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  International Cancer Conference at the Goetheanum

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By: Hans-Richard Heiligtag, M.D.

(Original title: Internationale Krebstagung am Goetheanum. Der Merkurstab 1997; 50: 237-8. English by A. R. Meuss, FIL, MTA.)

Scientific oncology has made undoubted advances in cancer treatment in recent years with mortality distinctly reduced for certain tumor types. In spite of this, we have to face the hard fact that these successes are more than offset by a dramatic rise in mortality with some tumor types, e.g. lung cancer in women. Overall, therefore, the cancer problem has not been solved to date, posing the same serious question to the medical profession as 10,20 or 30 years ago.

The approach to the problem has broadened also in conventional oncology. The profession is aware of the limitations set if thinking is purely cytostatic; immunological aspects have been perceived to have significance; terms such as psychoneurology and psychooncology indicate new areas opening up progressively; and added to all this cancer patients themselves have increasingly asked for complementary medical treatment. These briefly indicated developments have ultimately meant that mistletoe was considered also by non-anthroposophical bodies, and the attempt is now made to exploit a cancer treatment based on a spiritual approach in a pseudoscientific way.

It is evident, therefore, that we face many different challenges. To find answers to these questions it is necessary for all those who feel themselves connected with anthroposophical cancer treatment to discuss these issues. The forum available for this is the International Cancer Conferences of the Medical Section held at the Goetheanum since 1993; they are the logical development of the former cancer conferences held at the Society for Cancer Research in Arlesheim.

About 200 people met for the fourth time in Dornach on 15-17 September 1996, this time in the truly helpful atmosphere of the Schreinerei hall. They were members of the different medical professions, and although more than half of them were physicians, the two talks given by nursing staff showed very clearly how important it is to see our approach to cancer as a task for the whole therapeutic community. The talks shared the title "Inner aspects of using one's hands." Eva Maria Batschko first spoke on the hands as organs of touch. She developed her theme both in terms of human history and the study of man. People's relationship to their hands has changed in the course of evolution, and today it is possible to perceive all four aspects of the human being by using one's hands and thus also to bring them into play. Joop Gruen took the subject further, speaking on the basis of vast experience in the treatment of cancer patients. Rhythmic medicated rubs are an important element in clinical cancer treatment. The lecture showed how much this makes it possible to have a beneficial effect on the disrupted relationship between the aspects of the human being. The process involves the steps of encounter, movement, touch and reflection. Gaining insight into their inner qualities we were able to see the specific contribution nursing care makes in the treatment of cancer patients.

In his evening lecture, Johannes Hoffmann gave a comprehensive view of cancer as a disease involving the whole human being in the polarity between luciferic and ahrimanic forces. The many different layers of the essential disease were shown as well as the luciferic and ahrimanic aspects of the mistletoe plant, processing by machine, and conventional medical treatment. The anthroposophical view of the human being has much to offer, but he warned against thinking in cliches in the individual case.

A lecture by Hedwig Erasmy was an important element in the discussion among those producing mistletoe preparations. She gave a review of the history and spiritual background to the Schwenk preparation, with which she has 40 years of experience. Michaela Glockler then sought to give an overview of the background to the different manufacturing processes. Basing herself on a view of the disease as a schooling process, she developed the initiation principle of cancer from the polar etheric activities found in mistletoe which are then also present and deepened in the manufacturing process so that ultimately, though in a different way for different processes, one has a medicament that is like a planetary system, holding the I, and acts on the whole interactive system of essential aspects in the sick individual.

Again, the clinical presentations were an important element in the conference. One can see that all the things we struggle to achieve are experienced as helpful and effective. Angelika Kirsch presented a patient who has had breast cancer for 8 years, with secondaries in the lung and bones. With comprehensive anthroposophical treatment including Iscador, eurythmy therapy and art therapy, she is living a normal, positive life, the mother of two children, in spite of her illness. As the patient herself said, she has been living in greater awareness and with greater intensity because of the disease.

On the morning of the third day, we had a number of short reports on current research issues. Armin Scheffler spoke about the precocious and infantile nature of mistletoe, relating the development process of the plant to the image of neoplastic disease. Jurgen Johannes Kuehn gave a review of experimental and clinical mistletoe research with Iscador. Klaus Fischer presented the main research areas at Herdecke Hospital. The emphasis is on mistletoe immunology and the phenomena of the mixing process. Reinhard Kohler presented a new research project in mistletoe pharmaceutics, basing himself on the spiritual scientific fundamentals of flow studies. His contribution was complemented by a fictitious soliloquy by Andreas Heertsch.

The intensity everyone experiences at the cancer conference is due also to two other important elements. One is the artistic element, starting the day together doing eurythmy therapy with Ursula Ziegenbein and the three art courses in the afternoons, with Marlise Maurer offering music therapy, Dietrich von Benin speech therapy, and Jan Fontein eurythmy therapy. The other element is the group work, with some groups working on a theme year after year. four of the five+ groups will continue their 1996 themes in 1997, and there will also be two new groups.

A brief report can only offer a glimpse. We'll be pleased to send a more detailed report to anyone interested. This also applies to people who are interested in future work. The 1997 Cancer Conference will be held on 21-23 September.

Hans-Richard Heiligtag, MD Lukas Klinik CH-4144 Arlesheim, Switzerland

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