What is the difference between curing and healing? When we seek medical attention, are we hoping to be cured or hoping to be healed?
Dr. Mark Greenberg grapples with the issue of being cured versus being healed on a daily basis. Dr. Greenberg is a pediatric oncologist at The Hospital for Sick Children and has received the Order of Canada (2011) for his work.
In his TEDx address, Dr. Greenberg outlined the difference between being cured and being healed. When we seek medical intervention, we are looking to be cured of whatever ailment sent us to the doctor in the first place. We believe that we (or at least the doctors) have some semblance of control over the health care being provided. If we follow doctors’ orders, we expect to be cured.
Healing, however, is an entirely different issue. When someone suffers from a life-threatening illness, being physically cured is only the beginning. Life-threatening illness requires healing. Healing is more than just a physical process; it is also a psychological, social, and societal issue. It includes the patient directly, as well as the patient’s family, social network, and support system. Healing involves adapting to the new physical state of the patient and may include coping with emotional scarring.
Dr. Greenberg explains that coping with a life-threatening illness is the ultimate loss of control. It defies our Western mythology that if we work hard enough and are good people, then all will be fine. Grappling with this loss of control in the face of life-threatening illness plays out in family interactions and in dealing with doctors. Far too often, patients are physically cured, but they never fully heal. Dr. Greenberg asserts that compassion for the individual, rather than a focus on control of outcomes, leads to more comprehensive healing.
Healing is a psychological, social, and societal issue with implications beyond the individual, reaching to the health care system as a whole. Therefore, your family physician alone cannot help your loved one through the healing process; what your loved one needs is a team of people.
Adapting to a new physical state can be difficult that is why your loved one needs a team comprising of you, their doctor(s), nurses and caregivers. Wherever your loved one might be living, the help of a professional caregiver can provide them with social and physical support.
You don't have to go through the curing or healing process alone.