Bracha's Story

Bonnie Schuman
Last Modified: May 25, 1997

As a physician, I realized from the beginning, that The Wellness Community was going to be as important to my recovery from cancer as chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. In the presence of the courageous people at The Wellness Community, who put aside all facades, I found the courage, hope, love, and support I needed to fight for my recovery.

I was lucky to have a woman (Barbara) in my group that was six weeks ahead of me in the process of bone marrow transplantation for metastatic breast cancer. Knowing her was a gift from The Wellness Community. Before I began bone marrow transplantation I understood in theory that I could die. But only when I went through the procedure did I experience dying. During the most barren moments of the transplant, when I could barely think clearly, one thought would keep me hanging on -- Barbara survived.

There were many ways that The Wellness Community helped me survive the bone marrow experience. One in particular remains vivid. It happened when I reached the feeling of total helplessness. I remember laying in the dark searching my mind for anything I could do to help myself. Then I remembered the visualization I learned at The Wellness Community. I began to visualize cuddling my white blood cells and telling them what I wanted them to do. When my husband asked what I was doing, I answered, "I am working on my health." Visualization freed me from the emotional pit of helplessness.

Above all else at The Wellness Community, it was the members of my participant group that helped me survive. My room was filled with cards from them, and when I couldn't have visitors, the cards seemed as if they were the members themselves in the room with me. I felt as though my group was holding my hand every step of the way.

Not just the group members were there for me. The Wellness Community facilitator too. It was she who helped me embrace the profound sadness which normally follows day zero (the day your white blood count hits zero). She also helped me through the struggle of emotionally weaning myself from the medical team upon whom I became totally dependent for survival.

The joyous day I returned to The Wellness Community and walked into my group meeting, I felt as though I returned to the very people who helped me get through the worst moments of my life. But, my fight was not over. With the transplantation behind me, I began to struggle with some tough issues. The support of The Wellness Community group allowed me to confront a thought that terrified me. What if the transplantation, the last resort, didn't work? Then what? And, there was something else demanding attention. When I had been very ill in the hospital, and wondering if I would survive the transplantation, I would ask myself, "If you live, what kind of person do you want to be?" Now, the time was here to look at that. With the help of my group, I began to deal with these and other complex and painful issues.

Today, there is no cancer in my body. Because of my experiences at The Wellness Community I am a more peaceful person. I live with full knowledge of my mortality and because of it I enjoy life more. With the help of my group I seized the opportunity to make my life the way I want it to be and I have a support system in place at The Wellness Community to help me keep it there.


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