The biggest splash from all of this Philosophy in Belgium was that I stepped into the vibrancy of reflecting on my cancer experience and how much the field of phenomenology seemed to hit “the mark”. One night at my desk I found myself searching Google Scholar: phenomenology of cancer, with a Westmalle Tripel to my left.
The “Phenomenology as a Resource for Patients” article by a British philosopher named Havi Carel came up, and it was astonishing—in that context. See, I had been wondering what it would look like to combine my cancer experience memoirs with philosophical discourse. Well, here, she opened with a personal and moving account of her terminal lung condition. Its impact and meaning in her life was the starting point for developing technical articulation of philosophical theory and its value for understanding illness.
When I first read about using philosophy as a resource for patients to adjust to living with illness, my cancer experiences from years prior illuminated an imagination of the creative stimulation this workshop would have inspired when I was seriously ill.
This example guides my gift: the suffering moved me directly to source and purpose; philosophy has given me the tools through which to enhance the depth of my own reflections on this story. Also, her contribution, among many others are implicated in my pending book, still untitled.
Part of what makes me infinitely unique, as we all are, are the contributions I can make here. I’m called to the importance and priority of the personal experience when considering illness. Enrollment by others whose visions align with mine affirms this calling. I am blessed to have developed the collaboration with Open Studio Process creative expression facilitator, Idelle Hammond-Sass and Janet Greenhut, M.D., a preventive medicine specialist in Ann Arbor Michigan I met through Havi Carel. We both reached out to Havi with interest in facilitating these workshops. This collaboration has led to the development of a Living Well with Illness Workshop. We aim to provide tools for people who want to better understand and adapt to the impacts of chronic illness on their daily lives.
Inspired by Carel, the Living Well with Illness Workshop incorporates phenomenological theory as well as modern art expression exercises to delve into what the experience of illness means. Each person’s experience is unique and will carry its own meaning. The work of caring reflection can encourage a response of flourishment from within illness. Individual wellness, however that shows up for each person, is shaped by the life they have lived and their vision for an edifying future. Thus, considering the unnaturalness of robust reflection in everyday life, the effort is worthwhile to inspire space of possibilities like this.