A Guest Post by cancer survivor Bruce W. Heinemann. In this article, Bruce shares his real-world insight about how patient experience, caring and empathy begins with the diagnosis. And it is an incredible opportunity for the caregiver to make a positive difference in the patient experience and its ultimate outcome.
The diagnosis of prostate cancer at the dangerously young age of 49 turned my world upside down in an instant.
In the month between diagnosis and surgery, the only extent of caregiving or treatment were weekly visits to bank blood for the surgery that would require a 12-inch long abdominal incision plus a great risk of bleeding and a series of painful tests.
Other than pleasant smiles, no type of organized or structured emotional support was offered, my family and I were on our own, facing this life altering event with absolutely no experience in how to respond to, or deal with, the gripping fear and uncertainty that consumed us.
At the suggestion of a wise and spiritual friend, I asked the surgeon to have everyone present and involved in the operation join hands in a quiet moment, before the operation began, while he read the following prayer that I provided him:
“Before you is a husband and father who is about to undergo a life altering surgery. I ask you to please all be fully emotionally, spiritually, and energetically present as you proceed to treat me. I would also ask that you call upon all the very best of your skills and experience to provide me with the greatest possibility for recovery and healing as I have so much to live for. And for this consideration, I am eternally grateful. May God bless you all.”
Later, while in recovery, the surgeon told me all went very well, and how amazed he was that I “spilled nary a drop of blood.” Within three weeks I was exercising on the elliptical machine and at four weeks I was lifting weights again.
From this experience I came to understand that the greatest and most powerful gift we can give as caregivers is simply the purity of our attention in the present moment.
In the years following I have developed a method by which caregivers can engage the patient from diagnosis, creating “touch points” at which the patient can express their fears, hopes, and vision for a future of healing.
In a video series, entitled: The Fine Art of Healing, by utilizing images, words and music, I strive to help the patient remove themselves from their place of medical procedures and the environment of fear, and together with the caregiver, imagine a state where they are healed. What will that state look like, what conversations will they hear, most importantly, how will they FEEL?
In the fourteen years since my surgery–if I have learned nothing else–it is simply that: Empathy, is a four letter word spelled L-O-V-E.
Empathy is truly the multi-faceted expression of Love In Action. And, as such, it represents an incredible opportunity for the caregiver to make a real and meaningfully positive difference in the patient experience and its ultimate outcome.
Examples from this inspirational series can be seen here:Love and Gratitude Are The Fairest Blossoms Which Spring From The Soul. The most recent video in The Fine Art of Healing series is: The Nature of Wellness.
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Bruce W. Heinemann is a fine art nature photographer, writer, publisher and speaker. Based on his prostate cancer experience, he created and co-published with Barnes and Noble a best-selling book: The Nature of Wisdom, which is a collection of his images and metaphorically related quotes. This publication became the inspiration to create his video series: The Fine Art of Healing, to enhance and improve the patient experience and healing process towards better outcomes. His speaking presentation includes his five videos and is entitled: The Fine Art of Healing: A Journey of Personal Transformation.