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Efflorescence of Kindness Is Essential For Our Cancer Recovery

Simple kindnesses can help to diffuse negative emotions that are associated with cancer diagnosis and treatment—and may even help to improve patients’ outcomes.
PUBLISHED February 25, 2019
Donna Clark, RN, BSN, OCN, is a certified, well-seasoned, oncology nurse, but was new to role of oncology patient when she was diagnosed in 2014 with advanced endometrial cancer, now in remission. This "dual citizenship" has deepened her empathy and resolve to inspire nurses and their oncology patients. She believes God charted her course as a youngster, including caring for both parents who had cancer. As a clinic nurse at Mitchell Cancer Institute in Fairhope, Alabama, she is also active in the Oncology Nursing Society as a leader in her local NW FLA ONS Chapter. Follow Donna on Twitter @lynnm7417
Texas A&M University Professor Thomas Berry and his team have extensively researched how the simple basic acts of kindness are found to help patients deal effectively with their cancer journey. The wonders of high-tech cancer care are best complemented by the humanity of high-touch care. Simple kindnesses can help to diffuse negative emotions that are associated with cancer diagnosis and treatment—and may even help to improve patients’ outcomes.

Kindness can be a life vest in a sea of suffering. Empathetic and generous behaviors can be meaningful, not only to patients and families, but to clinicians and other staff as well. Research demonstrates that compassion for others buffers stress. The nurturing environment created by extending kindness to others, including coworkers, improves provider well-being and can be a potent antidote to physical and emotional exhaustion and burnout.

The personal stories of patients, families, and clinicians illustrate the impact of the human touch in cancer care. The six types of kindness—deep listening, empathy, generous kindly acts, timely care, gentle honesty and support for caregivers—are not mutually exclusive. Instead, they represent overlapping manifestations of genuine kindness, a powerful and practical way to temper the emotional turmoil of cancer, reported a Journal of Oncology Practice study, “Role of Kindness in Cancer Care”.

A patient is a person first. Caring for human needs as well as medical needs through kind acts is good medicine. Cancer care is about more than the science, which has led to important advances in treatment. High-touch needs to complement high-tech touch, according to a 2018 Washington Post article, “Some Basic Acts of Kindness Found to Help Patients Dealing with Cancer”.

Now follows my very personal real-life example on how the blessing of kindness from my friend Susan Evans helped bolster me through my own cancer journey.

Photos submitted by Donna Clark

I am an oncology nurse who continues forward on maintenance chemotherapy for recurrent endometrial cancer. It was a hard thing mentally to have this relapse last spring. My good friend Susan Evans hugely supported me through my intensive weekly chemotherapy last year by her kindness.

As my “Flower Fairy,” I greatly enjoyed the healing balm of a freshly minted bouquet of her prize roses from her yard every week for the five months of my intensive chemotherapy. Her many acts of healing kindness and positivity bolstered my spirits mentally and physically. Susan is a two-time breast cancer survivor herself who just loves to give back and help others through their own cancer journey. Ministering to others also helps her cope with her own cancer history and allay fears of recurrence in the back of her mind. It’s so very fulfilling and enjoyable for her to share her own bouquets of fresh flowers from her yard, efflorescing their beauty to brighten up and spread cheer to patients and staff at local oncology centers and hospitals.

At age 79, she is a devout Catholic who hopes the good Lord above will answer her prayer to fortify her physically and spiritually. She prays to continue reaching out with a smile to those needing a hug, an ear to listen, a pat on the back and her flowers to help them cope and conquer life’s difficulties.

Susan and I both agree that kindness, faith, family and friends all contribute healing when it’s needed most. Her faith in the Lord above also has bolstered me with confidence and healing in my dual citizenship roles as an oncology nurse and oncology patient.

“If you want to touch the past, touch a rock.  If you want to touch the present, touch a flower.  If you want to touch the future, touch a life.” – Author Unknown
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