23 April 2012

Too good to be true?

Thought for the day:
Live never to be ashamed if anything you do or say is published around the world, even if it is not true.     Richard Bach, Illusions

A lifestyle based MS program that over 5 years results in 30% better outcomes than conventional treatments.

Too good to be true?

Surviving secondary osteogenic sarcoma for well over 30 years using an approach based upon Integrative Medicine.

Too good to be true?

Leading lifestyle based cancer self help groups for over 30 years.

Too good to be true?

The Age newspaper has written another feature questioning my cancer diagnosis under the heading, you guessed it, “Too good to be true”. I guess this is better than having a heading “too awful and inconsequential to be bothered with”, but perhaps what the title does reflect is the real issue.

Too good to be true. That is the sort of statement you make when your belief system is challenged, when you cannot believe something new is real and actually effective. As human beings we have this powerful tendency to accept things that reinforce what we believe in and to reject everything that conflicts with our point of view.

I suggest we are moving towards the end of a major paradigm shift in medicine that has been in progress for the last couple of decades. A paradigm is a prevailing set of assumptions, and medicine is slowly but steadily adjusting to the fact that the public wants to be more empowered when it comes to making decisions around their health choices, and they want a more integrated, more holistic approach. I contend Haines and Lowenthal are attacking because they represent the old ways of medicine and so far have been unable to adapt and move with the times.

So in this latest Age article I wonder how much of the old paradigm affected the journalists’ judgment? I was amazed that they did not include a quote they had access to from the surgeon who removed my lung in 2004. Professor Peter Clarke, an eminent, senior surgeon and authority on TB said “If he had had widespread TB rather than recurrent osteosarcoma he would be dead. I have no doubt he had localised TB secondary to impaired resistance after chemotherapy leading to a focus of destruction in his left lung with recurrent opportunistic infection requiring resection of the diseased lung. If he had generalised TB it would have affected both lungs.”

Neither did they report a medical historian from Yale, Dr Kathryn Irving, who wrote to the Internal Medicine Journal (IMJ) and said that the Haines and Lowenthal article “written about an episode that occurred more than 30 years ago, can best be explained by some oncologists’ discomfort with losing their authority to dictate patient choices” and that “Haines and Lowenthal’s mission to debunk Gawler’s cure runs the risk of sounding like a paternalistic attack on a therapeutic competitor”. (Unfortunately, this article is only available to subscribers of the IMJ so it cannot be linked to).

However, earlier in the week The Age did run another story featuring a GP who has changed his mind. Dr Rod Anderson also wrote to the IMJ saying he had experienced melanoma himself and had recommended people with cancer to the Gawler Foundation for many years. However, now he believes I did not have secondary cancer, that no one has recovered after going to the Foundation, and so now he will stop his recommendations.

Logically, and rather unfortunately, we have to conclude that Rod Anderson is either incompetent or a fool. Here is why. Having recommended his patients, competency would require him to follow up and seek feedback. If the feedback from people going to the Foundation was bad, he needed to stop recommending. If he did not obtain feedback, he is incompetent. If the feedback was good, which would explain him continuing to recommend patients over many years, and yet now he stops because of what happened to me over 30 years ago, he is a fool. As far as I know, Sir Alexander Fleming, the man who discovered penicillin, was an exemplary man. But if 30 years after penicillin had come on the market, his history had been found to be flawed in some way, would we have said penicillin was useless and should be withdrawn from the market? I do not think so! Only a fool would suggest that.

Further, Anderson has not read, or has chosen to ignore “Inspiring People” and “Surviving Cancer”, two books that recount the stories of many people who have attended Foundation programs and survived against the odds. I have a deep concern for patients of this man who now may miss out on being recommended to significant help because of his limitations.

And this is the real problem. What of the people with cancer? Where are they left amidst all this controversy?

It has been said that new ideas that challenge old paradigms go through four stages. First they are ignored; then ridiculed; then attacked; then taken as being self-evident.

It has been tough being attacked over my personal history, but any concerns readers feel need to be focused on those vulnerable people, both patients, family members, friends, doctors and other health professionals who may be adversely swayed by the attacks of Haines and Lowenthal.

There is a real need for those of us who believe in the integrated approach I represent, and that the Gawler Foundation teaches, to speak up wherever we can and to be advocates for this approach. That is why I continue to speak up on this. It will be good to meet with Melbourne supporters at my weekend workshop in May - see below.

So what does all this say of The Age? Why are they running so hard with this? Why are they giving space to someone like Anderson, and leaving out the voices of Clarke and Irving?

It is a strange world we live in. That is true, but I am not sure it is too good.


1. Melbourne workshops now open for bookings through the Gawler Foundation
                 Saturday and Sunday May 26th and 27th at Hawthorn

                               The Mind that Changes Everything

A highly experiential day based on the latest research as well as ancient wisdom. Understand more about how the mind functions and how we can use more of its extraordinary potential. A gentle blend of theory and practice, with many led sessions of meditation and imagery, along with ample time for questions and discussion.
Click here for more details and bookings.

