When I was growing up no one went to see a psychiatrist or psychologist. I remember my parents saying "You've gotta be crazy to see one of those". Not to mention, the images that we saw on television were usually frightening (lobotomies, shock therapy), and the psychiatrists were loonier than their patients. It was only in the late 1970's that pop psychology surfaced and although most of us took it in University, the stigma of actually going and consulting someone remained.
I always enjoyed the magic trick of pulling out a tablecloth and leaving everything perfectly in place. Well, when I was diagnosed with cancer it was as if the tablecloth was pulled and everything came crashing to the ground...no magic, just reality.
I knew I needed help.
My first attempt was through group therapy at a wonderful place, Gilda's. As the only male at the initial meeting I sat around a circle with about 10 women as we introduced ourselves and spoke of our cancer. It became apparent that this was not going to work for me. Firstly , I realized that most of these women had breast or uterine cancer and had much in common. I was clearly odd man out, "Kidney, how rare!" Frankly I took no solace from being in a room full of sad, crying, people. I couldn't wait for everyone to stop talking. It occurred to me that men and women don't necessarily succeed in similar therapies. Men probably won't sit around in a group and discuss how their Prostate Surgery has created sexual dysfunction. Maybe I'm wrong but I doubt it.
So my next step was a referral to a very nice social worker, who unfortunately knew nothing about cancer. The conversation quickly went downhill when her first question was " So you must be worried about Chemo?", "No I answered my cancer has no treatment, I pray that surgery will work as they have not developed a chemo or radiation that works on my type of cancer." She was shaken and taken aback and redirected with "How do you feel about dying".... needless to say we never saw each other again.
Thankfully I met a trained Oncological Psychiatrist to whom I did not need to explain my cancer issues, and who had seen other cancer patients and knew that my prognosis was probably not imminent death. Over the next few months, I laughed, I cried (a lot), and somehow made relative peace with my situation. Thank you Dr. Hoffman.
Throughout my 4 hospitalizations I have come to realize that we do a great job healing the body, but not such a great job healing the soul.
It's the soul that wakes you at 3am trembling in your bed.
It's your soul that is frightened like a 5 year old each time you put on a hospital gown.
It's your soul that sometimes wants to give up because you're just not sure how many more times you can put your family and friends through this hellish ride.
Last week I had my latest CT Scan and in the cubicle waiting next to me were a couple clutching hands as he waited his turn. As I was called I looked in and told them "The Scan is really not bad, you'll be okay, just believe you'll be okay", they both thanked me and off we went.
For the last 3 years I have been an advocate for a comprehensive program in Psycho Oncology. I believe we need a program that can address the needs of Children, Women and Men with huge variety of techniques and treatment types, that combine psychology, psychiatry and volunteerism.
On September 11, I ride with this mission in my mind, and as another step in the healing of a wounded soul.
I still need to raise $10,000 so if you know anyone who may be interested in contributing to the ride please ask them to join me at www.tourdelance.ca go to riders and click on my name.
Every donation matters. Thank you.