A Review of Patient-Centered Medicine: A Human Experience

A Review of Patient-Centered Medicine: A Human Experience

By David H. Rosen and Uyen Bao Hoang

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This is a new and updated edition of Medicine as a Human Experience originally published in 1984 by David H. Rosen and David E. Reiser with two guest chapters by George L. Engel (one of the founders of the biopsychosocial model still taught in medical schools). As a disclosure, one of the current authors, Uyen, is a friend of mine whom I know through living and working in New Zealand.

This new edition features a foreword by Andrew Weil, MD, who puts the book in context within the current frameworks of the biopsychosocialspiritual model of medicine and integrative medicine. Dr. Weil writes that not only does Patient-Centered Medicine “define the role of health professionals in the new model of medicine that is coming into being, it gives a great deal of practical advice about the attitudes and skills they should develop to care best for patients” (ix).  The current edition includes Norman Cousins’ (author of Anatomy of an Illness and The Healing Heart) original foreword entitled “Physician as Humanist,” which invokes the framework of humanism as a partner or counter-balance to the technological and interventionist aspects of medicine. Cousins stresses the interconnectedness of science and humanism, ending with the statement, “I pray that, even as you attach the highest value to your science, you will never forget that it works best when it serves your humanity” (xvii).

The book next includes a prologue, written by Dr. Uyen B. Hoang. Uyen tells of her own path as a healer, as a Vietnamese-born American, training in medicine, going through burnout in the contemporary practice of psychiatry in the United States, and then moving to New Zealand to practice, “in search of something greater, on a quest for expansion and truth” (xxv). With honesty and integrity, Uyen brings her own personal experiences of medical practice to the book which bridges the thirty-some years since the book was first written. Dr. Rosen also shares personal elements of his own work and journey to humanize the more theoretical aspects of the text.

The text elaborates the four essential principles of medicine as a human experience: acceptance, empathy, conceptualization, and competence, stating that these are required to prepare physicians to be “compassionate champions for health” (4). The grounding of the book is in the frameworks of humanism and the psychotherapeutic understanding of human relationships. George Engel’s two chapters give us the opportunity to read, in his own words, the ideas of the founder of the biopsychosocial model. Throughout the book, Drs. Rosen and Hoang focus on the idea that there is no separation between the humanistic and scientific approaches. Rather than a duality between the art and science of medicine, they offer the perspective that the therapeutic relationship is rooted in the human science of presence and connected observation.

What could be improved in this book for the next edition? I think the authors do a good job of retaining the focus of the original and updating it to the present times. I think a larger discussion of what is now called the biopsychosocialspiritual model that Dr. Weil mentions in his foreword could be helpful. Another area to consider is the work on compassion-based practices as an antidote to burnout. These elements are present in the book, but could be further developed. That said, this book easily joins the work of other healers such as Robin Youngson, Tony Fernando, Allan D. Peterkin, Andrew Weil, Lewis Mehl-Madrona, and the late Lee Lipsenthal who have been engaged in what I call the compassion revolution in medicine.

Patient-Centered Medicine: A Human Experience gives the reader a great overview of biopsychosocial, humanist and psychotherapeutic perspectives of human interconnection and inter-relatedness. It combines the enthusiasm of the younger psychiatrist with the wisdom of the older psychiatrist in order to guide students, doctors, nurses, and clinicians through training and into practice. Patient-Centered Medicine is also a source of renewal for practicing doctors and clinicians, reminding us all why we went into medicine and health care in the first place.  Drs. Rosen and Hoang close with the following sentences: “We must encourage introspection, healthy relationships, play, openness, and joyous, creative expression. We must spawn a generation of doctors who are not afraid to love” (142).

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David H. Rosen and Uyen Bao Hoang

 

 

Re-humanizing Medicine Review

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The American Medical Writers Association has published a review of Re-humanizing Medicine: A Holistic Framework for Transforming Your Self, Your Practice, and the Culture of Medicine.

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You can find the full review at this link. Below are some excerpts from the review written by Debamita Chatterjee.

