Monday, June 8, 2009

Living Large: Meg Wolff's "Becoming Whole"

This book calls for a grand backdrop, a vista of possibility.

Those of you who've been reading my blog for a while know that I'm a friend of Meg Wolff. I've yet to meet her "in person," but I know her rather well. I enjoy her blog, and she frequents my own, always leaving generous, supportive comments. She and I exchange emails from time to time, and on my 55th birthday she had a cake delivered to my place of business! I think that qualifies for friendship.

For some time, a neglected item on my TO-READ list (which curiously gets longer, never shorter--when I last unfurled it, my list was rolling down Highway 285 towards Clines Corners), has been Becoming Whole by Meg Wolff. I am very pleased to report I have not only read Becoming Whole by Meg Wolff, I am going to recommend it to you. But please do no ask me to loan you my copy. It is one of those inspiring reads that I will want to keep handy, the kind of book I can open randomly, to any page, on a dark day, and find something uplifting. Apparently, I'm not the only one who feels this way. Becoming Whole is highly recommended by two of my heroes in the world of healing, Christiane Northrup, author of Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom, and Bernie Siegel, author of Love, Medicine, and Miracles.

Becoming Whole is Meg's startling, honest account of her journey through an entire decade of dealing with cancer--bone cancer, then further down the way, breast cancer. It is a descent into a personal hell few would emerge from. Along the way, Meg relinquishes her left leg, her right breast, her hair (of course), her self-worth, her confidence in her own body, and ultimately her connection to the Earth itself. She observes the heart-wrenching pain of children frightened of losing their mother, and she fantasizes about buying presents for them to unwrap on the birthdays she will not be a part of. Meg and her husband become strangers sleepwalking through a life that has been reduced to endurance. She privately selects a future wife for her husband, a mother for her children--a beautiful, kind friend who is going through a divorce.

Sounds like a difficult read, no? Yes, part of it is. The candid descriptions of various medical procedures--from chemo to radiology to amputation to partial radical mastectomy--the various, grisly wounds inflicted on this beautiful woman's body--these descriptions are in themselves very painful to read, as are Meg's observations of the emotions she experienced:
For weeks after the surgery, I was conscious of my deformed body. Everyone I encountered seemed to present the image of what a human being should look like. People should have two legs; women two breasts. I watched people move effortlessly as they crossed the street, or walked along sidewalks. I noticed mannequins in dress shops and photographs of women in magazines. Soon I realized that I must not watch television or read magazines, because they stressed the importance of women's figures, and insisted that these images were what women should be. I no longer measured up.

One cannot read Meg's story without feeling anguish, and even more so, anger. Make that furor. Furor at the arrogance of many of her doctors, furor at the fragmented vision of contemporary medicine, which focuses on poisoning the body in the name of curing disease, a medicine which can identify sickness but not health, a medicine in which doctors do not listen to patients. (Unbelievably, Meg suspected her cancer years before she received a diagnosis. Both times. She was condescended to, receiving the message she was a hysterical worry wart.) A medicine which breaks the essence of its own Hippocratic oath--Above all, do no harm. A medicine which all too often is detoured into costly, dangerous procedures because of the profit to be obtained. As Meg so succinctly puts it when one doctor insists she endure a bone marrow transplant procedure, which now, years later, is known to have killed women rather than saved them:
I had enough experience with doctors to spot a medical salesman when I saw one, and Dowd and the cancer institute physician were more entrepreneurs than healers. They saw my expensive health insurance card and knew that I could pay for the treatment. Something told me that that's what mattered most to them.

And so Meg begins to trust that soft-spoken, wise voice within, to trust the healers who are themselves humble and respectful. Sometimes these are traditional doctors of medicine. Other times they're alternative healers or macrobiotic chefs or massage therapists.

And that turning point is the juncture at which Meg begins to embrace life rather than seek to prolong it. She subsequently "just says no" to tamoxifen treatment, despite a doctor's urging that this is her last hope to eke out a little more time in this life. Her intuition tells her tamoxifen will kill her. Or at the very least render her helpless:
Who would take care of me when I had a stroke? Would Dr. Wingate take responsibility for me after I had become incapacitated and lay dying in some nursing home? Whose life was this anyway?

