Dear Friend

I hope this letter finds you as well as you can be. You are reading this because you or someone you care about has cancer.

My father and mother both had cancer. So did my wife and so did a half-sister. My brother is a senior oncologist at Boston Medical Center.

I’ve spent 40 of my almost 80 years on this beautiful earth helping people I care about put together their own unique approaches to integrativein cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care, and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care.

I’ve led over 210 week-long retreats for people with cancer. I wrote a groundbreaking book on integrative cancer care. I’ve helped start a global network of healing circles for people with cancer.

I strongly believe in conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy cancer treatments. But I know from deep experience that it’s wise to take a thoughtful approach with conventional treatments, and that conventional treatment alone is not enough.

That’s why my friends and I have dedicated years of intensive work to creating CancerChoices—to give you the best guidance we can on integrative cancer care.

CancerChoices is not finished yet. It may never be finished. The field of conventional cancer medicine keeps moving forward—and so does integrative cancer care.

But we are ready to share with you what we’ve got—and we ask for your wisdom about how to make CancerChoices even better.

Let’s start at the beginning.

What is the difference between conventional cancer treatment and integrative cancer care? And why should you care?

It’s simple. You should care because you will very likely do better with integrative cancer care than with conventional cancer treatment alone.

Why? Conventional cancer treatments—such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation—are often not easy.

The stronger, healthier, and more resilient you are, the more likely you are to do better with the conventional treatments. Common sense self-carelifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress and complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, and acupuncture cancer therapies build strength and resilience.

For example, if you get good exercise, eat well, sleep well, reduce your stress levels, and find the support you need, you are simply very likely to do better with your conventional treatments.

Integrative care = conventional treatments + self care + complementary care.

It’s as simple as that.

We’re here to make it easy for you to do better with your conventional treatments with self care + complementary care that are supported by good science.

We have divided your choices into three sections: Choices in Healing, Choices in Cancer Care, and Choices in Living with Cancer. Here is the outline of these choices.

Choices Beyond Cancer Care (under development)

  • Choices in living with cancer (the good parts and the hard parts)
  • Choices in end-of-life care (it’s often a relief to be able to talk about them)

You won’t necessarily follow this order, but the simplest approach to integrative care is:

  • Decide on conventional therapies.
  • Add simple self care to feel better, sleep better, and get stronger.
  • Then add some science-based supplements and other complementary approaches.

But first of all—at the very start, even before you choose your conventional therapies, it is especially important to ask yourself what your goals are.

  • Do you want to live at all costs, no matter how difficult the treatments?
  • Are you more concerned with quality of life?
  • What matters now in your life?

Have you told your family and your doctor what matters now to you?

One thing we promise you. We try to be as objective as possible about all forms of cancer care. We aren’t promoting anything. No one pays or influences us. We’re a free resource for you—and those who care for you.

We want you to know what we wish our loved ones had known going through cancer. We know it would have made a difference for them. We hope it does for you.

Wishing you well,


About the Author

Michael Lerner

Michael Lerner is co-founder of Commonweal and co-founder of the Commonweal Cancer Help Program, Healing Circles, The New School at Commonweal, and CancerChoices.

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Michael Lerner is co-founder of Commonweal and co-founder of the Commonweal Cancer Help Program, Healing Circles, The New School at Commonweal, and CancerChoices. He has led more than 200 Commonweal Cancer Help Program retreats to date. His book Choices In Healing: Integrating the Best of Conventional and Complementary Approaches to Cancer was the first book on integrative cancer care to be well received by prominent medical journals as well as by the patient and integrative cancer care community.

Michael Lerner Co-Founder