BLISS # 2 Beyond Sadness

2 Apr

“Children can overcome their parents’ cancer. It’s not something that will cause them pain forever,” says, Kaori Osawa, a social worker at Tokyo Kyosai Hospital.  She is the director of “Hope Tree,” a NPO organization helping cancer survivors and their children.

Her passion for her work comes from her personal experiences: She was diagnosed with breast cancer, and a few years later her husband committed suicide. In the interview she talks openly about how she survived difficult times in her life and what she has learned through the process. She also shares her thoughts on how to help children cope with their parents illnesses. Here is the summary:

  • When a parent is diagnosed with cancer, it’s important to talk to children openly and honestly about it.
  • How to talk to children about cancer and death depends on the child’s age and developmental stage.
  • Even though adults sometimes try to hide the truth hoping to protect children, they’re very observant and sense something is going on. By not telling them the truth, you may increase their sense of fear and anxiety.
  • Parents need to create a safe environment where children feel comfortable about asking questions, which is more important than having all the answers.
  • After her husband committed suicide, she went through a period of shock and grief. She attended support groups for families who lost their loved ones from suicide, read many books on the subject, and took some time off work.
  • The tragedy was painful but also a transformative experience for Kaori. “I feel like a different person,” she says.

Through Hope Tree, Kaori provides not only support for cancer survivors and their children but also education for healthcare professionals so that they can better help their patients. She recently published a book about helping children whose parents have cancer.

I sense that her belief in her clients comes directly from her personal struggles and challenges in life. She has survived it all, so she knows other can, too.

You can listen to my podcast here or on iTunes.

For Android users you can find BLISS on CastBox.

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BLISS #1 Who are the Main Characters in Medicine?

19 Mar

Dr. Jun Chiba, MD, has been practicing medicine for 40 years, devoting nearly half of his career as a “home care doctor” who visits patients at home and cares for them until the end of their lives. He practices in Yokosuka city, Kanagawa Prefecture, where more people are able to spend their last days at home than any other city in the country. In Japan nearly 80% of people die at hospitals, even though many of them wish to die at home.

Chiba has been a supporter of music therapy for many years, and I’ve worked with him on many occasions. He has taught me the situations surrounding end-of-life care in Japan and the challenges we face as the aging population grows.

In my recent interview I asked him about the meaning of “healing,” the ideal death he envisions for himself, and his hope for the future generations of healthcare professionals.

Here is the summary:

  • He wanted to pursue a career in music, but his mother convinced him to become a doctor. In retrospect he feels it was the right decision for him and this work is his “tenshoku (天職),” or life work.
  • As a young doctor he specialized in rheumatological disease, a chronic condition. He realized that his patients needed more than medicine and began exploring ways to incorporate arts and music into his care.
  • As a doctor it’s important for him to continue to grow as a person. Otherwise he says, “You can become a machine who cures patients, but you can’t become a person who cares for a person.”
  • “Treat the person, not just the body,” said Chiba.
  • Without compassion one can’t help another.
  • He has always pursued what his heart desired and along the way met people with similar passion. They’ve  helped him actualize his dreams.
  • After having cared for so many dying, he feels that the ideal death for him is one that will bring him a sense of contentment. “But if it happens today, I don’t think I can be content. Not yet,” he said.
  • His advice for young doctors is to face their own mortality now so that they can be better doctors.

Knowing that a life eventually comes to an end gives you a sense of humility. For Dr. Chiba, caring for the sick and dying is more than just work.

You can listen to my podcast here or on iTunes.

BLISS will Start Next Week!

16 Mar

Bliss, my new podcast, will start next week. I’ve been preparing for it for the last 6 months, and it’s finally ready! In the first episode I speak with Dr. Jun Chiba, a medical doctor in Yokosuka city, Kanagawa Prefecture, where more people are able to spend their last days at home than any other city in the country. In Japan nearly 80% of people die at hospitals, even though many of them wish to die at home.

Dr. Chiba has been a music therapy supporter for many years, and I’ve worked with him on many occasions.. I asked him about the reason he decided to dedicate his life to caring for others and what it really means to “heal.” The show will be released on March 20th along with an English summary.

You can listen to the preview here:

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