Indeed.

That was better than ten years ago. Meg has taken ownership of that life, and of the body inhabited by that life. She has been medication-free for all of those years! All of her medical tests indicate that her body has been restored to perfect health. Meg herself is the proof. She attributes her vitality to having undertaken the macrobiotic way of eating and living, a way of living which is balanced and attuned to nature. A way of "living large." MACRO biotics. Get it?

Maybe not.

That's why Meg has written Part Two. Part Two is devoted to a thorough explanation of the hows and whys of macrobiotic eating, pages of meal plans, and delectable, exotic recipes. Think of a a graceful dance between yin and yang. Think of the color balance in a beautiful painting, or in fresh foods arranged on a plate, bursting with life force. Think of an opening to life itself, saying yes! to all that matters and brings pure joy.

Does Meg feel bitter about all of those years lost to cancer and dead ends, the tragedy of Part One? I'll let her answer that question:

One day that spring, while cutting vegetables by the open window of my kitchen, I suddenly had a strange and surprising thought. I had cancer to thank, and all the trials and tribulations that accompanied it, for helping me to banish my fears, find my voice and mission, and find--really find--happiness.

This book is for anyone who suffers from dis-ease, physical or emotional. Anyone who has ever looked back at a wrong decision and thought, Hey, I knew better than that! Why did I listen to an authority figure rather than my own wisdom? Anyone who feels remorse or anger or bitterness. Anyone who's lost confidence and feels powerless. Anyone whose connections have disappeared--with family, or the body, or the Earth. In short, anyone. Becoming Whole is available at Meg's blog.

46 comments:

Leslie Avon Miller said...

Wow, San. What a great book review! Having recently changed my diet to nearly vegan, I can attest that what we eat may be killing us, especially if one eats food advertised on TV, or available in many commercial establishments. My health has improved in several ways already. The food pyramid was a sales job, sold to us as grade schoolers. Meg’s approach to healing in the face of all that must be truly inspiring. Thanks for this!

San said...

Leslie, thank you for sharing your own experience with diet and healing. That too is inspirational!

Carol said...

Wow! Beautiful.

This is a compelling review that has motivated me to read the book!

Much gratitude to Meg for writing the book and to you for letting us know what a touching read it is. Thank you!

Maggie May said...

That is awe inspiring. We all know someone like Meg used to be. Will make a note of the book.
Thanks for sharing.

murat11 said...

San: A wonderful testimonial to a compelling testifier. Thanks for pointing me back to Meg's blog and books. Good to see you here again.

San said...

Carol, you're welcome. I thought this might hit a chord with you.

San said...

Maggie May, you're so right. We all DO know someone like that, don't we?

San said...

Well put, as always, Paschal. Well put.

Sandi McBride said...

This book is one that has been on my to read list for a few months now. My next trip to Barnes and Nobles when I shall wallow in the written word to buy, but for now I'm waiting for our Library to get it to our county...thanks for letting me know that it's been worth the wait.
Sandi

San said...

Sandi, yes, quite worth the wait. I'm glad you're going to read it.

smith kaich jones said...

I will try to read this - it is hard for me to read such things and sleep at night; I could never work in the medical industry. :) But this sounds necessary, and uplifting. I was diagnosed with the beginnings of osteoporosis a couple of years ago, and have refused to take the medication available. I already have a belly easily bothered, and just have a "gut feeling" (literally) that it is a bad idea for me. I have learned to trust that feeling over the years. Your review of this book makes me want to know this woman. Thank you.

:) Debi

San said...

Debi, I have a friend who has decided against the osteoporosis medication too. The idea went against her own judgment.

self taught artist said...

sounds like a very moving inspirational book. and likewise as a friend. when the library gets it, i'll get it :) (starving artist you know)....its so true about the 'bad' things in retrospect having such profound effects on our lives if we let them!

San said...

