According to the World Cancer Report 2014, cancer figures among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide, with approximately 14 million new cases and 8.2 million cancer related deaths in 2012 and it is expected that annual cancer cases will rise from 14 million in 2012 to 22 within the next 2 decades.
Data from the epidemiological observatory of the AUSL Bologna shows that at the moment there are about 30,000 cases of people who have overcome cancer in the province of Bologna alone.
When I read these figures while working on our project for the Compass lab “TV Storytelling”, I couldn’t help but become very interested in the lives of cancer survivors and in the way they can take back their life.
The question almost haunts me: how are they coping with their “new life”, since the recovery period is such a difficult one, after suffering physical and psychological challenges and very heavy medical treatments? I think it is very important for them to have access to professional rehabilitation processes and positive guidance.
As a student of public and social communicaton at the University of Bologna, I attended the TV Storytelling lab and became part of a team of students who has been working on the creation of a TV program that deals precisely with these issues. Our team devised a new TV format in collaboration with the association “Gli Onconauti” from Bologna.
The Association has founded a center of integrated rehabilitation for cancer survivors. Their mission is to guide cancer survivors through a process of psycho-physical rehabilitation by improving their lifestyles, their physical condition, and by facilitating their mental and social reintegration into society and into their daily lives through different activities.
Our TV series is currently being shown on a local TV channel called Di.TV (our international readers can watch it online from the Di.TV website, every Tuesday night at 8.45 and on Saturdays at 1pm), and our goal is to share the stories of the people who are part of the association: each episode has a main theme and shows two cancer survivors talking about their experience.
My colleagues and I were not only responsible for the writing of the program and for collecting the video interviews, but we also appear on the show to introduce the theme of the day and talk about our project.
The program tries to show every aspect of the activities of the association through the stories told by the people who
have benefited from them. For example, they tell us how the association has an integrated idea of rehabilitation based on multiple perspectives, like nutritional counseling, which helps patients learn how to “listen” to their body and decode the signals; to understand what are the substances that we can find in each kind of food; to learn how to change and transform their behavior to gain health.
They use very different methods, for example Art-therapy, which fosters expressiveness and knowledge of one’s potential through the intuitive use of color. When I saw the paintings that the cancer survivors made during art-therapy classes I was deeply touched by their use of signs and colors to express their emotions and describe their thoughts. It was wonderful!
They also have Yoga-therapy, yes, Hatha Yoga! There is ample scientific evidence on the efficacy of Yoga in the treatment of symptoms associated with cancer, including, stress, anxiety, chronic pain. It is also useful to improve respiratory function, concentration and blood circulation. Yoga acts on the body as well as on the mind. Under this kind of professional and positive guidances, I believe that they will recover their quality of life soon.
After my experience with the lab, I learnt to appreciate associations like “Gli Onconauti”, which help cancer patients and always stand with them. This is all the more true because of my personal experience. I have been a cancer patient’s family member too: my father was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer in December 2013 and after six months, last June, he left me forever, which for me was like a bomb, it made my life explode and it didn’t feel whole anymore.
I felt like I lost half of myself, and I am still immersed in grief. We were not lucky, like most of cancer patients in China we had to deal with the limited medical resources and the underdeveloped health system. We did not have access to professional psychological support and positive guidance.
Most Chinese cancer patients can only rely on psychological support from their own families, but not everyone has doctors or professional psychologists in their family. Often the families of cancer patients also suffer from fear and sadness, and they would also need to receive professional psychological support, but professional support for cancer patients is very limited and it is rarely equally distributed.
China has 312 million people each year who are diagnosed with cancer, the number of cancer deaths are 2.7 million every year. This means that 7300 people die every day, five every minute. Chinese cancer deaths account for 1/4 of the total deaths worldwide.
I hope that one day cancer patients and their families all over the world will be able to have access to professional guidance and positive psychological assistance in addition to the regular medical treatment, and there will be more associations that stand with those people who are suffering from this disease. Let’s stand up together to cancer!