Realistic hope – and its role in keeping us resilient in times of crisis
Working with people affected by cancer can be emotionally demanding, but it is also very rewarding. Helping people relate to the future in a way that enhances, rather than diminishes, their experience of the present is important, but this should not involve unrealistic hopes that could set them up for later shock, disappointment and regret.
We have come to call this helpful way of facing the future ‘realistic hope, and by discussing, exploring and understanding it better we believe that more people can be helped to find a way through the crisis of a life-limiting illness like cancer.
Article by Dr Catherine Zollman – GP; medical director Penny Brohn UK, with Jennie Evans – Advanced cancer patient and Penny Brohn UK client.
I first became interested in holistic approaches to health as a medical student lucky enough to join the BHMA in its early days. I trained initially in medical oncology and immediately saw the potential of an approach that combined lifestyle support, conventional treatment and complementary therapies, even though the term integrative oncology hadn’t yet been invented. I now work at Penny Brohn UK, the leading charitable provider of complementary and lifestyle support for people with cancer, as well as continuing my part-time NHS GP and university teaching work.
I was diagnosed with Stage IV colorectal cancer on the 2 September 2015. On 21 September 2015 I walked through the doors of Penny Brohn UK for the first time, seeking to find out how I could help myself in the face of the cataclysmic life change I was experiencing. In the face of a now incurable diagnosis, I have learned to navigate as meaningful a path through the minefield of life with cancer as I can with the continued support of PB, and I now try to share my experience in the hope that it might help others.