by Gail Hamm, program director
“Support groups are scary to me as I’m in early phase of cancer & it reveals to me my future in seeing what others are going through.” ~Anonymous Cancer Services’ Client
As program director, I have the privilege of reading the evaluation responses that we receive. I was struck by the openness of the author and only wish that I could talk with this individual.
I have facilitated support groups for a number of years and supervised other facilitators. I am also a cancer survivor who has attended groups as a participant. I understand how scary it is to attend the very first time. The fear is that you will hear very sad stories, when all you want is support for yourself.
Here is what really happens at a support group. The groups at Cancer Services are facilitated by professionals, usually social workers, counselors, or nurses. The people who attend range from those newly diagnosed (pre-treatment) to those who have endured treatment and now have come back to provide hope to others. The group members share information about their physicians, about treatments they have received (which may be different from others in the group), and especially about side-effects and how they have minimized those effects. They share information on ways to prevent or relieve mouth sores, radiation discomfort, nausea, and so forth. They explain feeding tubes, how to deal with dry mouth, and how to live with the after-effects of cancer and treatments. Caregivers are able to relate to one another and receive the support they need.
Yes, sometimes what people share is sad. But mostly, I hear people encouraging and providing enormous hope to one another. Knowledge is power.
Come to group at least once; preferably several times. See what brings others back as they recover and re-enter life. You will not regret the decision.
by Gail Hamm, program director
“…you need only step away from the well-worn circular path to explore the untried paths that lie beyond it…”
Daily OM, Begetting Change: Same Choices, Same Results, Feb 6, 2012
It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut and stay there, whether it’s a mundane day-to-day work situation, a going-nowhere relationship, or deep grief over any life situation. You know you are stuck when each day brings the same unfulfilled feelings, and you believe that there is no way out of the situation. In that frame of mind, it seems that nothing can or will change.
The secret of escape is to realize the situation will never change unless you do. It means changing the dance… that is, not doing the same thing over and over. How many times do you keep trying to unlock the door until you realize you are using the wrong key? How many times do you flip the light switch before you realize the power is off or the bulb has burned out? Doing the same thing over and over will not change the outcome.
So as you take another lap down that rut, remember: “you need only step away from the well-worn circular path to explore the untried paths that lie beyond it…”
Casting for Recovery and Cancer Services will present information regarding their programs at the Conquering Breast Cancer support group on Tuesday, February 21, starting at 6:30 pm. The group meets at Parkview Comprehensive Cancer Center, 11141 Parkview Plaza Drive, Entrance #4.
Casting for Recovery is a non-profit support and educational program for breast cancer survivors. Women of all ages are invited to attend the fly-fishing, outdoor retreats at no cost. The organization provides counseling and medical education and incorporates fly-fishing to promote physical and emotional healing. Retreats are two-and-a-half day events and take place May 18-20 and September 28-30. For more information, visit www.castingforrecovery.org.
Following the Casting for Recovery presentation at 7:00pm, Gail Hamm, program director for Cancer Services, will present “Cancer Services-Programs You Won’t Want to Miss!”
by Gail Hamm, program director
Invisible Ink….a catchy and intriguing name. What a name for a bereavement group! Having already completed more than half the lessons, I can say joining this course has been a wonderful experience. It is not for the faint of heart, however. I’ve been working hard on my grief. I write to my daughter. I dig deep to unearth my feelings and put them on paper. My head and heart seek to find meaning in my experience.
Each session starts with a meditation/guided imagery. A topic is introduced and I write in the privacy of my space. If I want to share what I have written, then I do so. Otherwise, what is written remains in my notebook for only me to see. No more than 9 people are ever in the group. This keeps it small and intimate; I feel safe.
Even though I have expressed that the work at times is difficult (who likes to swim around in pain-filled feelings?), I would not want that to dissuade anyone from joining this course. You need to know ahead of time that this is for those who are ready to move on through their grief. The healthiest way to grieve is to acknowledge the loss, feel the feelings, and move through the feelings so you don’t get stuck or stay stuck. Writing is a great way to pull out feelings and give them up or give them over. We don’t forget our loved one. We transform the relationship through the catharsis of writing.
