Fighting Cancer

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       Fighting Cancer
                                                      March 2009


                                                                      HEALTH BITES
                                                                                  Compiled by Tova Ross

           Spotlight On…Salmonella                                                            effects can include joint pain and painful urination, which can develop into Reiter’s
                                                                                              syndrome, which can last for many months or even years, and could possibly lead to
     The FDA’s recent peanut butter and peanut recall in the United States has sparked        a chronic struggle with arthritis.
national interest in salmonella. Let’s examine the nature and symptoms of the foodborne           The following are some guidelines for safety in food preparation and consumption:
bacteria, and ways to help prevent it.                                                        • Wash hands with soap and water before handling or preparing food, and after using
     Named after the American doctor who discovered them, Dr. Daniel Salmon, salmo-             the bathroom, changing diapers, and handling pets;
nella are bacteria that cause the most common type of food poisoning. They are micro-         • Wash utensils and food gadgets after each use;
scopic, rod-shaped bacilli that cause diarrheal illness in humans, and pass from the feces    • Separate raw meat, chicken, and fish in your grocery bag and freezer, and use a sepa-
of both animals and people to other animals or people. They live in the intestinal tract of     rate cutting board or dish for each, if possible;
humans and animals, and usually transmitted to humans if they eat food that came into         • Cook food to safe temperatures, which means at least 145 degrees F for beef and steak,
contact with animal feces. Foods that are likely to possess salmonella are any raw food         at least 165 degrees F for all poultry, at least 145 degrees F for fish, and bringing soups
of animal origin, including eggs and dairy products. The bacteria survive if meat and fish       and stews to a boil when they are being reheated;
are not cooked to a minimum level. Some fruits and vegetables can also carry the bacte-       • Refrigerate or freeze food as soon as possible,; the freezer should have a temperature
ria, especially if they are not thoroughly washed before eating.                                level of 0 degrees F or below and refrigerators should have a temperature level of 40
                                                                                                degrees F or below;
                                                                                              • When thawing meats or fish, use the refrigerator rather than leaving it out at room
                                                                                              • Refrigerate leftovers as soon as possible.

                                                                                                Superfoods: Healthy Food Finds
                                                                                                   – And Ways to Eat Them
                                                                                              • Nut butters: Instead of having the same old peanut butter and jelly sandwich, try
                                                                                                something different by using nut butters, such as almond or cashew butter, instead.
                                                                                                Not only does each butter offer up different fare from the usual peanut spread, but
                                                                                                they are also known to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.
                                                                                                Another interesting way to utilize nut butter is to thin it with some lemon juice or ol-
                                                                                                ive oil to make a salad dressing. Mixing a little hazelnut butter with some vanilla yo-
                                                                                                gurt makes a delicious and healthful breakfast treat.
                                                                                              • Flax seeds: Pretty much everyone has become hip to the tip of munching on portions
                                                                                                of nuts as a healthy, mid-meal snack, but few people are aware that flax seeds are just
                                                                                                as tasty and an equally healthy alternative to walnuts and pistachios. Flax seeds are a

    There are over 200 types of salmonella bacteria, and the two most common in
the United States are salmonella enteritidis and salmonella typhimurium. Salmonella
causes an infection called salmonellosis; typical symptoms include diarrhea, abdom-
inal cramps, and fever with 72 hours of eating the contaminated food. Many people
with salmonellosis recover without receiving medical treatment for it, and symptoms
can go away in as little as four days. However, the infection can also be life threaten-
ing, and is responsible for over 500 deaths in the U.S. each year. It is especially threat-
ening for pregnant women, babies and young children, and older adults. Many peo-
ple recover completely from it, but for less fortunate victims of salmonella, long-term

