Helping others to help yourself
I conducted two wellness workshops for cancer patients and survivors right in the window of three weeks between my chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Many people back then were puzzled, asking me why I was doing it when I was in such a difficult time myself.
One person became indignant and told me that my priority was to take care of myself and my health.
It was very difficult for me to explain that something strong inside me was calling and pushing me, not letting me sleep, telling me: “You have to do this, you have to help, you need to be useful and necessary. There are people who need your help. This is your mission! Helping others, you will help yourself.”
I did not know how much time I was given. What if it would be just a little? When I was diagnosed with cancer, my concept of time changed dramatically. The previous attitude of I will do it sometime later, next month or next year, was irretrievably gone. Time began to flow like water between my fingers in the ocean. It became for me tangible and valuable. I realised “sometime later” might not happen.
Like a child, I thought the angels high above would see that I’m doing something important for people and would give me time to continue it. I never stop asking, “Please, give me more time, I’m not finished yet!”
I knew that if I helped even one person, then this person would help another and so on — a ripple effect. This actually happened.
Many women, after meeting at these support groups, became best friends who care and help each other. Beverley Bennett, a two-time breast cancer survivor, picked up our initiative and organised the surviving and support information session Faith, Love and Hope at the St George’s Seventh-day Adventist Church in May.
Now that I have finished my treatment and have my energy and drive back, I am allying with the Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre to continue organising and leading wellness support groups for people as they go through cancer treatment, and also during the difficult time that precedes and follows it.
Receiving a cancer diagnosis is at first shocking, then it freezes you in suspense and uncertainty. You are stunned and devastated to your very core for a long time.
You ask yourself over and over, “Me? Why did this happen to me? What did I do wrong?” It often feels like a punishment. Sometimes you feel so angry. Most of all, it seems so unfair.
The fear of treatment, particularly chemotherapy, is like a dark cloud looming on your horizon. Few words evoke such instant apprehension in the patient, or pity in those around you. Surprisingly, some friends and acquaintances respond as if it were a curse.
They avoid you like the plague. It is almost as if they felt cancer was contagious. They put you in a box in the corner of their lives, and only embrace you again when the worst is over.
If it’s over. The people you thought were your friends somehow cannot take five minutes to write you an e-mail and say, how are you doing?
Loving family and a supportive group of friends are a blessing. But even the most loving people don’t understand how scary it is to face a long harsh battle with unknown results.
This is the reason cancer support groups are so important and powerful. They ease the sense of loneliness that can make your situation overwhelming. They provide a circle of empathy and understanding where you can share your fears and, with the help of others, navigate your journey.
I want to help people to cope with their emotions, worries, anger, anxiety, sadness, stress, guilt and depression. These groups allow people to learn from others facing similar situations and going through the same feelings: scared, lonely, isolated and overwhelmed. Joining a support group improves quality of life, and even survival.
The free wellness support group Walk, Stretch and Talk will meet on July 15 at 8.30am at Chaplin Bay parking lot (turn in off South Shore Road opposite Bermuda Regiment headquarters). We will slowly explore the beautiful beaches between Chaplin and Horseshoe Bay. What could be better than to take a walk on a beautiful beach with people who support and understand you? Let’s enjoy the company, get low-impact exercise and appreciate the spectacular scenery.
Let’s feel warm breezes and try on our beautiful smiles!
Nina London is a certified wellness and weight-management coach. Her mission is to support and inspire mature women to make positive changes in their body and mind. Share your inspirational stories with her here: www.ninalondon.com</i>
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