2. Griefwalker – a challenging but rewarding exploration of death. A film available online.

A universal experience whether or not we can admit it, death is the sole counterpart to life. From the moment we take our first breath, death is our only guaranteed experience. This is something Stephen Jenkinson, a Harvard educated theologian and one of Canada’s leading palliative care educators, not only understands but something he loves. And he wants you to feel the same way. Jenkinson insists that in order to love life, we need to love death. Captured with a cinematic eye, this lyrical, haunting documentary exhibits an unparalleled understanding of mortality. Worth a look.


BOOKS  You Can Conquer Cancer  Ian Gawler

                 Surviving Cancer  Paul Kraus

CDs   The Gawler cancer program  Ian Gawler

           What to do when someone you love has cancer  Ian Gawler

PROGRAMS  The Gawler Foundation


  1. Well said Ian. It's time for those that have benefitted from all this work you have done to speak about their own experiences and be advocates. They should also pray for you at this time.

  2. No matter what they say Ian, they cannot take away from the fact that the Gawler Foundation gave people like me and continues to give people a sense of ownership and responsibility for their recovery. It enables them to actively participate in decisions about their health and their lives rather than leaving it to the medical profession alone who often have shown very little compassion and treat patients as just another cancer case! My own experience with the first oncologist I saw after just being diagnosed in 2004 and completely overwhelmed with fear, doubts and questions told me to "choose the most important 3 as she did not have much time!!" I will always be greatful to the Gawler Foundation for seeing me as a human being with an illness not as an illness attached to a human being.

  3. If Ian had secondary osteogenic sarcoma and "localised TB secondary to impaired resistance after chemotherapy" - does that not make his recovery even more extraordinary? - that he had these diseases concurrently and still survived and became well?

  4. Hi Ian,

    Like you, I am flabbergasted at the uncompromisingly negative slant The Age - and its journalist - have taken toward your story. Each article gets progressively more strident and is characterized by a strange, dismissive undertone which is quite unsettling. Indeed, it's so bizarre I've had the distinct feeling something more is going on. This whole fandango reminds me of the medieval Christian church and its ruthless treatment of so-called heretics like Galileo. I agree - we seem to be in the midst of a paradigm shift of epic dimensions and the stoic defenders of the old world view are determined to go down with a nauseating and ear-splitting racket.

    Thanks for everything you do.



  5. The hypocrisy of attacks by Haines and Lowenthal really is something to behold. You have never advocated giving up allopathic medicine in favour
    of alternative methods even though the whole world knows that neither is a 100% cure for cancer. It is quite outstanding that they feel so threatened by something so non-invasive and non-toxic, tragic really.
    Quite happy to dole out poison knowing that it most likely won't cure and not wanting their 'victims' to have any sense of being part of their own outcome.
    Ian, all I can say is never forget Galileo... he was imprisoned for knowledge. I too believe that we are on the edge of a paradigm shift, for the better, in health care.
    Have you heard about the 'committed sardine'??? The school all swims the same way until a few break off and swim in another direction... before long the whole school turns and follows. The 'turn' is coming thanks to the like of you!!!
    What sort of a caring oncologist would deny a patient peace of mind (at the very least) that can be achieved through meditation do they really believe that a stressed, nervous, panicky patient will have a better outcome???. How can someone so educated be so ignorant of the Mind-body connection??? My oncologist recommended meditation to me... said she had seen evidence of its power.

  6. Keep up the good work. I'm in one of those books, Inspiring People or the other one I forget which. I know the "Gawler" process works and perhaps its not too far away that it will be broadly accepted as "known". The physical benefits of sitting and paying close attention to the body and the deep relaxation that comes with that are generally self evident. Who will deny that deeply relaxing the tension out of the body will not be beneficial. And who is going to put their hand up and say that eating good food, food that is good for the body (not the taste buds) is going to do anything but help. And who will tell us that getting our relationships and our emotions sorted out is going to do us harm. If we do those things AND we get GOOD medical advise surely we give our selves the absolute best chance of not only surviving cancer but living each moment in the best possible way. I think you may be right, its just some dinosaurs on their last frolic. Oh and don't forget, the priority of a new paper is to sell news papers not to tell the truth.

  7. Ian,
    This story has been playing further on my mind and so when I came across the following I thought it just had to be shared...
    April 24: Panel Discussion from the Mayo Clinic
    His Holiness the Dalai Lama will join in a panel discussion on "Integrating Mindfulness in Healthcare" from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, USA.

    If it's good enough for the Mayo Clinic I believe it is good enough for anyone else.
    I am beginning to pity Haines and Lowenthal.

  8. Keep going Ian, the sensible people support you. :o)

  9. The good thing is the more these Doctors attack you the more we can see it is about saving their income rather than saving lives, otherwise they would be working with you and finding out what works no matter who thought of it.

    1. That is exactly what it is all about. Big Pharma and The Cancer Industry. 'They' do not want a cure for cancers. This would put millions out of work.

