When Eric Single first encountered The Healing Journey program, he says, “I was looking for something to help me adjust to my new reality”.
That reality included living with a Stage III cancer and its extensive treatment and side effects. Eric had also decided it was time to retire from his long and prominent career as a scientist. Life had changed.
“The Healing Journey was tremendously helpful,” he says.
“You learn how to relax and to question the thoughts that are making you unhappy. It helps you deal with conflicts and resentments and realize that focusing on the past is a waste of time. It helped me accept my cancer and live every day in the present.”
Eric and his wife Susan completed all five levels of the program together and found it so helpful, they’ve recently gone back for a refresher.
Rachel Kampf, who has been leading the Healing Journey program since its inception at Wellspring Chinguacousy, says participants often comment they would like to see everybody taking the program, even people without cancer.
“You’re learning skills for life,” says Rachel. “It’s about increasing self-awareness and learning to reduce the stress load as a way to promote healing.”
The program covers a range of topics and teaches skills like relaxation, thought-management, and goal setting. Also central to the Healing Journey are discussions about forgiveness and letting go of resentments as well as spirituality.
“It does require the ability to be somewhat reflective and the willingness to examine your own life, experience and mind,” says Rachel. “People commonly say they are much more relaxed afterwards and that they’ve learned how to face some of their fears in a healthier, more positive way.”
Many years of research on the Healing Journey have shown that participants consistently report their quality of life improves. Additional research shows that cancer patients, who take an active role in their own health and look for ways to help themselves, may live longer.
“I definitely recommend the program,” says Eric. “It gets you away from focusing on numbers and how much time you have and helps you focus on the good things you have right now and what you want to do.”
Eric has been living with cancer for 10 years. During that time he has taken bird-watching expeditions to the high Arctic and Galapagos. He continues to enjoy bird-watching, travel and walking his dog and is currently training to be a hospice volunteer.
Wellspring Chinguacousy offers The Healing Journey as a registered program. It is available free of charge to both cancer patients and caregivers.
Art Therapy – A Participant’s Perspective by Joyce George-Knight
Leslie Farrell attended some of Wellspring Chinguacousy’s support groups and discovered that “I wasn't ready to sit and verbally talk about what I was going through. Art Therapy gave me the option to explore all these emotions and feelings. I could be quiet and really focus on the art or I could talk and chatter away to the other people in the room. I really cannot say enough about how incredible I found this program.”
She adds, “Wellspring in general has helped me to get me to know myself. Cancer forces you to get to know your body and learn more about what you can and cannot tolerate. And it gives you a different perspective on life.” Art Therapy “was a way to open myself up to something new and it was a lot of fun.”
Leslie describes the first sesssion, “Water colour paints were my favourite. I loved the transparency of the paints and the way they would pool on the paper and bleed into each other. I suppose for me this was a period of letting go. Nothing seemed permanent; nothing was solid. I was going through the second half of my chemo and I suppose I felt my life had become a lot less solid.”
She then reflects on the second session where, “I fell in love with the oil pastels and chalk. I chose bolder colours and really made these solid, graphic designs. I got messy while blending colours and filled page after page. Rubbing and blending the pastel was physically cathartic, releasing all this uncertainty I had about my life and making some tough decisions about my care and how I was going to live while battling this illness. Life was getting messy as I tried to figure out the new me and my art reflected that. Gone were the tranquil, transparent, pastel shades of the water colours.” They were replaced by “these bright bold reds and oranges.”
Art Therapy uses art modalities, such as painting or sculpting, to raise and address cancer related issues. The process of Art Therapy is not about creating good or bad art, it is about how you feel in the Here and Now and using the process to express and explore difficult emotions in a safe and warmenvironment. Art Therapy can allow individuals to gain a better understanding of how their feelings impact their experience of the world and can help them feel more empowered to better deal with difficult emotions such as anxiety, anger, fear and pain.
Maria Can’t Imagine Life Without Wellspring By Joyce George-Knight
When Maria Whipps visited Wellspring Chinguacousy for the first time, her connection was immediate. “To my surprise I was in a beautiful home where I found the atmosphere so inviting”.
Diagnosed three and a half years ago with Multiple Myeloma, a blood cancer where the white cells attack the bone tissue, she attributes Revlimid, administered with steroids as being responsible for giving her energy and removing pain. Maria has faced the fact that her cancer is treatable but not curable. She’s on palliative care to maintain her quality of life. One might say that her motto is, “Accept the cancer and then you can go on.” Instead of being angry with her diagnosis, this feisty yet delicate woman believes that “Cancer was an enormous lesson for me. We complain about the past and worry about the future when what we should be doing is focusing on the present moment. Cancer changes you, hopefully for the better.”
While she has attended many programs at Wellspring Chinguacousy it’s the human contact and the positive energy she feels there that has helped her the most. “Wellspring gives you the tools to let go of stress and resentment in order to cope with day-to-day living. But, it’s the positive energy and the common element of cancer that have helped me the most. There’s energy in there that makes me feel very relaxed and welcome.” Maria also takes advantage of Wellspring’s free transportation services to attend programs.
“Relaxation and Visualization is one of my favorite programs because there’s a lot of dialogue and a lively exchange and sharing. We do a meditation and then the leader invites members to share with the group. There’s always a core group, and a few new members each week, so it varies a little bit.”
Maria also enjoys the Knitting Program, held every Friday. “Knitting has a certain rhythm that is very relaxing. It’s an open forum so we can talk about the silliest things. If you don’t want to talk, you don’t have to.” Before the group begins or at breaks, many participants sit around the kitchen table enjoying coffee and tea together. Some bring their lunch, while others bring cookies or Indian food to share.
Maria is also a regular monthly donor. “We are given so much at Wellspring that we should give a little bit back.” After a bit of thought, she adds, “I wish I could give more. If you spend say ten hours at a place week after week after week, like I do, you should give something”. However, Maria’s main reason for being a donor is that “Wellspring is in my heart, it’s really part of me. I couldn’t imagine life without Wellspring”.