           Announcements & Events
      Bikur Cholim of Boro Park, in partnership with CancerCare, will be hosting bi-month-
 ly friendship gatherings for frum women who are in treatment for or have been in treat-
 ment for cancer. Beginning after Pesach, confidential meetings will take place in Bikur
 Cholim of Boro Park, at 5216 11th Avenue, and will be free of charge. Come hear inter-
 esting guest speakers and have opportunities to meet others “who understand,” while
 enjoying a light snack. To be contacted with the date and time of the first gathering,          great source of Omega-3 fat and fiber, and help to protect the heart. The seeds can be
 please leave a message for Yafa, Project Coordinator, at (718) 438-2020, ext. 7451. (This
 project is sponsored by the Caring Commission of the UJA Federation of Greater NY.)            eaten plain or sprinkled atop muffins, challah, and in stir-fry dishes.
                                                                                              • Quinoa: This grain has soared in popularity in recent years, thanks to nutritionists and
     SHARSHERET ANNUAL BENEFIT LUNCHEON:                                                        chefs touting its numerous health benefits: more protein compared to other grains, and
     HONORING THE WOMEN WHO HAVE TOUCHED OUR LIVES:                                             it possesses all nine of the essential amino acids that make up a complete protein. Its
     ANNUAL BENEFIT LUNCHEON                                                                    nutty flavor and absence of gluten makes it a hit for discriminating eaters and people
     On Sunday, May 17, 10:30 a.m., Sharsheret will hold Annual Benefit Luncheon at the
                                                                                                with gluten allergies. Though typically used in the place of rice and couscous, quinoa
 Teaneck Marriott at Glenpointe, in Teaneck, NJ. Share this special day with friends and
 loved ones as we recognize the meaningful contributions of Naava Parker (Englewood,            can also be made as a dessert with a little honey or sugar and cinnamon.
 New Jersey) and Rochelle Hirsch (New York City), Guests of Honor, and Suffy Rudman            • Sour cherries: Tart cherries aren’t typically snacked upon by themselves; more often,
 (Riverdale, New York), recipient of the Lisa Altman Volunteer Tribute Award. For more          they are used for baking in tarts and pies and for making jam. Yet however one con-
 information about the Benefit and sponsorship opportunities, please e-mail events@              sumes them, one can be assured of the presence of anti-inflammatory compounds, or call Sharsheret toll-free at (866) 474-2774.                                 the kind found in ibuprofen. Sour cherries can be used as a homemade and tasty rem-
     HELPFUL LINKS                                                                              edy for muscle aches and pains, as well as gout. Try mixing the cherry juice with some - is a forum website where frum/Orthodox                   natural sweetener or with apple juice; drinking the juice will also yield the same ben-
 people suffering from serious illnesses or medical conditions can dissuss, share and            efits of the cherries themselves.
 get support from each other.                                                                 • Sesame: Whether consumed in oil or seed form, sesame has numerous health bene- - Sharsheret is a national organization of cancer survivors dedicat-        fits. The seeds contain the same compounds found in flax seeds, called lignans, which,
 ed to addressing the unique concerns of young Jewish women facing breast cancer.
                                                                                                besides for helping to reduce cholesterol and risk of heart attack, can also help women - When serious illness strikes a child, the entire family is affected.
 Chai Lifeline’s extensive network of free programs and services is designed to help ev-        balance their hormone levels. Try toasted sesame seeds sprinkled on salads and chal-
 ery member of the family cope during this time of crisis.                                      lah, or dip chips and vegetables in tahini, a sesame paste. Sesame oil is also extreme-
                                                                                                ly tasty in veggie stir-fries and on pasta with garlic cloves.

