Harnessing The Healing Power of Stories
Since I was diagnosed with cancer, I have been treated at least every other week, sometimes more often, by medical doctors for almost seven years. Each one listened to me in a caring way, but Health Story Collaborative was the first time I had to tell my whole story and how it felt to me. It was surprisingly uplifting, and when I left, I found that I didn't want to do anything but sit with the incredibly wonderful feelings that I had from the session. When I talked later with my friends who had attended and listened to my story, they felt the same. I didn't expect this to impact me in that wonderful way, much less those who were present. A nice medical surprise: Shortly after that, I was able to take a break from my cancer treatments.
The combined act of telling my story, hearing it so beautifully woven together in audio, and being able to share it with others (friends, family, my doctors) and see their reactions was life transforming. Telling my story was an essential part of my healing process - it gave me the opportunity to step outside of myself and not only communicate to others the impact my disease has had, but also to hear it myself and to be proud of my courage and strength. I feel so fortunate to have my audio story to share with others to help them gain the strength and perspective and to know that they are not alone.
More patients and caregivers need to be exposed to the healing properties of this amazing experience. They need to be given an opportunity to tell their stories with dignity and support.
Sharing my story was a cathartic and beneficial process. It gave me the opportunity to honestly share and evaluate my progress. I was reminded of where I came from and how far I had come in my recovery. Being asked to share my story was an honor which gave me a sense of purpose and responsibility. I felt I could help others dealing with similar struggles see that there is a way out. It gave me an opportunity to make a positive impact for which I am truly grateful.
I think the primary gain is that I have been able to share my story with others……and having it legitimized in a sense by the interview with you has been very powerful and impactful since so often with domestic violence, the victim’s side of the story is open to interpretation and not always taken at face value (oh – it must have been her fault, or, she must have been doing something wrong to deserve it)……
My story helps other women make sense of what they have experienced or are experiencing.
The sheer experience of telling the story is always healing…..every time you tell it, you heal a little more since it just releases it from inside of you and helps you move away and realize that it’s just a small piece of the larger person – it happened at a moment in time….but it’s not the full story of who I am.
I am making real progress and I'm so thrilled and your story telling opportunity gave me the hope and dreams that I would overcome my dilemma and be judged by my public as back in the game and ready for action!
I met Cheryl by sharing my story on Health Story Collaborative. Cheryl had just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, had listened to my story, and had reached out to me in the comments section. We became fast friends writing to each other almost every day for a year and a half. She had not found or engaged with another pancreatic cancer patient who had lived through their cancer and she was given hope by the story she listened to.
Over the time she lived, she had someone to listen to her, someone who was familiar with coping with this disease, with whom to share stories, hopes, and fears, someone to keep her company so she knew she was never alone. Is it always fair to give someone hope? I have a choice every day. I can quietly move forward and put my cancer behind me as my own experience or I can share my experience with others.
After I received so much support from my doctors and nurses, my friends and family, my colleagues and even from people I did not know well, I realized by just being alive, perhaps my greatest gift would be to offer support and some glimmer of hope to others.
The Health Story Collaborative has encouraged and allowed me to participate in my changing role from cancer survivor to a provider of support and hope.
I always feel a little sheepish talking about my involvement in Loie's battle with cancer as I'm not sure I had much to do with her successful outcome. Being able to speak with you during the interview process did give me a realization that there is an important role to be played by "those who stand and wait."
Listening on your site, to other family member interviews, as well as hearing my own voice, brings back the thoughts of the determination, of the caring, of the need to maintain your family's existence during these difficult periods. We, as a family, were so fortunate to get through this process as well as we did, and it is due to the fabulous medical care Loie received here in Boston, the love and support of so many friends and family, and to Loie's determination to make a recovery and then make the most of her life going forward. Her energy and determination still amaze me.
My hope would be that someone, a patient, a family member or a care provider can listen to your interviews and take away something that will give them strength and hope in their fight against cancer.