By Jenny Higgins, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C
“It takes a village to raise a child”, this African proverb has always resonated within my spirit guiding thoughts on how I want to treat and interact with others, and at the root of what I feel is love and connectedness.
I’ve always admired the wise author who has made me think more about my responsibility as a community member, leaving me with a heavy sense of accountability through the years. As a reader, you might be thinking “What in the world does this philosophy regarding children have anything to do with adult cancer survivors and their caregiver?” From my heartfelt perspective, we each have a social responsibility in lifting up our tribal members when down. The sick, young, elder, impoverished and any person who needs love and support! We all need that.
In fact, I feel immensely inspired to consciously make compassionate contributions, impacting each member of my community in a positive way. These efforts extend into the work I do as a clinical oncology social worker at Vidant Cancer Care (VCC) within the Support and Survivorship Department.
With that said no single professional, team or organization can help to heal or care for individuals living with or who have been touched by chronic or terminal illness such as cancer. It truly takes a community! I’m talking about communal healing and peace. A little gumptious I know, but it’s my genuine life’s mission. For more than a decade I’ve dedicated my work to developing a model of care that both aligns with my personal values, as well as my understanding of just how important the involvement of my community is in caring for cancer patients and their families.
At the core of this model is a wide variety, of what I call, community partnership programs; each designed to instill life, joy, meaning, purpose and hope to all who get connected. These meaningful relationships made between VCC and regional organizations and businesses make it possible to enhance the well-being of individuals who are in need and desire additional support. These generously-donated programs create a working relationship of connectedness and cohesively we provide psychosocial supportive experiences that help participants cope. In addition, it highlights to the individual that their community is a readily available resource in their healing experience. These partnerships involve anything from art programing, retreats, deep sea charted fishing, kayaking, gardening classes, nutrition classes made fun, ventures to the zoo, aquarium, museums and so much more! These all take place right here in our breathtaking region of eastern North Carolina.
Another component of this care model involves offering complementary/integrative therapy services on site throughout our healthcare system. At our Greenville location, Vidant Medical Center, we offer incredible services such as small group exercise, gentle chair yoga, Reiki, Tai Chi, art classes, journaling workshops, meditation and massage. Various support groups, equine assisted therapy, and both individual and family psychotherapy are among the premium services offered through our program. Our holistic approach to care is meant to nurture all aspects of the human experience and we highly recommend that any pertinent person gets involved.
Nearly all of these helpful modalities for health and healing mentioned above are made available for free to any adult cancer survivor and their caregiver in the region. People no longer have to travel beyond eastern North Carolina to have access to these patient-centered care services. We try to make them as accessible as possible knowing the extensive barriers that many face within our isolated area.
If we as a community of caring people can unite to reduce the suffering of others, then I know I’ve done good work in service of something greater than myself. This greater spirit within me strives to touch the lives of hundreds, but even if just one reader connects with this brief article then I know somehow I’ve made a difference. And that’s what life is all about, making a difference! My mother, the guru of making a difference, would be proud knowing her legacy lives on within me. Her journey with cancer in the mid- 90’s is also at the heart of why I feel so passionate about this type of work and I am inspired to carry on her legendary work as a community advocate and social worker!
I would like to thank each and every one of our community partnerships in support of our mission to serve, we would not be able to do it without you. And for any survivor and/or caregiver please feel encouraged to get connected. You are not alone, there is a whole community waiting to support you.
For more information about Support and Survivorship: Vidanthealth.com or call 252-714-3905. Greenville Support and Survivorship is located at Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Cancer Tower | 524 Moye Blvd (Resource Library) Greenville, NC 27834