                                                                                                                                                         HEALTH LIVING
      Coping with Cancer: A Psychotherapist’s
          Lesson, Drawn From Her Sister                                                                                                                                 Cancer
                   By Dodi Lamm                                                                                                  laid out for you and proscribed
                                                                                                                                 by any number of influences. It
    I was initially hesitant to write this article, as I do not                                                                  is the right time to rediscover yourself.
have cancer and never have. However, what “qualifies” me                                                                               Dr. Lawrence LeShan, a psychotherapist who works
is my profession – psychotherapy – and my sister.                                                                                with people who have cancer, writes about a wonderful
    Either you were constantly aware she had cancer or you                                                                       metaphor seen in the life of a lobster.
would never know it. The ways my sister dealt with cancer                                                                             Lobsters have hard, non-stretchable shells outside their
– all three times – was a contradiction. If you really looked                                                                    whole bodies, and yet they come in different sizes. A lob-
at her, you might have been able to see that something                                                                           ster from time to time realizes that his shell is too cramped,
was wrong depending upon where she was in her can-                                                                               and because his shell does not stretch or grow, the lobster
cer continuum: full-blown and in the hospital; undergo-                                                                          does a very brave thing; he goes to a quiet place, steps out
ing chemo; or in remission. Other times she was a power-                                                                         of his shell and walks away naked and vulnerable. Within
house full of energy and purpose, a woman on a mission.                                                                          a few hours a membrane around his body hardens into a
    My sister made every minute count; this was how she                                                                          new and larger shell.
focused her life. She had seven kids and countless b’not                                                                              Our shells are our roles, our masks and our armor, and
bayit. She taught officially in school and “unofficially” ev-                                                                        they may have worked for us in the past. But sometimes
erywhere else. Formal classes would be one forum and                                                                             our shells might be stunting our growth. Dr. LeShan de-
her home another, with the most important of lessons, of                                                                         scribes an exercise that helps us to know ourselves. Make
course, going to her children. While dates became mean-                                                                          a list of those activities that so engross you that you might
ingful – how long the treatment lasted, how many years                                                                           not be cognizant of the time passing or that you may not
since the diagnosis, how many years in remission – time                                                                          hear your child calling, the activities that make you feel
itself was valuable, and her time was made precious in a          But she also found her antidote, an ongoing conversa-          full of life. Then make a list of the things that drain you,
purposeful and meaningful manner. I don’t remember                tion with God.                                                 you don’t want to do them but you have to. Now is the
her ever approaching anything as if it might be her last              My sister was extraordinarily active. Aside from her ev-   time to do those that make you feel vital and alive. When
experience. She lived life in the moment, and her mo-             eryday duties, she volunteered for an untold number of         you prune your activities to your specific size shell, you re-
ments were dear.                                                  things. She cooked, sewed, made sheva berachot, vorts,         frame who you are, your days become more meaningful
    My sister was a learning and growing individual. She          and even coached a newborn into the world.                     and your time is well spent.
transformed her never ending trials and tribulations and              According to Dave Frahm, author of “A Cancer Battle             Recently, the Leonard Lopate radio show on WNYC
reframed them as an opportunity. “Woe is me” was not in           Plan Sourcebook,” leading a purposeful life and having a       asked audience members to send in a six-word memoir, in
her vocabulary. Her mantra was that of God, growth and            sense of purpose that helps the person get out of bed in       the spirit of Hemingway. Perhaps my sister’s memoir would
learning; what she could learn today she could apply to-          the morning can be vital. The focus becomes less inward        read: “She lived every moment in entirety.”
morrow. She had a vision and that included what was now           and more outward. There is no substitution for pain and
and what was in the future.                                       thoughts of mortality, but there is value in focusing on
    My sister was not in denial. How on earth could she be        something other than you.                                         Dodi Lamm is a psychotherapist in Long Island. You
when she was sometimes skinny, riddled with pain, and                 Most important is to have a true cheshbon hanefesh, in-       can visit her website at www.InsightsInLongIsland.
taking a cornucopia of medicine akin to a shelf in a phar-        trospection, asking who are you as an individual. Up until        com, or call her at 516-255-2009. This article is in
macy? She ached, she cried, she worried, she was human.           now you may have been marching to the tune that was               memory of her sister, Judith Young, a”h.

