Caring for Cancer – Not just your average workshop.
Between the two of them, Rylen Feeney and Michael Guida have a collective 40+ years of experience as holistic healthcare practitioners, including extensive work with cancer patients, their families, advocates, and caregivers.
We wanted to hear from them what inspired them to offer the upcoming Caring for Cancer workshop on October 25 & 26, and how it stands out from the sea of information about cancer out there. Get ready for a candid conversation!
Let’s start with why. Why are you offering this workshop?
Michael Guida (MG): I have seen many health care providers and advocates feel overwhelmed when delivering or dealing with an initial cancer diagnosis. I really want to empower anyone serving as an advocate, whether as a healthcare professional or general support, to feel confident in their abilities and approach to helping people.
Rylen Feeney (RF): In my practice, I see more and more people being diagnosed with some form of cancer. This increase in incident rates has created an environment where information and assistance tend to either minimize or overwhelm.
In the case of the former, cancer becomes just another illness and the impression given is that one just needs to treat it (via drug therapy or radiation), where going in for a round of chemo becomes a cold and standardized experience.
In the case of the latter, there is so much information available that the potential is great to overwhelm caregivers and patients with what they “should” be doing.
I have to say that working with cancer patients has been some of the most rewarding work that I have done to date as a practitioner. Cancer can be an extremely definitive and imminent diagnosis and serve as an incredible catalyst for the patient who has to put things into perspective very quickly. For some this process facilitates some of the most authentic personal development I have witnessed.
As a practitioner, advocate or caregiver, I believe it is necessary to educate oneself to become the best partner possible so that the patient has the relief and support of someone they trust to help to navigate the process.
We wanted to create a class that empowers advocates to be the best partner possible and to learn how to deal with cancer holistically. This class is designed for health care practitioners and anyone in a supporting role to effectively serve as an advocate for anyone with cancer. We offer information on nutrition, dealing with the side effects of chemo, supplementation, comfort through touch, movement and more.
Most people living with cancer and their caretakers already have access to plenty of information about this illness. Are there perspectives or insights that you see missing from the current conversation about cancer in our community?
MG: In most treatment plans, touch is a missing component. There can be incredible comfort found in touch that complements any treatment plan. Listening is another practice that often becomes lost as people get wrapped up in the logistics of managing the disease.
RF: When the average person receives a cancer diagnosis, their thoughts are on seeing their doctor, developing a treatment plan, potentially chemotherapy, and contacting their insurance companies. The barrage of “logistics” can be terrifying and overwhelming and patients can get so caught up in the process that they don’t even know they are missing anything. That’s where having an advocate who isn’t related and isn’t the person with the disease can be instrumental.
MG: I think that often the potential for spiritual growth is not something that is considered when caring for cancer.
RF: I agree. This references what I was talking about earlier when I said that working with cancer patients has been some of the most rewarding and profound as a practitioner. I have seen many of my cancer patients, regardless of individual outcomes, make changes at such a fundamental level, that actually grow as a part of the healing process. There is real and true transformation. Being a part of that is an honor.
Your recent blog post announcing the Caring for Cancer workshop describes it as empowering. How do you see CAM empowering people living with cancer and their caretakers?
MG: It gives real alternatives that everyone has access to. Even the most inexperienced touch can have profound healing benefits.
RF: It can facilitate the idea that you just don’t have to go home and “power” through your care. CAM can be a proactive facet of a patient’s care. CAM isn’t just part of a system. It can provide choices to feel better on different levels.
Can you share an example of the effect(s) CAM had in the life of one of your patients?
RF: I have a client, She is a real “go getter” with a great attitude that says receiving Amma Therapy is essential to her treatment. It determines whether she is going to experience the fatigue and nausea following Chemo or if she is going to recoup from Chemo with relatively little side effects and have a good week.
MG: I have worked with patients in home settings and working with the whole support network in that environment implementing CAM tools for everyone. In these scenarios there is just a sense of having a greater level of support for all involved.
Did this conversation strike a chord with you? You can still sign up for the Caring for Cancer workshop on our Classes page.