You might already know this about me. But back in 2010 I was diagnosed with bone cancer in my jaw. At age nineteen, all the things I thought I knew about the world were tested…
I thought I had it beat but a few years later it was back. This time, I needed a highly specialized cancer hospital with world-class surgeons to get out of a possibly fatal situation. The surgery was relatively successful, but when I continued treatment with that institution, there was a big difference between my treatment there and my previous experience with Children’s hospital where the team knew of the strange sores I managed with chemo, the certain tactics need to avoid chemo sickness, and the intricacies of the case history in general. So while this highly specialized hospital had the technology and skill I needed to survive, my everyday, first-person, experience felt less involved medically. Something in me instinctively withdrew from this, in feeling that something was missing.
Looking back, these experiences carried remarkable influence: my life-direction, passions, and education. The finitude and preciousness of life was now the conspicuous foreground. Illness served as a strong-armed invitation to slow down and mind the present moment. This moved me to live with intention: to create the best life possible.
Becoming seriously ill forced me to step away from the everyday hustle in favor of healing or necessary treatments. This created space for genuine introspection about why I was living this way and how I wished to proceed in the future. Through this, I found new purpose and meaning. What manifested was the motivation to address a gap in healthcare I experienced as a cancer patient.
That is the importance and priority of the personal experience for understanding illness. There is valuable insight to learn about a disease from the people experiencing it.
Our organization, Narrative Dimensions advances a culture of caring by helping people discover and express their personally unique experience of health and illness. We believe in the power of philosophy (phenomenology, specifically) coupled with art and illness narratives to establish spaces of possibility for meaning-revelation and creative outlooks about people’s illness.
Our primary program is the Living Well With Illness Workshop, a half-day workshop for people with all types of chronic illnesses who want to gain perspective on the ways chronic illness has changed their lives and how they can improve their ability to adapt.
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