“Re-humanizing Medicine by David R. Kopacz is an incisive reflection on the existing medical practices of an increasingly corporatized world. At the same time, it seeks to teach the medical and health care community how to correct that dehumanized outlook by being more compassionate and holistic.”

“Considering the absurdly frenetic pace of modern medical practice, this book does an excellent job of nourishing the soul of practicing physicians first, thereby helping them to regain their humanity. This, in turn, may translate into a more humanized treatment of patients and, ultimately, establish a pathway to a whole new paradigm of medical practice.”

“This book helps us to understand, appreciate, and correct the wrongs of modern-day medicine by inspiring us to be more connected—to be more human.”

 

Reviewer: Debamita Chatterjee

Debamita is a graduate of the University of Rochester in biomedical sciences. She has written for the University of Rochester Medical Center and journals including eLife and The Scientist.

Re-humanizing Medicine & Walking the Medicine – Books of the Month in the Royal College of Psychiatrists Newsletter

Royal College of Psychiatrists

Pan American Division Newsletter, February 2017 (Issue 26)

RCPsych PanAm Book club: Book of the Month

This month’s recommendation was sent by Dr. David Kopacz who responded to our call to “rediscover the soul of daily practice” and to connect with more members of our Division. Dr. Kopacz is a psychiatrist working in Primary Care Mental Health Integration at the Puget Sound Veterans Affairs in Seattle, Washington, US. He is the author of our two books of the month:

  • Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD By David Kopacz and Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) Millichap Books/Pointer Oak, 2016
  • Re-humanizing Medicine: A Holistic Framework for Transforming Your Self, Your Practice, and the Culture of Medicine. By David Kopacz (Ayni Press, a division of John Hunt Publishing, 2014)

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Thanks RCP!

The Book is Here!!!

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The book that I have been working on with Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) over the past 2 years just arrived in the mail! It looks like it is still not shipping from Amazon yet, but should be soon as it has shipped from the printer.

Judith Gadd has been working with the publisher, Paulette Millichap of Millichap books and has put up a nice website with 4 videos that my sister, Karen Kopacz, filmed earlier in the year.

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My sister, Karen , at Design for the Arts, is in the process of updating my webpage:

davidkopacz.com 

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I will be setting up some book talks as the next step. In general Joseph will not be traveling much, but we will kick it off together in Albuquerque and will also look at setting something up in Durango. Here is the schedule so far:

November 4, 2016: Mayo Clinic Humanities in Medicine Symposium, Phoenix, AZ

November 10, 2016: Bookworks, Albuquerque, NM (with Joseph)

December 7, 2016: University of Washington Bookstore, Seattle, WA

March 9th, 2017: Minneapolis VA

More news as it is available…

A Proposition for a Counter-Curriculum in Healthcare Education and Practice

This is a copy of the blog post that I published in the member’s blog of the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine 8/11/16.

By AIHM Member Dave Kopacz

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What is a counter-curriculum and why do we need it?

A counter-curriculum is a course of self-study (which includes the study of the self) alongside the technical curriculum for training healthcare professionals.

We need it because something important is missing from the contemporary curriculum of healthcare providers.

I first developed this concept of a counter-curriculum when I was in medical school, actually even before that, back in high school when I realized that there were important areas I needed to be educated in that were outside of what I could learn through schools. My counter-curriculum included the works of Carl Jung, and writings in Zen Buddhism, poetry, literature and mysticism. It included looking at the best of being fully human, as well as the worst, so I had to study the “forgotten histories” of genocides of Native Americans and other marginalized peoples and cultures. I had to study the assumptions of the current facts that were being taught, which led to the philosophy of science and history of medicine as well as of different cultural and historical models of health and illness.

