Moving Forward with Gratitude
I looked out at the unexpected crowd of 300+ who came for the launch of Beyond Surviving: Cancer and Your Spiritual Journey on June 9th, and saw a treasure – these people, and so many more, were the living documents of my work and my life. I felt… feel… abundantly blessed.
It was a great night, filled with the unexpected laughter, expected tears, and exceptional vitality. It helped me realize that the book is just the beginning of a new phase in supporting those facing cancer.
And there are so many. When I began this work 18 years ago, the odds of getting cancer were 1 in 4. The latest Cancer Society statistics now say 1 in 2. And while distress has been identified at the sixth vital sign, (after temperature, pulse, respiration, blood pressure and pain), support for distress – through psychosocial and spiritual care – continues to be undervalued. Writing the book was a way to reach more people. To get creative, courageous, and commit to a new way of providing support.
So, here’s the plan. I’m taking a year-long sabbatical from direct patient care to build a wider delivery model that more effectively helps people not only go through cancer, but grow through cancer. I’ll be doing several book tours and conferences, retreats and workshops, interviews and podcasts. There’s even an audio book and study guide for Beyond Surviving in the works. If you’d like me to come speak to your group, drop me a note.
I’ll also be trying out new forms of engagement through social media. I’d like to hear from you, and am hatching a summer project to do just that. “Spiritual Shorts” will be a direct response to your questions. Check out my Facebook site this week for an intro video – then send me your questions, or get a head start and note them below. Throughout the summer, I will be posting a series of short videos in response. While we will be exploring the hard road of cancer, we’ll do so in such a way that supports vitality and we’ll even have some fun.
All of this is energized by your encouragement and affirmation. The spiritual aspect of facing cancer; how it can amplify life and deepen love, how it can awaken you to the astonishing miracle of who you are, is an important yet neglected topic. It is at the core of the cancer experience. And it is filled with hope – it really is.
Question: What emotional, psychological or spiritual aspects of facing cancer do you want to explore?
I am a new volunteer on a Palliative Care Unit in Victoria, so I have had some very good training to deal with that. I am learning to LISTEN more than speak in an attempt to truly hear what is being said by the patient or family, but even more importantly, what is NOT being said. I also try to support a dear friend whose cancer has returned. In both these settings, I am wondering at times if the option to STOP treatment totally is being offered as a way to peace. I am wary of this subject as it is powerful in its significance. But more and more, I am believing our society sees cancer or life threatening disease as a huge battle to be fought. It doesn’t have to be that way. Your thoughts?
Hi Mary Jo. When considering treatment, one should always ask the question “Is the suffering the treatment will cause worth the length of life it offers?” Every patient is different, so no standard answer will suffice, but the doctor should be able to give a lay of the land with some accuracy. When cancer has returned, or with advanced cancer, I always recommend starting the conversation about end-of-life – not as giving up, but to empower the patient in facing all possibilities. advancecareplanning.ca is an excellent resource, filled with ways to start those difficult conversations. May you shine with God’s love as you support others – truly sacred work.