Bob joined Smith Center’s Cancer Support Group two years ago and has been a regular participant ever since. He sat down with Executive Director and group facilitator, Jennifer Bires, LICSW, OSW-C to talk about the impact Smith Center’s programs, like the weekly support group and cancer retreats, have had on his life.
JB: Tell us what it is about Smith Center and the support group that makes you come back week after week?
BB: To be in a room with other cancer patients and other cancer survivors, and to discuss how we all feel about it…is important to me and it’s encouraging. Two years ago I’d never think I’d be discussing openly the things I discuss now. You don’t make that many new good friends at 66-years-old and you can do that here, you can do that in group. I feel really connected with them. I know that over the course of time that there will be losses from that group and I may be one of them but you can still build really good connections right now.
JB: Can you tell us more about your work with poetry and how group has helped to support that?
BB: I’ve never really done much poetry and the encouragement from the group is nice. There’s a lot of dead space in my day and I’m really too tired to do much and that includes writing. Having the other people’s experiences, the way they deal with stuff, and the way the perceive cancer, it just further supports my ambition to be more caring, compassionate as an individual in my ordinary life, regular life, you know? The group for me is a bit of a sanctuary. It’s a sort of sanctuary place, where you can go.
Listen to Bob’s poem “Dogs Barking”
JB: You’ve attended a retreat with Smith Center before too.
BB: Yes, the retreat that I went to with my wife was, I considered it at the time, and I still do, like a little miracle. The things that happened there and the way you felt and the way you could sort of take in other people and the way they took you in. It was a real spiritual experience for me. It was a life-affirming event.
JB: You often say that the support group is part of your healing. Can you tell us more about that?
BB: You need to activate your system to confront this and work with it and try to get past it as much as you can. We all know there’s a wide range of survival years that you can have after a diagnosis. For what I have, average survival is two years, and I’m past that. If you believe in the mind/body connection, and I do, you need to have that to be active in your daily life. It helps me in that way.
JB: Is there anything else about group, a retreat, or Smith Center you would like to share?
BB: I recommend to anyone who’s dealing with cancer to get into a support group as soon as possible. It’s really helped me in a lot in ways that I can’t even articulate; and I know it has for other people too or they wouldn’t keep showing up. And the retreat was a real event in mine and Barbara’s life, because she was able to participate in it. We made some friends there, and they’re all in the same boat. You can go around and tell people you’re tired and people don’t understand what that means, unless you get the kind of tiredness, the kind of fatigue you get from treatment, radiation, and stuff afterwards. I am really fatigued during certain parts of my day and having places like Smith Center to come to, and break through that, is important to me.