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                                                                                                                Dodi Lee Lamm,
                                                                                                      Making that first therapy appointment is tough.
                                                                                                   When you call, I will help lead you on a journey that
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                                                                              Rockville Centre, NY 11570

                               Blessings Through Tears                                                                           hospital room. We played a version of pictionary on the
                                                                                                                                 same board. My parents’ rabbi came and said the viddui
                                                                                                                                 prayer with him. While we left them in private, the rabbi
    Cancer                                                      By: Amy A. Dubitsky                                              later told us that he had never been through that process
                                                                                                                                 with someone who had said the words with as much clar-
                                                                                                                                                                  ity and understanding as
                              I was strolling with my 3                                                                                                           my father had. After two
                          month-old baby through the                                                                                                              days in the hospital, we
hospital gift shop when the older lady behind the coun-                                                                                                           each said “I love you” and
ter asked if I needed any help. “No, thank you,” I told her,                                                                                                      together we recited Shema
“I’m just browsing and getting some air.” She inquired,                                                                                                           Yisrael – and he was gone.
and I explained how I had been staying upstairs with my                                                                                                                When cancer is termi-
father who was battling end stage pancreatic cancer. We                                                                                                           nal, we should daven to
struck up a conversation and it turned out that her hus-                                                                                                          Hashem, research, and do
band had passed away of pancreatic cancer a mere 21 days                                                                                                          whatever we can to pro-
after his diagnosis. My father had been fighting his bat-                                                                                                          tect the life and quality of
tle for 15 long months, and I was grateful for the remind-                                                                                                        life of the person we love.
er to be thankful for every moment we were able to share                                                                                                          However, I have learned
together during this time. My son’s upsherin, the birth of                                                                                                        that at a certain point there
my daughter, my niece’s Bat Mitzvah, the purchase of our                                                                                                          is comfort in accepting the
first home and the impending birth of my nephew were                                                                                                               prognosis and instead of
some of the major family milestones that my father was                                                                                                            being blindsided by reality,
able to know about or share in during this time period.                                                                                                           to take the time to create
While I was grateful for the ability to relish in those mo-                                                                                                       those final memories that
ments, I knew at the same time that it was painful for my                                                                                                         will stay with you forev-
father to be aware that eventually, he would be leaving                                                                                                           er. I will always be grateful
us and his grandchildren.                                                                                                                                         for my last private conver-
     Towards the end of his life, it became very difficult for                                                                                                      sation with my father and
my father to see his grandchildren. Aside from having little                                                                                                      for all of the “extra” time we
tolerance for noise, at that point it was simply too painful                                                                                                      were given to spend with
for him. While I would have liked my kids to see as much         comforted knowing that we were all there to support him,        him. As the lady in the gift shop told me that night before
of my father as possible, it was important to respect his        rather than to try and convince him to try just one more        he passed away, “You seem to be counting your blessings
wishes and to leave my young children with as many pos-          pill or treatment. People often find comfort in the fact that    through your tears.”
itive memories of him as possible.                               a loved one died at home – my father, however, was in-              It has been over two years since my father passed away,
     Throughout his illness, well-meaning friends and family     sistent that he be brought to the hospital. While we were       and sometimes I still do.
would ask how my father was doing. I spared them the in-         reluctant to take him there, the nurses and hospice staff
tricate medical details, but towards the end when I would        were able to make him comfortable during his last couple
say, “He’s not doing well,” many people would offer words         of days with us. They took away his physical pain and be-          Amy Dubitsky lives in Phoenix, AZ and is a
of encouragement and advice about holding out for a mir-         cause, thank G-d, he remained lucid until he passed away,          freelance writer whose work has appeared in
acle cure. It’s difficult to admit that the end is coming, but     we were allowed some time together as a family.                    American Jewish Spirit Magazine, The Jewish
I found that it was easier to face it honestly than to try to         I drew the floor plan of my new house that he would            News of Greater Phoenix, and among
deny it. My father knew he was dying, and I think he was         never get to see on the dry erase board on the wall of his         others.