Writing helps both start, and, at times, finish conversations. Writing can help us see what has been hidden because our grief. Writing may help us find a depth to the relationship, which we were not previously aware of. I am finding that since I started my work in Invisible Ink, I am different. I am not sure I have words to explain that difference. I only know that it is so.
Join Kathy Curtis as she starts the next 9 week series of Invisible Ink on March 15, at 6:30PM. You will not regret the experience. Please call your reservation to 260-484-9560. I’d be happy to answer your questions.
This morning, program director Gail Hamm shares her thoughts on Regina Brett’s Life Lesson #41: If we threw all of our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.
Don’t forget, Regina will be the guest speaker at the Annual Tribute Dinner on Thursday, October 13. You can purchase tickets online HERE, at our office during normal office hours, or by mail. Give Amber a call at 484-9560 for more information.
“Too often, as we bemoan our life, we look around and it seems as though the lives of others are so much easier…that they haven’t a care in the world. But the truth is, we do a pretty good job hiding our real selves from others. Just because we don’t share the truth about soured relationships, mental health concerns, financial worries, health fears, children’s issues, and other anxieties, does not mean that they don’t exist. I may not be happy with my problems, but I certainly don’t want to switch with anyone else. I’m used to my baggage and am not ready to take a chance on someone else’s. I’m reminded of the person who thinks that the grass is always greener on the other side. It’s easy to be fooled by what we cannot see.” ~Gail Hamm, program director
by Gail Hamm, program director
This morning, I want to reflect on one of Regina Brett’s Life Lessons: Always choose life. I’d like to change the word from “life” to “living”. I say this because it’s so easy to stop living while still being alive. By that I mean going through the motions as if one is living, but not really being engaged or conscious or aware of each moment. This often occurs because of trauma, which causes a person to become stuck in time. Having a loved one die, being diagnosed with a terminal illness, or being traumatized through an accident or military experience are examples of incidents which can cause “stuckness”. There is so much to experience in life, and time is so short, that it’s really a great waste of human potential when a person stops living each moment. We have a tag line here at Cancer Services: count moments count moments count moments count moments. It can be read as count moments or moments count. “Always choose life” means that moments count, so don’t miss them!
Our Program Director, Gail Hamm, reflects on Regina’s life lesson #21: Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
“Those who know me, will find it ironic that I chose this statement to write about this morning. I’m a saver. I rarely throw anything away that I think I might need later. My colleagues laugh, but on more than one occasion, I have retrieved important emails from my archives to assist their efforts.
I knew I was a saver as a small child, when I received a craft project for Christmas and wouldn’t ‘use it up’. As I grew older, I watched others who were savers. When my paternal grandmother died, her closet contained a fair number of dresses with the tags still on them. What a shame she never wore them. I made the decision that I’d start ‘using up’ my possessions. I used up my wedding china and later sets of dishes. I used up candles. There are no nice sheets waiting to be used, nor fancy lingerie, either.
Special occasions happen each day that I am alive, and there is great pleasure in being able to ‘use up’ possessions today. The art paper so carefully stored away can create an even more beautiful object by being used, rather than just lying in the drawer. So burn those candles, use the nice sheets and wear the fancy lingerie! Don’t save them for special occasions. Today is special!”
Gail Hamm, program director for Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana, has been certified by the Board of Oncology Social Work Certification. This process required extensive documentation of education, training, professional affiliations, community, and professional involvement, and day-to-day work responsibilities with oncology patients. This prestigious qualification is held by only three other individuals in the state of Indiana. Hamm is a licensed clinical social worker with over 20 years of social work experience in hospital, hospice and palliative care, community social services and grief and loss.
Dianne May, President and CEO, says, “This certification is one more example of Cancer Services’ commitment to high quality programs and services for all people with cancer in our region.”