[Today journalist Terence Ward shares an interview with a Pagan doctor who is helping other magic-workers and healers understand cancer. If you enjoy articles like this, please consider donating to The Wild Hunt. We are now at 44% with 10 days left. You make it possible for us to continue to provide a platform for our communities’ important news. What better way to celebrate the October season: Donate to a news organization that is, in part, for and about modern Witches. Donate today.]
PHILADELPHIA –For all the advances made in treating cancer, it still can be a terrifying diagnosis to receive. Many Pagans, Heathens, and polytheists will turn to magic and prayer to aid in the healing of a loved one with cancer, and there is at least one Pagan doctor who is willing to support that decision. Dr. Jennifer Hamilton, a Blue Star initiate who once co-wrote a paper called “Neo-Pagan Patients’ Preferences Regarding Physician Discussion of Spirituality” recently offered a lecture entitled “Oncology for Magic-Users” with the aim being to help energy workers and healers better understand the complexities of this disease.“When people are faced with a diagnosis and what to do next, and they want to help with magic, we have to believe we can do something about it,” she said. While not minimizing the pain and loss that cancer continues to cause, she is optimistic.
“It’s not as bad as it used to be. There is room for hope.”
According to Hamilton, those who use magic for healing, can more effectively move the health needle from “sick” to “well,” if they begin with the best possible scientific understanding of what’s going on in the body of a cancer patient.
The condition was named after an astrological sign because, as explained by Hamilton, the first tumors discovered had tendrils reaching out from them. This fact reminded people of a crab’s legs. It is now understood that not every tumor with tendrils is cancer, and not every malignant growth has those little crab legs reaching into neighboring tissue. What makes cancer special is its ability to make copies of itself.
Hamilton was unafraid to dig into the scientific understanding of cancer, a condition that arises because something went wrong while replicating DNA strands.
“Something can go wrong while copying a base pair” of nucleobases — cytosine, guanine, adenine, and thymine — that can result in mismatched pairs. “That’s a mutation,” she explained, “an error.”
Environmental factors like toxins can make this occur, but it can also arise without any external influence. In many cases the cause of cancer is labeled idiopathic, a big word for “we don’t know.” Hamilton said that emotional and psycho-neurological factors could certainly play a factor in the onset, progression, and remission of cancer; research simply hasn’t confirmed or denied that.
“Like telephone cords, DNA strands can get coiled the wrong way. Chromosomes might jump to a neighbor.”
Entire sections of a DNA strand might fall off and reattach to another strand entirely. In other cases, the controller gets moved, which can be likened to how hard drives are erased: the data are not actually removed, only the marker the indicates what is stored where. Every copy made comes with risk of an error, but larger animals don’t actually get cancer more often, because of what Hamilton calls “nature’s proofreader,” a substance called P53.
“If a chromosome is smashed by radiation or chemicals, there is a system to repair them, but not any one cell has the big picture,” Hamilton said. P53 detects those mistaken pairs, grabs onto the suspect DNA strand, “smushes and twists it, starting a cascade of chemical messages.”
Those messages, then, stop the DNA in question from replicating while it’s repaired, at which point it is untwisted and allowed to resume. Elephants have four times the amount of P53 in their cells than humans.
P53 is not fully understood yet, but apparently it’s less likely to identify those errors if they are inherited. What’s known is that this substance is the reason why more mutations don’t turn cancerous. There’s also no evidence that too much P53 is a bad thing. In fact, P53 is only the most general of an entire set of proofreading substances in the body; most are specialized for particular cell types.
Cancer might be so dangerous because it is effectively an inside agent, familiar with the body’s defense mechanisms. Due to its faster-than-normal growth, more blood is needed to support that effort. Abnormal blood flow is one thing that antibodies should detect, but cancerous tumors have evolved ways to conceal the proteins that are the red flag.
Hamilton compared this process to quality control at a factory, where a certain number of products coming off the assembly line are tested to make sure they’re working properly. In the case of cancer, the only products (proteins) sent to the QC department are the ones that aren’t defective, fooling the body’s systems.Part of what makes cancer treatment awful is chemotherapy, which brings a slew of terrible side effects. The primary purpose of early chemo drugs was to destroy fast-growing cells, but that definition includes not only cancers, but hair and stomach linings as well. Therefore, nausea and hair loss are two results. Newer drugs are more targeted, but patients still must be prepared for a rough ride during treatments of this type. Surgery remains a better option for solid tumors, at least to minimize what must be destroyed chemically.
Research, although it seems too slow, progresses in the direction of hope. Hamilton is mindful that this is a familiar track. Infectious diseases were once the most common killers in the U.S., racking up 80% of the deaths in 1900. That rate dropped precipitously over the following forty years due to things like the availability of clean water and use of window screens. Penicillin put the last nail in that coffin in the U.S. Around the world, smallpox has since been completely eliminated; polio nearly so; and guinea worm could be eradicated in the lifetime of Jimmy Carter, whose foundation has focused on that effort in recent years.
The face of cancer itself has also shifted. Lung cancer dominated diagnoses in 1971 before many toxins were eliminated, and the push against tobacco smoking had started. Cervical cancer was the top killer of women in the 1930s before the pap smear test. Testicular cancer dropped by a factor of five after chemotherapy using cisplatinum was developed. Stomach cancer’s biggest enemy was the refrigeration and preservation of food.
“Serendipity happens. Make room for it.”
When it comes to magic, Hamilton believes that more knowledge is better, but that doesn’t always translate into more specificity. “If you try to make someone’s immune system more aggressive, they could end up with arthritis,” she said.
A better approach, in her mind, is to recognize that the impossible can be possible. To illustrate her point, she handed out diamonds, rubies, and sapphires for audience members to take home. “These were once rare gems,” she said, “but these were grown in a lab. Once there is an opening for new healing modalities, it will grow, like a diamond in the lab. Think about what you want to grow, and release those positive intentions into the world.”