A Cancer Patient in the Home: Advice from Spouses
       of Cancer Patients on How to Cope
                  By Barry Katz                                                                                                                          hair loss, radiation effects, and insur-
                                                                                                                                                         ance. All spouses who joined support
     When Michael Berry (name has been changed) was di-                                                                                                  groups were glad they did so.
agnosed with cancer a little more than two years ago at the                                                                                                   The issue of telling children is
age of 27, his whole world turned upside down. Aside from                                                                                                complicated and depends on many
his physical ailments, excruciating treatments, and a con-                                                                                               factors, most importantly their ages
stant exhaustion that made him feel as if he had just com-                                                                                               and level of emotional maturity. One
pleted running a marathon, he was dogged with emotion-                                                                                                   wife said that she did not tell her chil-
al troubles. These included wondering why God had cho-                                                                                                   dren, ages two and four, because she
sen him of all people to suffer from the dreaded disease,                                                                                                 did not want to alarm them. She told
financial worries about medical bills, whether his employ-                                                                                                them that their father had been hospi-
er would replace him while he missed work, and wheth-                                                                                                    talized because he had had a stomach-
er he would live long enough to attend his son’s bar mitz-                                                                                               ache, and that his baldness was due to
vah, or perhaps even live long enough to see his own up-                                                                                                 a short haircut. Furthermore, she was
coming birthday.                                                                                                                                         careful to not disrupt their routines
     While most people shudder at the thought of what a                                                                                                  whenever possible. A woman with
cancer patient must be going through, few consider how                                                                                                   teenaged children, however, took the
difficult things are for the patient’s spouse, whose life is                                                                                               opposite approach. Because her chil-
similarly disrupted between missing work, accompany-                                                                                                     dren were older and thus more per-
ing the spouse to doctors’ appointments, and trying to                                                                                                   ceptive, she felt that telling them the
maintain a household. In the process of researching this                                                                                                 truth would assuage their fears. She
article, this writer spoke to several spouses of former can-                                                                                             said that adolescents often have little
cer patients, and although every situation has factors that      ous physical symptoms of his illness, he was bombarded          to no knowledge of cancer and often fear the worst based
may warrant different courses of action, the following are        with offers from synagogue members – many of whom                on what they may have seen or heard on television or in
a consensus of ideas that the spouses offered for coping:         he barely knew – to provide meals, babysitting, and other       newspapers. Giving them the facts – especially when the
     Remain optimistic. Although each form of cancer has a       forms of assistance. Additionally, some offered useful in-       cancer is not fatal – reassured them and made their coping
different survival rate, showing your spouse that you have        formation that helped ease the ordeal.                          easier. Consequently, knowing that her children felt better
a positive attitude will help alleviate some of the pain. Al-       Join a support group. Communicating with others in           provided her greater peace of mind.
though scientific research has not proved that optimism           similar situations helps you feel that you are not alone, and       Finally, all spouses agreed that going through the or-
increases a cancer patient’s life span, the spouses unani-       that your concerns are most likely shared. For instance, Mat-   deal as a couple led to a change in their relationships. While
mously agreed that it changes the demeanor of the pa-            thew Loscalzo, co-author of “For the Women We Love: A           one spouse said that the stress created a rift that had not
tient and the surrounding atmosphere.                            Breast Cancer Action Plan and Caregiver’s Guide for Men,”       yet fully healed, the others said that the experience drew
     Tell as many people as you can about the diagnosis.         says that men often feel guilty when their wives are diag-      them closer, and while nobody wishes the dreaded disease
For some, there is a tendency to withhold the informa-           nosed with cancer, thinking that they failed in being pro-      upon anyone, one woman said that her husband’s surviv-
tion because of what others might say from fear of stig-         tectors and harping on the idea that they “should have          al led to a newfound appreciation of life, and thus called
matization. Yet the interviewees found that the majority         made her go to the gym more, eat better, see the doctor         his cancer a blessing in disguise.
of people, upon hearing of the spouse’s cancer, were ea-         more.” A support group is a most appropriate setting for
ger to help. One wife said that she and her husband had          voicing these apprehensions. If one is unable to attend
recently moved to a new neighborhood where he was                meetings, there are numerous online bulletin boards, in-           Barry Katz is a teacher and freelance writer living
“just another person in a large synagogue” when he was           cluding, which has nearly 1,000             in Brooklyn, NY. Some of his writings can be found
diagnosed with cancer. Upon arriving one day with obvi-          members and a slew of topics including dietary concerns,           at