The counter-curriculum is more than reading books, however.  In order to be fully human, to counteract the dehumanizing aspects of professional training, in order to be the best doctor and the best human being I could be, I practiced various forms of meditation, yoga, tai chi, martial arts, fencing, going to various gym classes, working out, running, free and easy wandering in the woods with Thoreau and Chuang Tzu in my pack. The counter-curriculum led me to study various forms of healing, of energy, life force, breath and consciousness. It led me to seek out different forms of education and experience. It recently led me to start working with Native American visionary Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow), who taught me that we only truly exist in moments when we are raising our consciousness, the rest of the time we are just busy trying to keep everything the same, which is persistence―not existence.

And, finally, the counter-curriculum led me to write my book, Re-humanizing Medicine. And it led me to write this blog post and to encourage you to find your own counter-curriculum, so you can be a whole person, so you can be fully human, so you can truly exist.

Dave Kopacz is a psychiatrist, a founding diplomate of the ABIHM, and is recently certified through the ABoIM. He works in primary care mental health integration at the Puget Sound VA and is on faculty at the University of Washington. He has worked in a number of practice settings in the US and New Zealand. His first book, Re-humanizing Medicine: A Holistic Framework for Transforming Your Self, Your Practice, and the Culture of Medicine develops the concept of a counter-curriculum and presents a guide for being a whole person to treat a whole person. His latest book, with co-author Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow), is called Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD and is due out October 15th, 2016.

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Treating All of the Patient Physio Matters Interview, August 2016

The following is the text of an interview I did for Physio Matters, (member magazine of Physiotherapy New Zealand) August 2016.

FEATURE 22 | PHYSIO MATTERS AUGUST 2016

Treating All of the Patient
Interview by Rhonwyn Newson

David Kopacz, author of the book, Re-humanizing Medicine: A Holistic Framework for Transforming Your Self, Your Practice, and the Culture of Medicine, defines a holistic approach to healthcare means taking into account all human dimensions that influence health and illness.

These include not just the physical, but also the emotional, relational, mental, creative and spiritual dimensions of the person.

“To be holistic is the opposite of being reductionist. In addition to focussing on the physical body, we also are heartcentred, bringing caring and compassion to our work,” Dr Kopacz says.

How can physiotherapists provide a more holistic approach to treating patients?

Dr Kopacz believes clinicians can only provide holistic healthcare by first developing one’s own ‘wholeness’.

“We cannot give to someone else what we have not first developed in ourselves. Healthcare is both an art and a science, although we often forget the art and only focus on the science. If we want to give more compassionate care, we must cultivate our own compassion.”

‘Counter-curriculum of self-care’

Dr Kopacz notes that healthcare workers are often not trained to take care of themselves.

“If we do not care for and replenish ourselves, we end up with professional burn-out, which leads to a loss of caring in healthcare, and ultimately a loss of health for both the healthcare worker and the client.”

The basics are a great place to start – stretching, exercise, regular movement and engagement in life. Proper nutrition and relaxation techniques are helpful too. From there, the concept of mind-body-spirit should be looked at, and this applies to both the clinician and the patient.

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David Kopacz at Re-humanizing Medicine book signing at University of Washington Bookstore, January 2014 (Photo: Salin Sriudomporn)

According to Dr Kopacz, there are nine dimensions that need to be looked at:

  • How can a person engage their body for health?
  • How can a person engage their emotions for health?
  • How can a person engage their mind for health?
  • How can a person engage their heart for health?
  • How can a person engage their creativity for health?
  • How can a person engage their intuition for health?
  • How can a person engage their spirit for health?
  • How can a person engage their context and surroundings for health?
  • How can a person engage their time for health?

Looking at these nine dimensions gives a holistic view of a person, and each dimension has health benefits. Physiotherapists can individualise a treatment plan by finding out how to support a person to engage all of the dimensions of their health. “We don’t have to be an expert at working with each of these different dimensions, but as healthcare workers, we need to have basic fluency in each dimension.”

Treating more than just an injury

“When people are injured or have a movement disorder, it doesn’t just affect the physical body as a machine – the body also ‘thinks’,” Dr Sandra Bassett, senior lecturer in Physiotherapy at AUT says.

Dr Bassett believes a biopsychosocial healthcare approach means taking into account the beliefs people have about their treatment and their injury.

