Designed by nature

The beautiful cannonball tree has many medicinal uses. Barbados, March 2010

“The marvelous pharmacy that was designed by nature and placed into our being by the universal architect produces most of the medicines we need.” Norman Cousins

One of the first things I did after Jeff got his stage IV cancer diagnosis was request that he read a book first published in 1979:  Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient: Reflections on Healing and Regeneration by Norman Cousins.  I read this book decades ago, and it would not be an exaggeration to say that it has been one of the biggest influences in my life.  In fact, it may be indirectly responsible for my decision to start this blog.

Cousins’ work, which has become a classic, deals with a variety of interesting considerations regarding health care and how we view disease.  I read the book long before I could have known how much of my life would be consumed with visiting doctors, staying in hospitals and otherwise managing the medical aspects of our younger son’s disabilities.  While none of the details of Cousins’ devastating diagnosis are related to Matt’s genetic condition or Jeff’s recent challenges, the underlying message of patient responsibility and empowerment has been crucial in navigating the often intimidating journey through serious and chronic illness.

Today it is not uncommon to find physicians and other medical professionals discussing and acknowledging the powerful medicinal benefits of such factors as creativity, laughter, holistic healing, and the placebo effect.  It was far less common when Cousins set out on his own largely self-designed and non-traditional path for battling his illness, emerging victorious and lighting the way for countless others to follow.

Today I hope we will resolve to work in harmony with the many providers and natural paths to wellness that are available to all of us.  If we tap into the amazing, God-given powers of mental, emotional and spiritual health to improve our physical health, we can greatly decrease our suffering and improve our quality of life, however long or short our time on earth may be.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Elena

    Julia, I have a technical-scientific background (and a sister who is a doctor, educated and trained in “conventional” medicine…) but I totally agree. We are so much more than what can be described by blood tests, CAT scans and the like.
    A few days ago I commented about staying positive to indirectly teach my daughter; your post makes me think that there is one more reason to do that!
    And also, it reminds me of a quote by Jonathan Swift: “The best doctors in the world are Doctor Diet, Doctor Quiet, and Doctor Merryman.”
    Thank you, once again 🙂

    • Elena, I love that quote from Jonathan Swift! I need to write that down and put it somewhere I can read it daily as a reminder. Thanks so much for being here!

  2. This post and recommended reading can certainly help to defeat despair among those feel there is no where else to turn.

    • Thank you, Alan. I was just thinking I needed to drop you a line (via snail mail) to see how you are doing. I hope you are staying safe and well, and not going too stir-crazy in this seemingly endless COVID shutdown. I just sent my aunt (who is in her late 80’s) a box of books for her to read, as she had already gone through all the ones she had on hand. I hope you have access to a good library, either at home or via bookmobile! Stay safe and well my friend. Thanks for being here.

      • Thanks Julia for the kind concern and thoughts. Don’t worry about me because confinement is not new to me. Hospitalized by polio at age 4 and extended recoveries from related corrective surgeries have trained me to handle such events. This is only different because I have the company of the rest of the country and the world. And as well, you my friend.

        • Alan, I imagine you were better prepared for this whole COVID nightmare than most anyone else. Not only because you are accustomed to confinement, but also because you can remember the frightening and life-changing years– really DECADES– of the polio pandemic, and the widespread fear that dominated everyday life before a polio vaccine was available. My mother, as you know, also had lifelong impairments from having had polio in the early 1930’s. What people seem to have forgotten is that the polio pandemic went on for nearly 40 years before a vaccine was available, and was in some ways more horrifying than COVID because it affected mostly the very young, not mostly the very old. This article from USA Today is an interesting review of that era, for those who aren’t familiar with it. I’m glad you are doing well, and are here with us to share encouragement and your own testimony that life does go on! Stay safe and enjoy what remains of the summer.

          • Thanks Julia, for you the polio info and encouraging comments toward me. Stay well, as well. And too enjoy the summer. The virus, like any other instigator, only denies us what we allow it too. – Alan

            • Alan, thank you for that reminder. It’s easy to feel shut in, isolated, inconvenienced etc. but we need not allow the virus (or anything else) to do that to us. In the words of John Lennon (from one of my favorite songs by the Beatles) “you’d better free your mind instead.” 😀 Hope you are having a nice week. It’s a tiny bit cooler here, and it’s surprising how much difference even a few degrees can make.

Thanks for encouraging others by sharing your thoughts:

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