                                                                                                                                                            HEALTH LIVING
     In the Fight Against Cancer, Simcha Is Key                                                                                                                            Fighting
              By Yehuda Raskin                                of the woodwork shop. “In all our workshops, our goal is             challenges.” Berko says. “You of-
                                                              that every kid should accomplish his dream,” Moeller said.           ten hear even very little kids hav-
     For most kids, sleep-away camp is the place they go to   “One camper wanted to build a cage for his hamsters. So              ing intense conversations about
escape the dreariness of the city and take a deserved break   we worked together and he was able to leave camp with                the various treatments and chal-
from the long months of school. For the campers of Camp       a really nice cage to bring home.”                                   lenges they’ve gone through.”
Simcha, sleep-away camp means a lot more. For them, the           Camp Simcha’s advanced medical program is under the                  Unsurprisingly, running a venture like Camp Simcha is
two weeks they spend in camp changes the way they feel        direction of Dr. Peter Steinherz from Memorial Sloan-Ket-            no simple task. Chai Lifeline volunteers spend a lot of time
the entire year.                                              tering. Dr. Steinherz oversees an experienced staff of doc-           trying to put together the perfect combination of staff and
     Camp Simcha, which is run by Chai Lifeline, hosts an     tors and nurses, yet the medical aspect always remains,              campers that will provide the ultimate Camp Simcha ex-
expansive summer program consisting of four separate          as much as possible, in the background. “Sure there are              perience. One of the big challenges the camp faces is con-
two week trips. There are separate weeks for boys and                        a bunch of campers taking pills and going             vincing parents to allow their children to spend two weeks
girls, and the summer is further divided into                                through treatments, but it’s never a big deal.”       away from home. “Many people send their kids away for two
Camp Simcha and Camp Simcha Special.                                          Moeller says. “It’s not like anyone’s pretend-       months and don’t worry,” Berko says, “but for the parents
     Camp Simcha Special is for campers who                                   ing, it just ceases to be the focus of their lives   and children in this situation it is much more difficult to part.”
are kids dealing with physical disorders such                                  for a little while.”                                    Amongst these parents, those who make the decision
as cerebral palsy. The campers                                                      One of the most striking parts about the       to let their children attend camp never regret it. Fischman
of Camp Simcha are all children                                                 Simcha experience is the incredibly close          remembers speaking to one Camp Simcha parent. “She
who are afflicted with cancer.                                                    friendships formed between campers and             told me that her one goal is to try to maintain throughout
     The uniqueness of Camp                                                      staff. Yehuda Berko has worked in Camp             the year the happiness and positivity her son has when he
Simcha is not limited to the type                                                 Simcha for seven years; he is now head of        comes home from camp.”
of campers attending. Counsel-                                                    the younger division. “In two weeks the              Another challenge is finding the right staff members.
ors of Camp Simcha are each                                                        bonds that are created are unbelievable,”       The camp needs to pick people who not only know how to
paired up with only one camp-                                                      Berko said. “It’s not at all just the campers   be enthusiastic, but also empathetic and sensitive. “Work-
er. “At other camps your job is                                                              gaining from the counselors. Ev-      ing for Camp Simcha is empowering” says Berko. “We nev-
managing your campers and                                                                   eryone in camp really grows and        er need to discipline our staff, like other camps. Everyone
being a disciplinarian,” says Jason                                                         gains from each other.”                knows they’re here for a reason and they step up and take
Fischman, a Camp Simcha coun-                                                                  Even more remarkably, the           leadership initiatives they wouldn’t in other situations.”
selor for two summers. “At Sim-                                                            people in Camp Simcha come from             Camp Simcha is currently gearing up for another great
cha, counselors know our job                                                              a very wide array of backgrounds.        summer. The camper-counselor connections are as strong
is to be a father, mother, and a                                                          There are children from Hassidic         as ever and everyone is eager for another chance to expe-
best friend.”                                                                            families, as well as kids who are not     rience the unique Camp Simcha spirit.
     Camp Simcha activities are                                                          religious at all. Yet when they step
generally more varied and innovative than those found         foot into Camp Simcha they all become part of a                         Yehuda Raskin learns in Yeshivas Ohr Hachaim,
at other camps. Workshops include rocketry, leather-          family, a family where they can be themselves and not feel              and is almost finished earning his BA from Far-
work, glass blowing, and even a recording studio. Nesanel     different because of their illness. “It means a lot for the kids         leigh Dickinson University. He is a freelance writ-
Moeller spent the past two summers working as the head        to be in an environment where they’re not alone in their                er for the Jewish Press.