“It means taking the time to talk to a patient about any limitations to adhering to treatments – what their time and social commitments are.”

From Dr Bassett’s perspective biopsychosocial healthcare is different to providing holistic healthcare.

“It’s about finding out and respecting what a patient thinks. What their commitments are, and how they think their bodies work.”

She also believes patient education is so important. Knowing how the body works, and how treatment will help, means patients are more likely to adhere to their treatment and manage their disability.

“I often hear physios saying, ‘But I’m not a counsellor’, and that’s true,” she says. “However, physiotherapists are well-placed to connect with people, and get them to think about their day and when they might be able to fit in their treatment exercise regime, for example.”

Physios can also place responsibility on a patient to encourage self-efficacy. “Our research shows that when patients take responsibility and ownership of their treatment, they cope much better. Patients feel better about themselves and think more positively.” In this sense, the physiotherapist may act as more of a coach by setting goals, and providing encouragement and support, as well as educating the patient.

Dr Kopacz says an injured person may also suffer from grief over lost physical functionality, anxiety over being re-injured, and even depression around an injury. These emotional and mental elements need to be addressed in order for a person to even have the motivation, and commitment, to doing the exercises that physiotherapists know would help them.

“A key question is asking a patient, ‘What do you want your health for?’ This helps to motivate a person, and individualise their care. It’s not enough to provide information or appeal to a person’s intellect. We need to focus on engendering hope as much as providing an evidence-based physical treatment,” he says.

Although this may seem like a lot to take on in a busy clinical setting, it is a vital component of providing care.

“…really, it comes down to making sure that we are good human beings to each other as well as being a good technician or clinician. Kindness and caring only take a moment and we need to make sure that we make space for that moment to occur.”

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Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) and David Kopacz working on their new book, Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD. (Photo: Karen Kopacz, 2016)

 

Conversations With Susan.2: Susan’s Biography

I have been emailing back and forth with my friend, Susan Mac Gregor in New Zealand as she has been going through what she calls her “deathing life” with Stage 4 Glioblastoma Multiforme. We are having some great talks and Susan would like me to share these through this blog. Here is her biography and we’ll be posting some of our discussions in future posts. Susan has also started making digital art and we’ll include some of her artwork in these posts.

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The Centered Heart

The Centered Heart (Susan Mac Gregor)

Biography:

My name is Susan Diane Mac Gregor. I was born in Whangarei, New Zealand, on 25th August 1958. I grew up in Northland enjoying its beautiful beaches, native forests, waterways, & small town lifestyle. When not reading much of my time was spent exploring nature, riding friends horses, rescuing damaged birds or small animals & swimming. There were cats, pidgeons, chooks [chickens], sheep, dogs, canaries as pets, plus my blood brother & four fostered siblings to share time with. Having a musically talented mother & poetically inclined father, who enjoyed limerick & rhyme, meant our household was filled with music, rhyme & laughter. Despite some financial crises for my parents, it was an idyllic childhood.

Qualifications:

Cert Industrial Cookery; R.P.N; PG Dip Gerontological Nursing; PG Cert CBT; Cert N.L.P. & Eriksonian Hypnotherapy; PG Cert.Relationship Guidance; PG Cert Sexual Abuse Counseling; Cert Solution Focussed Therapy; Cert Grief Counseling;  Cert Group Facilitation; Cert Stanford University Facilitator Self Management Of Chronic Conditions Groups. Successfully completed one year from Diploma of Psychotherapy, plus stage one National Certificate in Adult Education.

Alternative Therapy Qualifications:

Diploma Therapeutic Massage; Reiki Level 3; Cert. Therapeutic Drumming; Colour Psychology … being a methodology of using colour & drawing to analyze & address psychological issues; Chaldean & Pythagorean Numerology; American Indian Aura Cleansing;  Hands On & Crystal Energy Healing; Buddhist Sound Healing via Chris James; Home Study of Aromatherapy.

