness to new ideas, the capacity to learn from others’ successes, the enriching of what we can use safely and effectively with people in need, and more – get stifled, even killed off.

  16. Article Ian Gawler  SMH 31 st December 2011

    To “trash” a man who, for no material gain, has devoted his life to helping others, by quoting only two oncologists is disappointing at best.

    Gawler’s doctors will refute these claims and perhaps go further. I understand, in a case like Gawler’s, and where all other tests overwhelmingly confirmed the secondary cancer, a biopsy need not be required. To conclude misdiagnosis is a quantum leap.

    I understand that Lowenthal has been consistently anti integrative or complementary treatment for cancer and critical of Gawler for many years. This is his prerogative, but to claim, after 35 years, that he was misdiagnosed and by implication his life’s work was a sham is outrageous. Haines, who as I understand unsuccessfully treated Gawler’s father for cancer has also jumped on this bandwagon.

    However, the real issue is that neither Lowenthal nor Haines seems capable of looking beyond their own conventional view of cancer treatment. Gawler claims no miracle cure but has proved that treatment such as diet, meditation, counselling and education with both the patient and family can ease the massive burden, help people and in some very few cases start a journey that can cure. This path is not for all and only those with extraordinary mind control, discipline and consistent and unswerving adherence to the practices mentioned above may succeed.

    This has not been presented as the alternative to conventional medicine. To my knowledge Gawler has not dissuaded cancer patients from such a course, including the use of chemo. This is supported by the use of Haines to treat his father.

    It is equally true that chemo is not always the appropriate treatment. Further it is acknowledged to be an indiscriminate treatment which reeks havoc with other parts of the body. Despite drug companies spending $billions over the past 30 years little major progress appears to have been made in refining this product.  It is also regularly unsuccessful for many cancer sufferers.

    I wonder how Michael Rennie might feel about this article, diagnosed with Lymph cancer over 30 years ago, with no cure, chemo or otherwise. He saw Gawler , followed a similar path. He lives today, successfully as a partner and professional consultant with one of the worlds leading financial advisory firms and has applied his experience and journey for application to the business world. He was not misdiagnosed.

    Gawler has not profited financially from his career and his Foundation survived through the support of those he helped. Gawler’s crime, if there is one, would appear is to question the omniscience of those applying chemo as the only treatment for cancer and its suitability in all cases. But to attack his diagnosis to discredit his teachings sets a new low for the medical professional.


    David Slessar

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  17. Having worked as a Registered Nurse I 've witnessed first hand the defensive position adopted by some Doctors when faced with patients who do not fit neatly into the box.

    Why are these Doctors defensive, it makes no sense, and as you say in your post why not investigate?

    I love the humour you use in your piece Ian, and the absence of hostility. Well done!

    Medicine is conservative, but conservatism does not mean it should be blind to positive outcomes for patients.

  18. As one of the many cancer survivors that have been through your program, Ian, I would like to congratulate you on 30 years of amazing work. As a practitioner of complementary medicine, I too see ignorance, close-mindedness and blatant lack of true scientific principles on a daily basis. My own oncologist was an avid supporter of your principles, and I was in a very privileged position to be able to openly work with his treatment, Chinese medicine, diet and meditation. As a result, I survived a very aggressive form of breast cancer (yes, confirmed by biopsy!), with the minimal amount of intervention and great improvement to my ongoing lifestyle and mental wellbeing. There are many great doctors out there...one can only hope that the 'old school'attitude that they have the only answers to the treatment of disease will eventually die out.
    Thank you Ian once again for everything your experience and program did for me. I know that you will weather this storm with grace and strength.

  19. I know someone who died of cancer and was a follower of the gawler way and attended retreats. I can tell you that the changes in her, the peaceful and dignified way she transformed her illness into a journey of healing was truly amazing. Yes, she died, but she grew so much in the months leading up to her death that she lived more in the last few months, fully connecting with those around her and coming to terms with her life than most people seem to do in a lifetime. I saw that the growth, the peace and I would go as far as to say the joy that the gawler institute helped her find was the most profound change I have seen in anyone. It spurred a lot of us into meditataion, healthier living and a more joyful approach to life, so the gawler foundation went a lot further than changing just the one person that attended the retreats. All those around her have humbly changed, grown and refocused. Thanks.