  10. After, the disappointing article in Insight in the Age on Saturday 21/4/2012 it was nice to read more positive letters sent in to the Age editor and published Monday morning.

    I was thinking to myself, whatever the medical profession think about integrative medicine, the Labor & Liberal state Governments obviously endorse it because they gave 44.8 million to Olivia Newton John Centre which promotes Mind Body Medicine!

    Olivia Newton John, who survived breast cancer, clearly endorses integrative medicine on her website. It would be interesting to see how Ian Haines, Ray Lowenthal and the media treat Olivia Newton John with respect to advocating integrative medicine!

    Integrative / complementary medicine is a growth industry that personalises cancer care in a way the present traditional health care system does not. The Gawler Foundation (www.gawler.org) has pioneered this industry and now we have Olivia Newton John Cancer and Wellness Centre (http://www.oliviaappeal.com/Body-Mind-And-Spirit.aspx) and the likes of big American businesses like Cancer Treatment Centres of America (www.cancercenter.com)

    How far will Ian Haines and Ray Lowenthal go if they broaden their attack?

  11. You join a long and honourable list of people who made significant contribution to medicine but were pilloried by their contemporaries. Today patients can be better informed and the medical profession is disgraced by those who tout medical qualifications yet stoop low with personal attack rather than question procedures. They reveal themselves as doctors to be avoided for they would rather their patients die than try anything unorthodox.

  12. Alan Howell April 25

    I think that we should all calm down. I see people saying that the medical profession, big Pharma and the cancer industry are all out to feather their own nests et cetera. As a doctor who believes in integrative medicine and the mind body connection, I can assure you that there are many people in the medical profession who believe in this concept as well. At the upcoming conference of the faculty of pain medicine in Perth in early May they will be discussing the role of meditation in pain medicine. Meditation is being used more and more in pain management programs and more and more evidence is accumulating of the effect of meditation on the immune system and on neuro- plasticity in the spinal cord and brain. Lifestyle medicine is now becoming part of mainstream thought.
    When one talks about "the cancer industry" I hope that you mean the charlatans that peddle alternative as opposed to complementary or integrated medicine. I can assure you that big Pharma would dearly love a cure for cancer they would make millions.
    I think that the attacks on the Gawler foundation are coming from severely misguided people who don't understand what is being done and achieved and who are being whipped up into a frenzy by the usual idiot reporters looking for a story. Most of the health professionals that I have spoken to do not even know what the Gawler foundation does.
    I think that what we should do is quietly but firmly show these people up for what they are and talk to and educate and not alienate the growing numbers of the health profession who see the light.

    1. Certainly we should not prejudice all doctors because of a few bad apples. I was very heartened to meet many doctors with expanded minds when I trained in Clinical Hypnosis with Dr Alan Fahey and the Australian College of Medical Hypnosis. There are indeed many health professionals who are giving their time and money to study mind-body medicine and bravely risking censure for recommending “unorthodox” treatments.

  13. Dear Ian,
    I am a GP and I attended some of your presentations at the Relaxation Centre in Brisbane in 2010 and 2011. I recall you saying that, when you had part of your lung removed a few years ago for recurrent infections from previous TB, that the Pathologist reported bone in the lung tissue. This could NOT have come from TB, and only from an osteosarcoma regressing. Previous TB could have given calcification, but it would not have created true bone tissue. Are you able to access your pathology report? If you can show Lowenthal and Haines that there was evidence of regressed osteosarcoma in your lungs, you would have undeniable proof that you had lung secondaries from your osteosarcoma. Case against you hence dismissed.!!

  14. I am an allied Health professional who has survived a serious cancer. For three years following initial medical diagnosis and two recurrences of cancer, I resisted looking into the Gawler approach.

    I had not shifted from the medical model paradigm that I had been professionally trained in and based my life around. The medical model generated my income, my status, and gave me a highly regarded community to belong to. My ego was inextricably intertwined with all the positive things I personally gained from staying aligned with the medical paradigm. Can this happen with Oncologists as well?

    When I was still strictly aligned with the medical paradigm, I really believed it was right to not foster "false hope,” in medically defined ‘incurable’ or ‘low prognosis’ situations. If clients questioned such medical predictions, I could easily label and dismiss this as their denial. I didn't have to think too much about it.

    It took a very personal and big experience to challenge this thinking.
    This was cancer. Once I did look into the lifestyle approach, I found it strongly life affirming and health giving. Since making changes as per the Gawler lifestyle program, I have survived for a further three years without recurrence. It has given me control over my wellbeing, and made an enormous positive difference to my outlook. I see that this positive change is linked closely with physical health.

    I wish to offer my support to Ian and others with cancer experiences, as we face this assault to the lifestyle approach. I am also deeply grateful for the considered and courageous responses to these unhelpful assaults, from Ian and others.

    I will meditate and hope that those feeding this assault will reflect and realign with more ethical action. Is there a way that those attacking can change their strategy and save face?

    From a deeply grateful survivor.