Gifts:

I was born with the gifts of Clairvoyance, Clairaudience, Clairsentience,  Pre-cognisance & Telepathy. These gifts began expressing themselves firstly amongst my direct family, surprising my parents on more than one occasion. As an adult I have practiced for 25yrs as a Clairvoyant, offering guidance to100’s of people throughout the North Island. This service included dream interpretation, energy clearing, & numerology if desired. As an adjunctive I have developed a method whereby it is possible to map a person’s phases & time frames toward achieving changes & goals in their lives. The phases allow the person to consciously make the most of the vibrational energies in each phase. Feedback has confirmed this is a reliable tool for its purpose.

Harley The Rainbow Lorikeet

Harley the Rainbow Lorikeet (Susan Mac Gregor)

More About My Roots:

Family have significantly influenced my character & interests. Mums father Reverend Norman Hyde established an Orphanage during the N.Z. Influenza Epidemic of the early 1900s, & along with mums mother Lillian, brought up thirty three Orphans, plus eight of their own children. Prior to that Norman lived & worked closely with the Tainui Iwi, an indigenous Maori tribe from the Waikato region. Grand-dad spoke fluent Maori, & was fully conversant with Maori protocols & customs. When he died in his 50’s he was given the rare honours of having Maori “wailers” at his funeral, plus a Chiefs cloak was presented to the family from that Iwi. As is customary, the family has since offered the cloak back, the Iwi have not accepted it, thus it & its significance remain in the family.

Respect for New Zealand’s indigenous peoples & customs was passed onto me through my mother. Mums mother was a gifted pianist, being asked in her early teens to go to Germany to further a musical career. Grandma’s parents didn’t permit this however. Prior to marriage Lillian established her own music school, teaching piano & singing. Her talent passed to my mum, who could play any instrument she was handed, & sang on radio in her early adulthood. Our household was always filled with music, with many nights sat around the piano singing Redemption Hymns, or listening to mum play from the great classics, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Bach, Beethoven, Mendelssohn etc. Though never having her ability I took lessons in piano, & continued to play into adulthood.

My father, born to the son of a Scottish Immigrant from Loch Carron, bought another form of creativity into our household. Dad had a love of words, particularly in rhyme & limerick. In early adulthood he published his poems in the local News Paper. His work as a carpenter also a creative occupation. His father was a lay preacher in Churches throughout the Tauranga District. Thus we have the foundations for my love of music, rhyme, respect & interest in different cultures, nature, the humanities, & Christian faith.

Faith:

Despite our Christian underpinnings, Christianity was never forced upon us as children. My parents wished us to choose rather than be forced to accept Christ, leaving the door open for enquiry & spiritual exploration. Not withstanding that, prayer was a given in our household & my parents lives were distinctly lived from Christian principles.

In addition, my mother had the unusual gift of being a “diviner” i.e. someone who could find underground water merely by walking around with her hands held out to sense it. She would sometimes demonstrate this gift for others using a forked willow stick, which would violently twist in her hands when over water. She became well known in Northland for this gift, having divined the first steam bore at the Ngapha Steam Plant near Kaikohe, plus the water supply at a privately owned Camp Ground on the East Coast of Hohoura Harbour, called Tauranga Bay. Not to mention many farmers water supplies, etc. She was capable of identifying how deep in the earth they needed to bore, which way the water flowed, if it was salt, brackish or fresh & could, by the same means, divine  for minerals such as gold. This left the way open for enquiry as to things unseen, though felt or known.

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Susan Mac Gregor

As a young adult I entered training in Psychiatric Nursing, having chosen to diverge from my training at the Auckland Institute of Technology, where I qualified as an Industrial Cook. This led into my Career in Mental Health, & interest in Psychological methodologies. Upon qualifying I further developed my interest in caring for the Elderly, plus Special Interest in working with people with Dementia. Post Graduate study included a Diploma in Gerontology. Next I began developing qualifications & skills in Psychological Therapies. Gradually I moved from working within Private & Public Elder Care into Mental Health Psycho-Social Rehabilitation, including providing CBT counseling. I was working full time as a Therapist in a Psychology Division of a Primary Healthcare Organisation when I was diagnosed with Grade Four Glioblastoma Multiforme, this being my final job.