  20. Dear Dr Gawler,
    I admire you for your courage and conviction and the hope and help you have provided for so many cancer patients.
    I have had a serious lung illness and been treated by Dr Streeton who you refer to above as one of the Dr's consulted. I know him to be a very professional Dr who does not take chance guesses.He is also the leading expert in TB in Victoria ( possibly Australia) or was at the time I was under his care.
    It seems a comon theme that professionals who have little or no experience of alternative therpaies or treatments are at the ready to try to distablise their credibility even in a case like your work with contiuned and proven success.
    I wonder if this is because they feel threatened by the idea they may not be at the top of their stack.
    For whatever reason they choose their rigidity an open minded professional is always at an advantage to one with fixed ideas and a closed view.
    I challenge Prof Ray Lowenthal to undergo a therapy of meditation and diet, as in your treatment, and dncument the changes to his heath, well being, and thinking patterns. Maybe then he can have an inside view as to the benefits from a first hand experience not as a cancer patient but as an open minded Professor willing to put his money where his mouth is.
    Keep up your work the world needs people like you.
    Kind regards Michele Walker

    Please feel free to pass this comment onto the Age as I am not sure how to do it.

  21. your article reminded me of the madness of some, denying the existence of the holocaust...

  22. Thank you for your considered response Ian. Like many others I wondered why this was on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald. My partner and I then realised - it's the holidays, slow news week!

  23. Thanks for all this explanation Ian, it really helps to answer some of my friends who seem confused. What I really take exception to is the notion that what you do is expensive and may cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. That is absurd. I bought your book, I think it was under $30 and it turned my life around. I am sure I would not be here today without it. Now that's a bargain!

  24. Dear Ian, how inspirational your response has been. Thank you for the example. I can only think of the numerous number of people that you have helped over the years. I have sat is a couple of your workshops and seen your pure intention to serve others. We all have our own inner wisdom that recognized the truth. May those who don't believe your story find peace and the space to allow difference. May you be well and may you be happy and may you continue to benefit others. Kind regards Linda (hope this doesn't post twice, had a little hiccup first time)

  25. Dear Ian,ego is a funnny beast,it is fairly clear that fear based accusations are just that.My concern is likewise that people may miss the chance for treatment at the foundation because of false information,i wonder if that could be seen as a failure of duty to care in the doctor's case.This argument has been going on with medico's long before i was a herbalist,despite medical evidence supplied to doctors after people healing it always the same excuse,the test must have been wrong etc,etc.I understand Ian what it is like to be attacked year in year out don't give it undue energy the person is always more important then the validation from medicine.You actually follow that great oath which states to do no harm so doctors need to be reminded of that.

  26. As much as I have great respect for the knowledge, expertise and care of the medical profession, I can not understand this shocking attack on the credibility of Dr Gawler.
    Why now?
    Here we have a man who gives MANY people (from
    the testimonials) a sense of hope, a sense of
    being in control of ones own wellbeing, a sense of dignity.
    To our valued Doctors/Professors please leave our Dr Gawler alone and let him do his remarkable work and please leave us the FREEDOM to chose the healing modalities we want and feel
    comfortable with (our life, our body!)

  27. It is severely misleading for the media and medical practitioners to fail to differentiate between the numerous "shonky" crack pots who do charge unsuspecting cancer patients hundreds of thousands of dollars for ALTERNATIVE "medicines" and the INTEGRATED lifestyle approach to well being that The Gawler Foundation presents. A lifestyle approach to cancer treament and prevention can obviously work in tandem with, or COMPLEMENTARY to, more conventional cancer treatments. It is wrong for the journalists that wrote the article and the agenda driven medical practitioners not to even consider these separate considerations.

  28. Hi Ian

    I just read The Age and like one of the other posters, the part that made me cringe most was about how they 'have seen beautiful young girls with their whole lives ahead of them and they go into these holistic therapies and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and then in the end we have to look after them. They all eventually get to us'.

    Being one of these (beautiful) young girls that came to your 10-day retreat in 2005 and has been well ever since, I have to comment on the equal number of people who end up at your retreats having spent thousands of dollars going through chemo, radiation et al and are still unwell. Swings and roundabouts.

