“The ultimate aim of the quest must be neither release nor ecstasy for oneself, but the wisdom and the power to serve others.” Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth
In 2007 I was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer.
In 2009 I introduced Breast Cancer Survivor Support with the intention of offering psychotherapy, resources and support to women with breast cancer.
In 2015 I want to introduce Cancer Survivor Support www.cancersurvivorsupport.com with the intention of providing resources, information and the opportunity to connect and express your experience with others.
In these past 8 years I have engaged not only with people in the breast cancer community but also with others who are struggling with a diagnosis of other types of cancers. I find myself sitting with women and men, their partners, and sometimes their children. As my experience expanded, I realized that my focus had grown beyond what I initially envisioned. My eyes have been opened to the difficult issues of disparity in health care, quality of life concerns, the essential need for navigation programs to help people find their way through an enormous and impersonal system. I’ve met people from around the world who have dedicated their lives in the service of providing care to cancer patients and their communities. I have been deeply touched, honored and inspired to continue serve those who courageously face their struggles with cancer each and every day.
I have come to believe that the essential aspect of moving into survivorship, living with cancer or facing end of life issues in an integrated and holistic way, is for all of those involved to have the chance to tell their stories and to explore their inner world in a way that integrates emotional care into survivorship. There is a large amount of information that can periodically change and appear contradictory, making it difficult to plow through and understand. I watch eyes glaze over as another expert talks rather than listens. I have looked into the faces of fear and distress and have, myself, experienced similar things. However, my experience does not define yours, nor should there be a generic mode of treatment. While a standard treatment modality for emotional care may be financially practical or time effective , it lacks heart and just doesn’t work very well. It is all too common for people to end up drifting back into an isolated state that does not promote healing and well-being.
We cannot expect personal treatment in an impersonal system. We cannot wait for someone else to advocate for us. Self-advocacy for cancer survivors is a process that can be learned by each one of us. It requires both information and introspection. Speaking up for yourself is the only way that you will have a chance of being heard. If no one hears you, speak louder. As cancer survivors we are millions strong, and if we all raise our voices, the noise we make will create one voice speaking up for our emotional recovery and healing.
“We are focusing on the number of people who are now alive who have experienced cancer at some time in the past, and their transition from treatment to recovery and the balance of their life,” reports Elizabeth Ward, national vice president of intramural research at the American Cancer Society (American Cancer Society: Cancer Treatment and Survivorship, 2012-2013). “But cancer survivors do have potential problems, including issues with quality of life and the need for both physical and psychological follow-up care. Cancer survival can affect one’s life long-term. Cancer survivors shouldn’t feel abandoned after treatment has stopped.”
Thank you for joining me.