Spiritual explorations have included initiation into Western Sufism, initiation to The Rosocrucian Order AMORC, a home study course provided by my friend Patricia Sarne Paul in Kabbahlah, exploration of Western Spiritualism, Meditational Dancing in the form of Circle Dancing, Dances Of Universal Peace, & Sufi Zikr, practice of Hatha Yoga in my late teens, then training & practice in Raja Yoga, Mantra Yoga, Mudra Yoga &  Kriya Yoga, the latter following Paramahansa Yogananda’s teachings. There was a short foray into Tibetan Buddhism, via Dhargyey Rinpoche at the Buddhist Centre in Whangarei. Training in Mindfulness Meditation. At times I would “drop” in on Hindu services to join in with the singing of Bhajans, which I always found an uplifting practice. Or through Jewish friends I’d join in Sabbath services at the open Auckland Synagogue, or join in at Anglican or Catholic Services & discussion groups. I gathered books to read surrounding these topics borrowing some & buying others.

Influential writers were M. Scott Peck, Martin Buber, Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, Richard Bach, Carlos Castaneda, Erich von Daniken, works from the Western Mystery Hermetic School,  Sophist Philosophy, The Paulene Gospel, Celestine Prophecy, amongst others.  Having cast the net wide I can say with conviction I decidely favour Christianity, finding truth & mystery in the life of Jesus & his gospel based on love, forgiveness, & grace. Following baptism by the Spirit as an 11yr old I have consolidated my Christian declaration with Baptism by water as an Adult.

Some Favourite Poems:

“Gunga Dinn” (Rudyard Kipling)

“Kubla Khan” (Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

“Jabberwocky” (Lewis Carroll)

“I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud” (William Wordsworth)

“The Walrus & The Carpenter” (Lewis Carroll)

“You Are Old Father William” (Lewis Carroll)

“Ode To A Mouse” (Robert Burns)

All the best to both of you, and wishing you success in your endeavours.

Love from Susan xx

Sky Painter

Sky Painter (Susan Mac Gregor)

Conversations With Susan

I have been having email conversations with my friend from New Zealand, Susan Mac Gregor. We were in a writer’s group together when I was in Auckland. We periodically have been emailing, but recently we’ve been having more frequent conversations around the topic of what she calls “deathing life,” Susan was diagnosed with Stage 4 Glioblastoma Multiforme, a serious brain cancer, and she has been sharing her insights and experiences with me. Part of what initiated our increased emails is the fact that I have been preparing to give a series of lectures in Grand Junction, Colorado, on Health Care Decisions Day. These talks will be on end-of-life decision-making, holistic decision-making, and also staff wellness for hospice workers. I had asked Susan to give some feedback on a draft for my talk and this really sparked off our conversations. As I have been wanting to expand the focus of this blog, Being Fully Human, it seemed like a good idea to post these conversations as Susan shares her honest insight and experience about the process of “deathing life,” living life right up to the point of death.

Susan has written a fairly long biography, and we’ll publish that at some point, but for this post, I’ll excerpt it and then also start with a summary that she has written about her “deathing life” process. I asked Susan about an image to include in the blog post and she said,

“Having only now read your email the things that come to mind as a picture for the blog could be based on what has been shared…perhaps something with swirling patterns of coloured light, transposed with transparent images of symbols, angels or such.” So I will put a few of my paintings in the blog that fit that description.

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My name is Susan Diane Mac Gregor. I was born in Whangarei, New Zealand, on 25th August 1958. I grew up in Northland enjoying its beautiful beaches, native forests, waterways, & small town lifestyle. When not reading much of my time was spent exploring nature, swimming, rescuing damaged birds or small animals & swimming. There were cats, pidgeons, chooks [chickens], sheep, dogs, canaries as pets, plus my blood brother & four fostered siblings to share time with. Despite some financial crises for my parents, it was an idyllic childhood. 