    To reiterate what another poster said also, in all the reading from you and conversations with you over the years I've known you including working for a few months with you at the Gawler Foundation, I have never heard you say anything other than 'integrative'. Meaning a combination of medical intervention where it feels right and looking after yourself in other ways to help the healing.

    The whole point to me in my own cancer journey is not simply about a 'cure'. It's about healing and doing everything possible to help yourself through your lifestyle.

    What the Gawler Foundation gave me was empowerment. No quick fixes, no magical potions, no guarantees, no damning of medical solutions. Just a lot of loving support, good sense, healing space, empowerment to make the choices that were right for me, and hope. And yes the simple presence of you Ian in the room helped that hope. Your presence said yes, it is possible.

    What really saddens me about the doctor's article is that it is missing the point entirely. We all need to know there is hope. Statistics don't need to apply to us, and indeed the statistics change according to new things that happen. That's science.

    I have friends with cancer who died and I have friends with cancer who like me are alive and kicking.

    I don't credit Ian Gawler with my survival because that came from a combination of many factors, but I do credit him and the wonderful team there at the foundation, with showing me those many factors that were available to me, and making my journey so much brighter. What could possibly be wrong with that?

    Love to you Ian,

  29. When my late husband graduated from medicine I had been RN for 16 years. I was most appalled by the funding for Universities from the pharmaceutical industry, the emphasis on pharmacology and surgery with an almost total lack of study of Human Science and a sneer at nutrition plus the development of the “God Syndrome”. Doctors like Lowenthal and Haines demonstrate that this combination of contaminated training, ignorance, superstition and limiting belief can blind them to what science, research and experience can now show us.
    Are these doctors really interested in their patient’s health and well being? The survivors of chemotherapy and radiation have only succeeded over the graves of the millions who have died from experiments in such treatments. Preventable medical errors kill and seriously injure hundreds of thousands every year so why are they not looking at the people who survive despite the devastating number of iatrogenic deaths? For what purpose do they attempt to kill the messenger and limit knowledge, research and experience?
    When I met Ian Gawler’s first wife she was called Gail and I felt then that she was such a force no one would dare not to get well. When did she become Grace and what motivates her to take part in this fall?

  30. Hi Ian,
    I am a doctor, a General Practitioner and I have cancer- I had a sarcoma of the uterus, and have small lung secondaries. I have had both surgical and medical treatment, and have also embraced the lifestyle and meditation advice that you and the Gawler Foundation recommend, although I have not attended the live in course.
    I find it appalling that your work and beliefs are being attacked so vitriollically. Unfortunately, this is a sad reflection on some powerful members of the Medical Profession, and shows their inability to change their entrenched belief patterns, and also shows that they feel threatened of 'losing their own turf".
    But this has happened all through recorded history. One astute and sensible doctor in the Middle Ages suggested that deaths from puerperal fever were being caused by medical students and doctors coming from working in the morgue to delivering babies and not washing their hands before doing the deliveries. The doctor who made this observation and suggested the simple recommendation of hand washing was decried as being outrageous and ludicrous. Similarly, the doctor who tried to convince the rest of the medical profession that cholera in London in the Middle Ages was due to contaminated water supplies and not to "bad air" was also decried.
    Sadly, a few of the powerful and vocal specialists remain stuck in this Middle Ages approach to accepting any change that is outside of their belief system. They would rather the patients "fell on the sword" of narrow belief systems than admit there are other ways of helping to deal with a medical condition.

    I have seen the photos of your bony secondaries under your skin of your chest wall, Ian. As a doctor, I know that there is no possible way that these could have been due to TB, and Professor Lowenthal and Dr Haines would also know this. Prof Lowenthal and Dr Haines will have "blood on their hands" if their articles and the publicity it generates influences people with cancer to discard the Gawler Foundation lifestyle advice.

    When I meditate, I give thanks to you, Ian , and the Gawler Foundation, for the second chance your dedicated work has given me in dealing with my cancer, and vastly improving my attitude to "Life, the Universe, and Everything"!

