holistic healing

🕔Aug 04, 2005

When Rod Gourlay was diagnosed with rapidly advancing malignant melanoma, one the most deadly forms of skin cancer, he had no other choice than repeated trips to cancer wards down south.

Doctors gave him a 25 per cent chance of living five years. Within a couple of months, he had undergone two bouts of surgery, battled waiting lists and scoured the Internet. Then Gourlay learned the melanoma had spread to his lymph system and he was facing further surgery.

The Telkwa resident flew south again, but he was exhausted from invasive medical procedures. This time around, he went to a workshop at the Vancouver Centre for Integrated Healing, and then he pursued his own regimen of a careful diet, juicing, and alternative healing. He got support from the centre in the form of nutritional supplements and holistic practices like yoga and meditation.

“When I decided not to have my lymph nodes removed, the surgeon couldn’t believe it, he said I would be dead within months,” Gourlay says.

Today, three years later, Gourlay ’s lymph nodes have returned to normal and he hasn’t exhibited any symptoms of the cancer that changed his life.

The introductory program that he attended at the Centre for Integrated Healing consists of 12 hours of seminars and workshops over two days. It includes an introduction to complementary cancer care and healing, meditation, healthful nutrition, visualization, group sharing, decision making, vitamins, supplements, and an opportunity to discuss a wide variety of complementary cancer care modalities with the centre’s practitioners, who are all specialized physicians.

“The goal of the program is to provide a framework to help people explore the ways in which their mind, body and soul can contribute to healing,” explains Dr. Hal Gunn, a co-founder and driving force behind the centre.

Dr. Gunn teaches at the UBC School of Medicine and has a special interest in mind/body medicine and psychoneuroimmunology (the effect of the mind and spirituality on the body’s ability to heal). He was in Smithers this April as a keynote speaker for the Bulkley Valley’s second annual Wellness Fair.

At the wrap-up of the event, Gunn met with two dozen locals to outline a vision that his Vancouver organization has of setting up satellite offices in British Columbia and Alberta. He identified the town of Smithers, with its vast network of complementary health practitioners and progressive doctors, as a prime location.

Toby Coupe is a Telkwa-based reflexologist, a healing touch practitioner, and an organizer of the Wellness Fair. She was part of the enthusiastic group that met with Dr. Gunn. “The Centre for Integrated Health’s mission statement is exactly what I believe. A holistic foundation for healing, in co-operation with traditional medicine, is such common sense. Instinctively I think we all believe in it,” she says. “I think this is what we could offer in our community.”

In the months following the Wellness Fair, a dozen complementary health practitioners met and started what they’re calling the Smithers Wholistic Health Practitioners Group. There are massage therapists, homeopathy practitioners, physiotherapists, yoga instructors, counsellors, and energy workers.

One basis for the group is to set the groundwork so that when—or if—the Vancouver Centre’s fundraising efforts for a Northwest Centre for Integrated Healing materialize, a framework is in place.

Smithers’ acupuncturist and physiotherapist Jaap Kalkman, another member of the group, sees it as a means of building connections with the local medical community.

In the short term the group is interested in networking with local practitioners to share information and resources; offering continuing education and publications to increase local knowledge; and adding a northwest voice to the call for broadening medical coverage to include alternative, preventative treatments such as healing touch, massage, yoga and meditation.

“This is the medicine of the future,” says Gourlay. “Diet, nutrition, supplements, looking after yourself emotionally and spiritually. People really have to start taking responsibility for their health.

“Places like the Centre for Integrated Healing completely support that approach. You walk through the doors and the atmosphere is just beautiful. You feel healed just walking in,” he adds. “It’s like an oasis, a sacred space. A lot of people would welcome that here.”

The Smithers Wholistic Health Practitioners are meeting Tuesday, Sept. 20, 7 pm at Smithers United Church. For more information or a copy of the group’s e-mail newsletter contact tcoupe@monarch.net. The website for the Vancouver Centre for Integrated Healing is www.healing.bc.ca.