An article by Sue Robins, Canadian Patient Storyteller and Author of Bird's Eye View: Stories from a life lived in health care.
In less than three weeks, my husband Mike, youngest son Aaron and I are travelling across the ocean to Australia to launch my Bird’s Eye View book at the Gathering of Kindness.
The other day I asked Aaron: “How excited are you to go to Australia?” Aaron: “I am 100% excited!” (Pausing and talking to himself: ‘No no Aaron, more than that’). Aaron: “I mean I am 1,000% percent excited!”
I’m 1,000% excited to go to Australia too. We are leaving on a jet plane in Vancouver and flying for 16 hours to Melbourne. There, we will be hosted by Dr. Catherine Crock and her family, and we will attend the Gathering of Kindness events in Melbourne and area. Mike and Aaron will be my men manning my book table, and I will be participating in talks, interviews, panels and media events.
The Gathering of Kindness aims to bring together folks dedicated to building, nurturing and instilling a culture of kindness throughout the healthcare system. It is a perfect place for me to launch my book. I often talk about creating safe places for patients to tell their stories. Could there be a safer place to launch a book about patient and family experience in health care than an event about kindness? I think not.
In my book Bird’s Eye View, I offer my perspective on having a disabled son and do not sugar-coat what happened to me as a cancer patient. I talk about both kind and unkind health care experiences. We can learn from the unkind experiences, as I know health care can all do a whole lot better. But it is the small kindnesses that bring tears to my eyes – the tender moments of warm blankets, hands on shoulders and gentle words. I desperately want to encourage more humanity in health care and I believe this can be done by patients and clinicians working together to share their own stories.
Melbourne holds a special place in my heart, even if it is 13,000 kilometres away from my home in Canada. I wrote a piece about what Melbourne means to me two years ago for the Gathering of Kindness blog.
I have another story about Australia. After I came back from speaking at a conference in Melbourne in 2011, I promised my husband and son that we would return one day together. Snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef – before it disappears – has been on Mike’s bucket list forever.
We saved and saved and booked an epic trip to Australia for March 2017.
Then, after finding a lump in my breast a few months before, I was told I had breast cancer on February 6, 2017. I was scheduled for surgery on February 20. I asked my breast surgeon, “could I still go to Australia?” and she laughed and shook her head, knowing better than I did what recover from surgery would be like and the challenges getting medical insurance during active cancer treatment. We had to cancel our entire Australia trip.
I remember Aaron bursting into tears when we told him we couldn’t go on our greatly-anticipated holiday. It was so disappointing. Stupid cancer.
My book launch at the Gathering of Kindness is a big do-over for us. I’m thankful for the opportunity to introduce my book at this wonderful event. I’m doing the thing I’m most afraid of – standing up and using my voice - and I’m both a tiny bit scared and 1,000% excited all at the same time.
Sue’s book Bird’s Eye View, stories of a life lived in health care, can be purchased on Amazon.com.au and will be available at November’s Gathering of Kindness events.