Dubai: Two expat women living in UAE are launching a support group for cancer patients coming out of treatment and starting their lives all over again.
French-English expat Jennifer von Baudissin, Clinical Director and Psychodynamic Psychotherapist working at the Psychiatry and Therapy Centre, has connected minds with her colleague and friend, Ulrika Bladh, a Swedish expat and a Psychodynamic Psychotherapist and nurse.
Jennifer said the colleagues who fondly call themselves “soul sisters”, are launching a support group called “Daring to Live” on October 13 to create a community for cancer survivors to navigate life’s challenges after treatment.
“The fortnightly support group is a safe and authentic environment where one will be able to connect with other survivors. We are two psychotherapists with direct experience in cancer leading the group,” explained Ulrika.
Jennifer has survived lymphoma cancer - a type of blood cancer, while Ulrika was a registered nurse in haematology and stem cell transplantation and helped administer chemotherapy treatments.
“But post treatment, it can be scarier – especially not knowing where and how to start life all over again. This is where we come in,” said Jennifer.
She recalled feeling fragile, five months after her final chemotherapy. “I felt no stiffness or aches in my limbs. My hair was growing back showing promise. My face was no longer puffy from all the steroids. I was driving with the music on in the background and for a split second, for the first time, I forgot about cancer. I was venturing out on my own, I was daring to live again. But then reality hit me,” she said.
She added: “Daring to live again after cancer is a frightening experience and can be overwhelming – especially when the thought of being “normal” and cancer-free, without symptoms or side effects, seems very distant.”
Ulrika also said that a cancer survivor may become anxious about health, where aches or pains trigger fear of the cancer coming back and spreading. “Often, patients who have undergone treatment and have been told that they are in remission, report feeling like they are being left to their own devices to deal with the emotional and physical aspects of recovery, especially when considering that during treatment they were surrounded by an army of consultants, doctors, nurses, family or friends,” said Ulrika.
Jennifer added: “After battling cancer and being discharged, regaining trust in one’s body, in oneself and control over one’s life is overwhelming and can leave patients highly vulnerable when trying to find a “new normal.”
She said it is very important to cling on to whatever hope there might be, no matter how small or how fleeting the sensation might be and to embrace the carefree moments when the mind dares to forget about cancer.”
The support group will benefit from the unique combination of the cancer-related knowledge the founders bring to the table. Beside, their long-standing background in mental health is expected to make a big difference as well.
“With research showing that support groups are beneficial for mental health and well-being, the aim of this support group is to provide a safe space for individuals to reflect upon their experiences with other cancer survivors. Individuals will also be able to share difficult and awkward feelings in a non-judgmental way without having to worry about how family members or friends may be affected by this. Ultimately, the intention is to facilitate the participants’ ability to better manage their emotions, feelings and understanding of what they are going through,” said Jennifer.
The founders will lead the support group and provide a therapeutic framework which will include topics that are relevant to cancer survivors and allow them to regain a sense of control and independence – thereby - daring to live again.
Daring to Live has an agenda chalked out for cancer survivors and the experience it offers comes for free.
“The plan is to meet every fortnight. The first week we will focus on the new normal – adjusting to physical and emotional changes. The next week, we will deal with adapting to long-term side effects of treatment. On the third week we deal with difficult feelings and post-cancer effects on mental health. Managing stresses and more have been laid out for those interested to join the support group.”
According to Jennifer, only 15 people will be taken in at any given time for a session. Those who don’t have a chance can be accommodated in the subsequent sessions
How to register for the group
Requests can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or @daringtolivedubai