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                                                                                                                                                           HEALTH BRIEFS
                                                                                                                                                            Compiled by Tova Ross

                                                                                                                     CALCIUMRICH DIETS LINKED
                                                                                                                       TO LOWER CANCER RATES
                                                                                                                     Nearly half a million elderly men and women partici-
                                                                                                                 pated in an AARP and National Institutes of Health-fund-
                                                                                                                 ed study that shows that diets rich in calcium are linked to
                                                                                                                 lower cancer rates. The benefits were shown to come from
                                                                                                                 calcium-rich foods rather than calcium supplements. Par-
                                                                                                                 ticipants’ ages ranged from 50-71 and were involved in the
                                                                                                                 study for over a decade. Those who consumed the most cal-
                                                                                                                 cium had the lowest rates of colon cancer; while the cur-
                                                                                                                 rent RDA for calcium is 1,200 milligrams, those in the study
4                                                                                                                consumed over 1,500 milligrams of calcium. Those who
                                                                                                                 consumed the most calcium were healthier people overall.

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41st & Madsion Ave Massapequa Scarsadale Rego Park                                                                                                                                    PROMISING ANTIMALARIA
                                                                                                                                                                                      DRUG DEVELOPED
                                                                                                                                                                                      The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has helped spon-
                                                                                                                                                                                 sor a new anti-malaria drug with a cherry flavoring that offi-
                                                                                                                                                                                 cials hope will make it more palatable to children. A version
                                                                                                                                                                                 of the adult drug Coartem is said to have a similar taste to
                                                                                                                                                                                 fruit juice and dissolve easily in water or breast milk. Malar-
                                                                                                                                                                                 ia is one of the world’s biggest health threats, killing over 1
                                                                                                                                                                                 million people each year – mostly African children. As the
                                                                                                                                                                                 drug is being subsidized, hopefully, many governments will
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                                IS COMPLEMENTARY
                                 AND ALTERNATIVE
                                 MEDICINE KOSHER?
                       By Dr. Andrew David Shiller
     In recent decades, we have witnessed tremendous growth in the popularity of various
complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practices, such as meditation and energy
healing. Meanwhile, there has been increased use of CAM treatments in academic hospitals
and mainstream clinics, as well as research evaluating their mechanisms, safety, and efficacy.
