Additional discussions

Cancer Help Program 30th Anniversary Stories  
In 2015 Alumni started submitting stories and poems about their experiences on Commonweal retreats and reflections about the program. You can find them at

Reflections on Healing Circles

Below are excerpts from a discussion among Cancer Help Program alumni in response to these two questions about first Healing Circles  gathering  on Jan 24, 2014. – If you’re going, what do you hope to experience and learn? If you can’t be there, is there anything you hope to hear and explore later?


Learning has become an important and urgent need for me in the last couple of years. Learning how to care myself, how to navigate healthcare and the many aspects of it. How to make decisions; as I first discovered that when it comes to cancer, we can’t put ourselves in a doctor’s hands as with a broken bone. Learning to grieve, cope with fear while discovering courage, deal with shame in unexpected places. Learning how much I still need to learn! So, I look forward to next Friday to keep learning and hopefully contribute to the learning of others.
– Gustavo

I am not sure what the fantastic magic, shamanism, familialism of the Commonweal hearts is, but I am so happy and blessed to now be a part of this incredible community of sharing, love and light. My own stability in health has been compromised.  I, too, am facing all the emotions that embody this situation and challenge.  I have a cold, my immune system is weak, I am trying to get over the cold so that I can have surgery to remove a node. I have been staying out of the public, afraid to be re-infected.

 I so much wanted to participate on Jan 24, to share, absorb and just to confirm my own commitment, to sharing the joy of the Healing Circles wherever I can contribute.  I deeply appreciate the challenges of diagnosis, but I now live with the acceptance that cancer is my chronic disease, and I am living very fully with it, my quality of life is very rewarding.  I am grateful and blessed.

 I honestly do not know what, except for presence, I would have to offer for next Friday, but I dearly wanted to participate and absorb the love, light, peace and harmony….I will meditate during your gathering and look forward to seeing the video version. I will  ‘cope with fear while discovering courage’
– Catherine


I really love the idea of Healing Circles and I have the vision to generally support this movement. In particular, I would like to start a group based on this background in San Jose. I’m hoping that the meeting on January 24th gets this process of collaborative learning and healing started. I would like to learn more about cancer-fighting healthy diet, exercise and how to find meaning and support. In addition, it would be great if I could implement some of my newly acquired knowledge of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction.
– Sylvia

A topic I have rolling around and around my head these days is; hearing or listening to true voices or mind voices that can help us with personal answers or spiritual advice we seek. The possibility of tapping into angels, Spirits or Guides.  How is it done if not familiar.  This subject is, all of a sudden, important to me and wanting more input and insight.
– Cathie

 I just keep calling my whole experience “an adventure” as opposed to progression, recurrence, spread. Adventures can good or bad, calm, or frightening. But it makes it sound a bit more grand and less like the lonely, mundane, painful ordeal it can feel like at times. I am reading many of you call yourselves “long-term survivors” and as I begin living into my 5th year with metastatic breast cancer, I finally feel like I too can call myself a “long-term survivor.”

I wish I could beam-in for the Healing Circle Day there. I’ll be with you all in spirit. I love hearing from long-termers about how they’ve adapted (or not). There are so few of us, especially who are committed to living with this level of conscious engagement, that I am moved and inspired by everyone’s story who has so-called “beaten the odds.” Every outlier has a great story and I want to hear them all.
– Bonnie

I hope, through the healing circles, Commonwealies can find ways to collaborate with existing organizations elsewhere in the country – while adapting to the different cultures of healing we exist in from east/west, north/south and in between.
– Lisa

When I was a young support group leader I used to think  “my I did that well” when something lovely would unfold in a group.  One day I was in group when such an unfolding was occurring.  I remember being about ready to say something, when something stopped me and I stepped back to listen.  Then I found my eyes soften and my ears listen less intensely to the words.  What I saw was the gentle ripple of heads nodding “yes” as different individuals shared.  From that day forward I began to notice more and more “the nodding of heads”.  I have often observed this same phenomena at our beautiful alumni days where our garden is so varied and rich.  From that day forward I realized that if I was “successful” it was less about what I said and more about what I allowed space for and how I tended/nurtured this space in others.

At Commonweal, not only are we allowed to take in wisdom from the very finest minds and spirits but we are allowed and encouraged to dwell in the spaces in-between.  For some of us this is called meditation or prayer or consciousness or breath practice.  We are “inspired” (which comes from “to breath life into”) from all we hear and see, as well as that which is beyond ordinary sight and hearing.

 This space will be in abundance on Friday.  So, look for the nodding of heads.  Hear the ripple as it moves through the group.  Breathe in the “yes” that will surround and nurture you all.
– Betsy


As for the Healing Circles, this project holds particular appeal to me since I lack the face-to-face connections so many hearts have up in the Bay Area, and have never quite find the right place for me here in LA. For me I seek a “why not me?” community rather than a “why me?”. I think CCHP manages to attract those who want to look deeper, who want to thrive with whatever time they have left, who want to learn and to heal. One question I have is can Healing Circles draw those same people? 

Another question is how to create the safe space we find at CCHP in a transitory community, where people not only come and go between meetings, but also arrive mid-process and may not return for reasons of health or otherwise. We share a vision of moving forward only as a group, leaving no soul behind. I wonder how that can be replicated.  Also, how do we imbue the respect and honor that is accorded each; how to we reach that level of trust?
– Lori


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