THE BLOG

5 Tips for Living With the Stress of Cancer and Serious Illness, Part 1

03/18/2013 05:17 pm ET | Updated May 18, 2013

Susan Bauer Wu Shows Us the Healing Power of Mindfulness and a Tender Heart for Cancer Patients, Cancer Survivors and Caregivers

Hearing the words "you have cancer" may be the most stressful and overwhelming moment in your life or the life of a loved one. If you are a caregiver, it may be the most stressful moment in the life of your patient. From that moment on, your life is changed forever. How we meet the challenge of the cancer journey effects the quality of our experience and of our lives. We discover the uninvited opportunity to turn suffering into wisdom and compassion and thus heal and transform along the way, not knowing who we might become if we allow this experience to take us to places within ourselves we never imagined.

We find ourselves face to face with our mortality, our fragility and all of the things we cannot predict or control. We can learn to be with the effects of chronic stress and debilitating and life-limiting illness by bringing a tender and compassionate heart and mindfull awareness to our often traumatic experiences. Susan Bauer Wu, Ph.D., R.N. masterfully teaches a beautiful restorative retreat that is very much about coming home to yourself and finding calm, clarity and compassion at the center of the storm of health care and serious illness.This nourishing retreat is for patients, family caregivers as well as health care professionals. She teaches us how we can develop a greater capacity to meet these challenges with grace, one breath and one heartbeat at a time. We find that life can be lived fully and richly whatever our circumstances.

How can we navigate such a treacherous journey and not only preserve but cultivate a real oasis of inner peace, inner calm and ease for ourselves amidst such a storm? How can we be with physical and emotional pain and suffering and remain open, tender, resilient? Meditation and mindful awareness can be a salve for soothing the very real physical as well as emotional side effects of the cancer journey.

Susan, whose full presence and depth of caring are palpable, says:

The retreat Calm, Clarity and Compassion in the Storm of Healthcare and Illness is not just about patients' suffering, but also for the professional and family caregivers to help them with their own suffering. Clinicians, patients, and loved ones, alike, are all getting thrown around by storms every day. For clinicians it's the broken health care system that is beating them up and pulling them further and further from their true calling. They often feel depleted, lost, and distracted, which undoubtedly clouds their ability to fully show up and be there for their patients. Likewise, many people with serious illness (patients) are also consumed by their illness (and associated treatments, diagnosis, and prognosis) and lost in the complex health care maze. They may be frozen in fear and worry and so distracted by pain or other distressing symptoms that they have disconnected from those they love and what gives them meaning. And for loved ones/family and friends, the journey with serious illness is equally difficult. Many are overextended in trying to meet their loved one's needs while also taking on more responsibilities. They are juggling a lot and struggling to keep it all together while also feeling helpless and coming to terms with the possible loss of their loved one. So, you can see, it's a storm for everyone. The retreat is fully experiential for everyone involved. Regardless if they are a clinician, patient, or partner, they arrive recognizing their own suffering and they learn that they can't run away from the storm, but they can indeed find clarity, calm, and compassion at its center. It's all about transforming suffering into wisdom and compassion.

Susan Bauer Wu, R.N., Ph.D has compassionately and skillfully skippered many patients, family members and their caregivers through these turbulent waters and shifting sands. She combines decades of research and hands-on clinical cancer care experience with a deep practice of mindfulness meditation that includes the cultivation of loving kindness, not only for others but for oneself as part of deep healing. This allows each person whose life has been touched by cancer or debilitating illness to source that still-calm pool at the center of their own being. Instead of closing, we open. Instead of holding our breath and bracing ourselves, we breathe deeply and let ourselves soften.

For more by Dr. Nalini Chilkov, click here.

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