Paula, I'm sure you'll enjoy it. You know all about the "bad things in retrospect" angle.

Blue Sky Dreaming said...

Your gave Meg one wonderful review and it sounds well deserved. I went on her sight and I think I will download her recipe booklet...I could always use some changes.Thank you.

San said...

Mary Ann, couldn't we all?

Andrea said...

I'm going to take your suggestion and read this book. I love both Christiane Northrup and Bernie Siegel, so I must read "Becoming Whole."

SandyCarlson said...

I enjoyed this. I am looking forward to reading it and blogging about it and reviewing it everywhere I can online. She is an inspiration.

San said...

Good for you, Andrea!

San said...

Sandy, that is just wonderful. Keep the inspiration flowing...

Lori Skoog said...

You came back with another very special post. We all need to read this book. Thanks for tuning us in to something so important.

San said...

Lori, somehow I knew you'd appreciate it.

James said...

Thanks for the remider of how terrible my diet has become. Yikes.

The Moody Minstrel said...

What an impressive read! And what an impressive woman!

I only wish my wife's mother had been half as fortunate with her cancer affliction.

San said...

James, we all need a reminder like that from time to time.

San said...

Moody, I remember your mother-in-law's suffering and the indirect way her doctors spoke about her illness. Very sad.

Daryl said...

Sounds like a must read for every one ... we all need to stop and listen to our bodies. I am a cancer survivor and I know this first hand .. but I must ask where did Meg live when she encountered Dowd and the institute people? Here in the Tri-State area we have been seeing commercials for a cancer institute that cares about its patients, the spiel which I distrust down to my core, insists 'other' doctors are harsh and cruel, the institute docs are miracle workers. Every testimonial makes my skin crawl.

Long winded as always ... I thank you for steering us to Meg's blog AND her book

Angelynn said...

Sounds like a life journey that everyone could benefit from hearing and reading about. What strength and courage it takes to share such personal experiences. I will definitely read this book! Thank you for sharing, and as always great blog!
Namaste,
Angelynn

San said...

Daryl, longwinded is good, very good, in your case. Meg was living in Maine. Dowd was in Greater Portland.

San said...

Angelynn, I'm sure you'll enjoy the book.

Peace and blessings...

Sparkling Red said...

What an amazing, inspiring story! Trusting one's intuition when it comes to personal healing is first priority. I was told by M.D.'s for years that I had to learn to live with things like IBS and other chronic problems. It wasn't true. I found solutions, through natural health and diet. I hope this book inspires more people to take care of themselves.

San said...

Spark, I knew you'd had some health issues, but I didn't know you'd pursued the natural approaches. It does make sense, though, knowing what I know about you. Yes, paying attention to intuition is critical.

Akelamalu said...

What an amazing story, thanks for reviewing the book San. :)

San said...

Thanks for reading the post, Akelamalu.

The Things We Carried said...

Meg begins to embrace life rather than seek to prolong it.

Wow, that is a woman whose book I would like to read!

jsd said...

Thank you for sharing Meg's inspiring story, and her the link to her blog.

Celebration of Life said...

A beautifully written post, San!

Angel... said...

San, This is very beautiful post and thank you for letting us know about Meg's blog. I will try to get that book as well. Thanks so much for sharing with us.
Love u,

Sunshine said...

I will love to read that book... It might help me out... Thanks San for introducing that book.

Hug
Sabi

San said...

I'm sure you'd love it, Things.

San said...

JS, thank for stopping by to read the post.

San said...

Angel, I believe you would find Meg's story uplifting.

San said...

Thanks, Jo!

San said...

Sabi, you're quite welcome. I hope you find it a helpful read.

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Wow! That's terrific!!! I'm a vegetarian!!! And eat all organic and health food myself...I'll have to stop by and see her sometime... Sounds like we have a lot in common- both breast cancer survivors and both interested in health and nutrition! Have a great trip! ~Janine XO

Raven said...

I will have to check this out and share it with my friend Sue who had a cancer from which she was not expected to recover. Mercifully she did and I have gotten to know her.