Susan E. Mazer, Ph.D. Blog

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Hi, and welcome to my blog! I'm Susan E. Mazer -- a knowledge expert and thought leader on how the environment of care impacts the patient experience. Topics I write about include safety, satisfaction, hospital noise, nursing, care at the bedside, and much more. Subscribe below to get email notices so you won't miss any great content.

Jan Adrian of Healing Journeys: When Cancer Inspires, Motivates, and Transforms

October 25, 2013

Jan AdrianI learned about living with cancer from Jan Adrian, the founder and executive director of Healing Journeys. I met Jan in the early 1980s when she asked me to do a workshop for nurses on music as therapy.

It was the first time I’d done any work in healthcare.

At that time, Jan was the co-founder of the Center for Health Awareness in San Jose, CA, and the Turning Point, a 30-contact hour workshop for nurses. It was there she introduced me to the work of Bernie Siegel, Carl Simonton, Jeanne Achterberg, Larry LeShan, and Emmett Miller.

Jan’s work centered on the relationship of our thoughts and emotions, stress and distress on personal health.  Today, this is mainstream. At that time, it was far away from where medical care was.

In 1989, Jan had her first diagnosis of breast cancer. She had all the treatments available: mastectomy, chemo, radiation.

However, she realized that while her body was being treated, the whole person that she was and is to this day, was left powerless to participate in her own healing.

Thus, Jan began her own search for the information she needed. She founded Healing Journeys, whose original purpose was to produce Cancer as a Turning Point, from Surviving to Thriving, a free two-day conference for those impacted by cancer and to help move each person from surviving to thriving.  Funded through donations and grants, this event has brought in notable physicians, nutritionists, specialists, musicians, comedians, dramatists, and, perhaps most valuable, has set the stage for hero stories told by cancer survivors and patients who have moved well past their prognosis and have much to share about their own journey.

The holistic and empowering information and experience Jan shares during these conferences allows people diagnosed with cancer to take control of what happens to them. There’s no magic, but many miracles.  The journey is one about life and living…long before it is about dying.

Since her first diagnosis, Jan has had 11 cancer diagnoses.  Recently, her breast cancer has metastesized to her lungs. However, she is managing this, as she has all other cancers, in partnership with her physicians, nutritionists, spiritual advisors, and, most important, her own values and goals.  Without question, Jan is a hero to all who know her, who read her monthly letters, who attend the conferences, and who access the work on the Healing Journeys website.  Jan is a hero for me.

Jan is thriving, living her life and her values to the fullest, every day — for herself and all those who love her.

Jan was the first person and the only person to tell me that cancer can be chronic; that there is no cure — but one can learn to live with it and have a fulfilling life that is rich in meaning.

I share this because of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. There are many heroes — some whose voices have outlived their struggle and some whose journeys continue to provide the vitality and hope for others.

Healing Journeys is about such heroes. There are many stories on its website about people who have faced cancer by facing life and not only fearing death.

Recently I joined the Healing Journeys board of directors. While I have been involved with the organization for many years, this year I felt I could move into a more active role and how grateful I am.

So, how did my relationship with Jan and Healing Journeys impact the work at Healing HealthCare Systems? C.A.R.E. with Guided Imagery is based on the original work I did with Jan in the early 1980s.

We worked with the late Dr. Carl Simonton to record guided imagery programs and are currently working with Dr. Emmett Miller — both of whom were introduced to us by Jan, as well as Joan Borysenko. We know that the tending to the soul is as critical as tending to the body, an insight that was noted by Florence Nightingale when she began her work in the mid-19th century.

What makes life worth living is that which also makes life worth celebrating, moment to moment. There is something about the big “C” that awakens us to a new appreciation of the time we have and what really matters to us.