     But CAM treatments may be getting an unfair assessment in the Jewish world. I once
heard a lecture from a well-known posek who recommended that most complementa-
ry medicine practices should be avoided. As a clinician, I have objections to the reason-
ing that formed the basis of his halachic recommendation. Furthermore, my clinical ex-
perience suggests that many people have conditions that don’t respond to convention-
al treatments. CAM may be their only way to reduce suffering.
     Just as you wouldn’t want your posek to play doctor, I don’t intend to play posek. Rath-
er, my intention is to make some clinical and scientific observations that are relevant to
the halachic arguments. I hope to make the case that level-headed incorporation of CAM
does not necessarily put one’s neshama at risk. Please consult your personal halachic au-
thority for further guidance.
     The Rav in the aforementioned lecture made arguments that are echoed by other pos-
kim. The basic argument goes like this: most CAM treatments are not effective and are
thus hoaxes foisted on desperate victims by unethical practitioners. If CAM therapies are
actually effective, since they can’t be explained according to medical science, then they
are not working by natural law. As such, they are akin to sorcery and halachically forbid-
den. While he acknowledged some exceptions, the Rav opined that most CAM therapies
are at best nonsense, and at worst idol worship.
     Truth be told, there are some forms of CAM, such as Reiki, that invoke divine names or
spiritual principles from traditions other than Judaism. Most poskim justly forbid these. My
concern is when imprecise scientific thinking leads to an inappropriate halachic prohibitions.
     There is a gray area between what is proven and what is plausible. “Unproven” does
not mean “implausible” or “beyond nature.”The reason for this is that the tools of scientific
measurement and data processing are relatively crude when compared to the unbeliev-
ably complex and subtle genius of the human body and mind. Much of what is currently
assumed as true by medical science will be false in a decade and vice versa.
     An example is the area of mind-body medicine. The potential value of techniques
like meditation and visual imagery were once ridiculed by most doctors, despite the ob-
jections of individuals who benefitted from them. As we developed more sensitive bio-
chemical and neuro-imaging tools, we’ve found a profound interconnection between the
mind and body. We now have biochemical and neurological models that explain how
breathing techniques, meditation, visual imagery, and related practices can change our
physical bodies. Forty years ago, we had no explanation. Are mind-body medicines now
working within natural law, while forty years ago they weren’t? No. We’ve developed a
more subtle understanding of physical reality.
     Moreover, science is conservative. Decades of research, dependant on big research
funding, is needed before a scientific principle makes it into textbooks and mainstream
journals. CAM research is in its infancy. It is also hindered by the fact that many CAM ap-
proaches, when compared to pharmaceutical research, offer little profit motive to gen-
erate research funding.
     There are aspects of CAM, such as energy healing, that seem to defy the principles on
which modern medicine is based. As a result, many scoff at the idea of diagnosing and
healing through manipulation of the human energy field, as claimed by practitioners of
craniosacral therapy, Chi Kung, and Therapeutic Touch. But if we look into the frontiers
of biophysics and biochemistry, we see a different picture. It’s beyond the scope of this
article, but there is an evolving biophysical model that explains how energy medicine
can work. More research is needed to clarify the biophysics, but it is clearly misguided
to make a blanket statement that these approaches are ‘beyond nature’ and thus forbid-
den as avodah zara.
     Life is full of risks. There are therapies that are dangerous to our bodies and/or souls,
and unethical practitioners who take advantage of vulnerable needy people. And there
are clinicians who are so dogmatic that they will watch their patients suffer rather than
consider a treatment that isn’t ‘standard.’ So be open-minded enough to avail yourself of
therapies that have plausible mechanisms, but not so open-minded that your brain falls
out. If you feel that your needs are not addressed by conventional care, push your prac-
titioner to have a conversation about treatment options that includes CAM approach-
es. Find someone who practices Integrative Medicine – who is trained as a conventional
practitioner, but who has additional training in CAM approaches. If you want to get p’sak
about whether something is kosher, make sure your posek understands the science or
ask him to speak with a clinician who does. My experience says that level-headed incor-
poration of CAM into medical care provides a more complete approach to healing. By
doing so, perhaps we can come closer to Maimonides’ notion that “One who is ill has not
only the right but also the duty to seek healing.”

  Andrew David Shiller, MD splits his time between Jerusalem and New England
  and practices rehabilitation medicine & pain management, incorporating select-
  ed CAM approaches. You can contact him or read more about Integrative Med-
  icine approaches to pain and disability at
 Past Issues Available                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Online
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