Join us by reading one chapter per week of our book The Healing Circle which includes inspiring true stories and teaching from the ‘Skills for Healing’ Cancer Weekend Retreats. Each week we will post the next chapter of our book, links to related video, and a blog about the chapter. Learn about recent scientific advances in the body-mind-spirit connection, updates of the people featured in our book, and our reflections on each chapter. Read the whole book for free by accessing the previous blog posts. Please send us your comments and questions! Deep peace and healing, Rob Rutledge, MD and Timothy Walker, PhD.
Read Chapter Twenty-Four: Geoff – Trading in his Hockey Stick for a Walking Stick
Watch the Video: Healing and Cancer – Stories of Empowerment
Dr. Rob Rutledge, MD, Oncologist and Associate Professor, tells the stories of ordinary yet remarkable people affected by cancer, and how they were able to empower themselves at levels of body, mind and spirit on the cancer journey.
Embracing and Transcending the Empowerment Paradigm
What do people who have been given a cancer diagnosis want? With 25 years experience on the cancer wards and in support groups I’ve learned they want three things.
- To maximize their chance of recovery and longevity
- They want to feel better by learning how to deal with those most difficult emotions like fear, and the stress of seeing their loved ones suffer. They want to come back home to themselves, to settle down the emotional roller coaster, to reclaim a sense of peace and calm in the midst of the turbulence.
- They want to be able to function better, to maximize their mental and physical capacity.
To help people fulfill these goals we teach an integrated approach: getting the best care from the medical system, and combining it with ways to empower oneself at levels of body, mind, and spirit. This approach requires a pro-active attitude and discipline. For instance, exercising daily is probably the single most effective way of improving your health and happiness (though practicing a relaxation technique like meditation is a close second). When you use your willpower to follow the proven healthy habits science teaches, you can make a tremendous difference in how you feel, the quality of your life, and for some people, the chance of recovery from cancer.
I believe strongly in this empowerment paradigm. When we take care of our bodies we give ourselves the best chance of manifesting our love and spirit into the world. Geoff, featured in the attached chapter, tests this capacity to the extreme. The image of him wasted away on his hospital bed, barely able to lift his arms, doing the modified sit-ups, is heroic in scope. This pure force of will culminates three weeks later in a five-step journey from bed to sofa which now marks the anniversary of the Young Adult Cancer Canada annual walk. Geoff continues to work with the long-term side effects of his double bone marrow transplant, and admits to needing nine hours of sleep every night to be able to function optimally in his ground-breaking organization.
This story of triumph through hard work and empowerment is inspirational. I hold this level of grit and pro-activity with great respect. But self-empowerment can only take us so far. Ultimately we will bump up against our limits. Brain fog, fatigue and even the realization that our lifespan is limited brings us back to the truth of our limits. If we focus solely on our limitations and frustrations we may miss the miracle of what we have in this very moment, and the miracle of this life.
Geoff’s story is of heroic proportion but not just because of his Herculean effort but because he undergoes a transformation which eclipses his previous phase. “I no longer viewed cancer as the enemy.” Like so many of the other remarkable cancer survivors I’ve met over the years, Geoff was willing to let the winds of destiny direct his life. So while doing everything possible to take care of himself, he simply let go into the mystery.
It may seem paradoxical to both be able to embrace the paradigm of empowerment and transcend it. But we can honour both science and spirit, we can nurture ourselves as individuals and release into the universal, and we can embrace the paradox of holding peace, joy and suffering. We can work hard and struggle emotionally, and at the same time, watch our lives with a great sense of love and contentment. And when we do we can reclaim our already existing wholeness.
Dr. Rob Rutledge is a Radiation Oncologist in Halifax, Nova Scotia, specializing in breast, prostate and pediatric cancers. He is also an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at Dalhousie University.
In 1999, Rob co-created the ‘Skills for Healing’ Cancer Weekend Retreats. These weekend support groups teach a powerful and integrated approach to the cancer diagnosis and ways to heal at levels of body, mind and spirit. To date, more than 1,600 people have attended the retreats in over 20 cities across Canada and abroad.
Rob also leads the Healing and Cancer Foundation, a Registered Charity, that freely offers educational videos, documentaries, and webcasting seminars – and he is co-author of a book called The Healing Circle, which captures the teachings and inspirational stories from the weekend retreats.
In 2010, Rob received Cancer Care Nova Scotia’s Award for Excellence in Patient Care and, in 2006 Doctors Nova Scotia presented him with the Health Promotion Award in recognition of his contribution to physician health and health promotion in cancer patients.