Becoming, and remaining, open to possibilities results in the exponential growth of options. Conversely, the practice of medicine hones in on disease using a limited number of tightly controlled and tested methods and therapies. In fact, the more life-threatening the disease is, the fewer the options are that are prescribed. So how then does one face a life-altering disease, one that doesn’t just challenge you physically but turn your world upside down? If you’re Italy’s Salvatore Iaconesi, you put everything about your disease out in the open.
After breaking the locks on proprietary data formats, Iaconesi created the web site “La Cura,” put all of his patient data online, and invited full participation. Thirty-five videos, 600 poems, 15,000 testimonies from other brain cancer patients, 60 doctors and 50,000 suggested strategies later, Iaconesi had to recruit 200 people just to sort and vet the incoming possibilities. He is now pursuing his customized strategy that “goes way beyond classical medicine,” anchored by traditional medical therapy and “radical changes” in diet and lifestyle pulling from worldwide, cross-cultural sources whose origins range from ancient to modern.
As an artist, Iaconesi was clearly disturbed by becoming a patient. He noted that in the process of being diagnosed “the human being disappears…and is replaced by patient test results…a case.” The equation he saw — that disease = symptoms + diagnosis + therapy — struck him as mechanical, incomplete and unaware of his humanity.
Will he be cured, or live longer than doctors might have expected? Does it matter? Iaconesi did what he did for his dignity as much as he did it to stop his cancer. Perhaps more than he realizes at the moment, he is already cured of being a cancer patient, as he has re-staked his claim to a proactive, engaging life in spite of the diagnosis. Would that we would all do the same not just in his circumstance, but when facing any challenge that seems to initiate a fixed path, an either/or choice or a deeply-set confrontation. We owe it to ourselves and everyone around us to not narrow our views or close down on creating possibilities. Instead, we’ve got to open up.