    Mary Pease

  31. I have a young family and have made siginificant changes to our diet as a result of your work along with many others who, like yourself, have changed their lives in order to survive cancer. I'm now well read regarding lifestyle and diet and look back in dismay at the way in which i was raising my children diet-wise and even trying to fit more and more in with life, hence was stressed as were my children. Thank you for your inspiration and extensive work!! You've made a huge difference to people in my generation which will significantly and positively impact on the next generation!

  32. i just want to thankyou Ian I dont have cancer but a very rare autoimunne system disease 7yrs ago had had lost the use of my legs etceetc
    these days i rent an old farm house where i am mostly at peace with myself when i am listening to my inner being regarding food, emotional etc and reconnecting with nature eating from my very own vege garden without chemicals and preservatives and not over eating has been quite amazingly healing for me
    I remember years ago hearing about you Ian and the cancer you had battled with and it was wonderful to be at your working during the year
    I also came across a lot of opposition not from my docs but from hospital staff etcetc as I wasnt diagnosed at the time My Doc never gave up investigating but I was treated appalingly by nurses as i didnt fit into a box,i feel very sad you are being treated so very badly when what you offer people is life changing spiritualy emotionly , are any of these ever offered inmainstream medicine, it is an ancient form of medicine before the drug companys and the presevatives and all the nastys are poured into processed foods etc I truly dont understand why this is not looked into with all the funding for research etcetc It is very frustrating how much it has all got out of wak
    there I go on my soap box again
    thanks to you both amazing how many lifes you have touched and will continue to do so truth compassion honesty acceptance & love

  33. from Adelaide,
    I'm appalled at the untruths that have been said against you Ian. I have always held you in such high regard for not only conquering cancer when the odds against you surviving appeared impossible, but also for what you have done with your life to give others the knowledge, skills and hope for a healthier life. I have had cancer twice and although I didn't feel I could attend your courses in Melbourne I read everything I could that you've written. I've lent your books to others and told many people about your inspiring life. I did attend one of your conferences a few years ago and found that really inspiring and beneficial. I practice meditation daily with thanks to you and other enlightened people including my GP. As one who spent most of my career in health promotion in both community health and in a major hospital I thank you sincerely for what you've done for so many people and for bringing together the value of complimentary health promoting practice while still respecting traditional medical model practice. I send you my very best wishes for your continued good health, happiness and peace.

  34. Dear Ian,
    Thanks for the explanation in regards to the articles that have been published recently about you.

    The saying goes "it's an ill wind that brings no good" this in my mind is very evident in this situation.

    I have attended the 10 day life and living and the 5 day life and living - the next step so this is coming from the point of view of the converted, however it is still relevant.

    I found out about you via my tractor machanic enquiring why I was selling my farm, when I told him the reason was cancer he said that a friend of his was on a wacky diet, however it seemed to be working, through this tiny thread of information I ended up at the Gawler Foundation and on a new path of life that is better than anything I imagined possible.

    The point I want to make is that you are back on the front page. It might be because of a negative article, however people are talking about you from one end of the country to the other, this has got to be a good thing. I didn't see the ACA program but friends that did were happy with what you said and came away with the belief that you are the genuine article. If more people get to know about the remarkable work you are doing it may become more main stream and less people find out about you by chance.

    Thanks for changing my life.

    Kind Regards,


  35. Had to add my support to the above. Who in their right mind could think that good nutrition and good mental health could be a bad idea in any situation. Clearly nobody, in their right mind! Keep up the good work Ian and team, as of course you will. You have given real hope to my very best friend recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. The real "crime" here if there is one is that no doctor has ever suggested she changes her diet or lifestyle in anyway, they just recommend chemo and radiotherapy and have said she has no hope beyond 6 months. Doctors should be looking at their own advice and out of date advice instead of attacking you and the amazing work you do.

  36. The hope that I have for this article is that "there is no such thing as bad publicity". Anyone who takes the time to familiarise themselves with any of your work will soon realise that you are simply offering people a chance to take more control over their health and do not advise the shunning of any medical treatments, but rather lots of sensible, practical things that cancer patients can do at the same time. Anyone with any common sense will immediately see the work of your foundation is only to be reverred in the highest possible way. My hope is the article gets people talking and leads more people towards your book and work, not away from it. I am sure it will and I look forward to your next blog article greatly. You are helping to save someone very close to me and the power of your inspiration is immesurable.

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