A Conversation with Bernie Siegel

By Tami Boehmer

Recently, I spoke to Bernie Siegel, MD, best-selling author of the classic book, Love, Medicine and Miracles; and most recently, A Book of Miracles—Inspiring True Stories of Healing, Gratitude, and Love. Bernie is incredible; he’s a cross between a wise sage and a kind Jewish grandpa. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Bernie (as he likes to be called), in 1978, he reached a national, and then international audience, when he began talking about patient empowerment.

At that time, Bernie launched ECaP—Exceptional Cancer Patients, in which he and his wife and co-worker, Bobbie, remain active today. In May 2011, Bernie was honored by the Watkins Review of London, England, as one of the Top 20 Spiritually Influential Living People on the Planet. Turing 80 this year, he continues to break new ground in the field of healing, supporting changes in medical education to “humanize” medical practice.

Bernie’s work inspired me to interview survivors who’ve beaten the odds of terminal cancer and discover common attributes they share. That is why I contacted him when writing my book; he graciously wrote the foreword for it. During our conversation last week, I asked Bernie what he found in his work with Exceptional Cancer Patients over the years, among other important life questions

On ‘Miracle Survivors:’

“They are empowered and willing to participate; they’re responsible participants. Survivors are willing to seek knowledge and information and have faith in something higher than themselves. They have meaning in lives and participate in play, in which they lose track of time because they’re so engrossed in activity. People who survive express their anger; they can say ’no’ to things. And they use their depression and pain in a way that guides them to seek nourishment in the way that hunger leads you to eat. All of these things are built into us, but we need to initiate these survivor behaviors.”

Relationships and loving what you do:

“Relationships are vital, but it’s important to have your own authentic life. You have relationships, but you’re not living because of them; you’re living to give love to them. It’s common knowledge that more heart attacks happen on Monday morning than any other day of the week. Think every morning what you have to be grateful for. You love your life and your body, then wonderful things can happen.”


“Survivors see potential. It’s not about statistics. The odds may not be good, but you take your chances and see what happens. When you say, wait a minute, if there’s a 5 percent chance, why can’t I be that 5 percent? Trees don’t bleed to death if you cut a branch. We must initiate healing.”


“Doctors aren’t trained to deal with patients’ emotional issues. They tend to back away. In The Book of Miracles, I share about doctors who cry in stairways. They think the only important thing is to keep people from being dead. Doctors need to be able to relate to their patients’ lives, so they can help them heal their lives. Doctors will say, ‘You’re doing well so keep up whatever you are doing.’ They should say, ‘You’re doing well so please tell me what you are doing so I can inform other patients.’

“Things are changing, though. Medical schools have invited me to come speak to them, and far more doctors are opening up to their patients as more integrative practices are being incorporated in hospitals.”

What to say to doctors who give death sentences:

“Ask your doctors if they’d be willing to put up $10,000 if you live longer than they predicted. See if they take you up on it.”

Parting words:

“Don’t water things you don’t want to grow. Fertilize and water what you want to grow. Let your kids and pets be your role models. They want to have fun and enjoy one day at a time. When you live in your heart, magic happens.”

For more information about Bernie and his wonderful books and other work, go to www.berniesiegel.com.

Tami Boehmer is a metastatic breast cancer survivor, speaker, blogger and author of the award-winning book, From Incurable to Incredible: Cancer Survivors Who Beat the Odds. You can visit her at www.MiracleSurvivors.com.



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