As a young adult I entered training in Psychiatric Nursing, having chosen to diverge from my training at the Auckland Institute of Technology, where I qualified as an Industrial Cook. This led into my Career in Mental Health, & interest in Psychological methodologies. Upon qualifying I further developed my interest in caring for the Elderly, plus Special Interest in working with people with Dementia. Post Graduate study included a Diploma in Gerontology. Next I began developing qualifications & skills in Psychological Therapies, successfully completing the first year of study in a Diploma of Psychotherapy with Auckland University of Technology.

In addition to Susan’s health profession credentials, she is also a poet and spiritual seeker and we will hear more about that in further posts.

For today, we’ll include the email that Susan sent me that gave me the idea of posting her insights to share with others. I think she gives such a great, heartfelt, and wise words and experience.

25/2/16 (Susan)

Dear David,

It was with interest that I read about the latest books you’ve been reading. I have read many of the books you have cited in references, etc., including The Tibetan Book of the Dead, however not the recent Sufi book you mentioned.

I can’t give advice for your talk at the Hospice, as everyone’s experience differs, however I can write about my experience.

Initially I experienced shock & grief at receiving such a finite diagnosis. I remember looking around the rooms in my house at the things I had built up & worked hard for, & thinking what did all of that mean, was what I had invested to get those things worth it?  The answer that came back in response to that question was a feeling of emptiness. Then my heart filled with sadness thinking about my 3x beautiful cats & Mahmoud being left behind & I was glad at least that Mahmoud’s life would be more comfortable, as a result of my previous efforts.

Within 2wks I was trundled off for brain surgery, after which my life completely changed. The surgery caused damage within my brain, leaving me with left sided paresthesia.

Mahmoud was devastated. His welfare was always on my mind, as was mine on his. I had a large amount of time left lying in my hospital bed with nothing to do but think.

Years prior I had experienced a “healing” at a Buddhist retreat, in which my “difficult to control” hypertension completely dissappeared, leaving my GP astounded. During that retreat I learnt that even illness has a beneficial purpose, i.e. to teach us something, to deepen us in some way spiritually, to raise our awareness or break through unhelpful patterning.  Thus I started to look for the lessons in this experience.

For me cancer has done all of the above plus brought me to an awareness of how much love surrounds me. It has deepened my relationship with Mahmoud, with God, & given me fresh hope for humanity. I have been shown so much love & kindness, even from complete strangers.  Often those with little in the way of possessions have given me the most. I have been able to see the busy, tense person who “didn’t have time “ that I used to be, reflected in people around me, & their counter balancers in the people who will let me que jump, or help me out in getting something in a supermarket, etc., because they see I’m disabled.

As a consequence of my health & disability mine & Mahmoud’s lifestyle has dramatically changed. We have needed to offload a lot of possessions & have moved to a two bedroom rental unit. The money from my salary no longer flows in & the goal of being mortgage free in 3yrs has disintegrated. However I have found that I am surrounded with so much love & kindnesss that my soul & heart are completely full.

From this point of realisation forward I have been able to take inventory of my life, looking at past regrets & losses, & freeing myself of built up emotions through self forgiveness & forgiveness of others. This has been aided by gratitude & compassion, both of which have deepened within me exponentially.  I have become free again, letting go of pursuing goals, things, dreams…. most of which are erroneous now. Being present in each moment, with each breath, is how my days unfold. The natural world around me is exquisitely defined, colours, shapes, contrasts, each being impressed into my being through every sensory system I possess.

I still give … a smile, a kind word, my knowledge or time. My “deathing” life continues to have purpose & meaning, people ask me “what is this like”, “how do you stay so optimistic”, “are you afraid”, etc, etc. I do experience moments of fear, but at the end of the day my answer to all of these questions is, “this is life, I am blessed to have lived it, I believe in an after life, & it is my faith in God & Jesus Christ that sustains me when all else fails.

May your love-light continue to shine.

Love & Blessings, Susan xx

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