The Emotional Cancer Journey: a health promotion perspective

Life goes on , Michele Angelo Petrone from The Emotional Cancer Journey

The subject of cancer is a major health issue for everyone - people with cancer, family and friends as well as health professionals involved in education, early detection, treatment and care. However the experience of cancer is more than diagnosis and treatment as it affects us in our totality, physically, psychologically and emotionally. It becomes both a part and a fact of every aspect of our life.

The way we deal with the cancer experience varies enormously. We can choose to deny that it is happening to us; we can live in fear of it; adopt a fatalistic attitude or gather information and learn as much as we can about the effects and treatment, becoming sufficiently informed to make sense of the options available to us, in order to make decisions. Whatever coping strategy we use, there may be difficulties, misunderstandings and communication barriers.

Cancer although widely experienced, remains marginalized and hidden and insufficiently discussed and shared. This is partly due to the difficulty in finding words which describe our feelings in relation to something as big as cancer. Overcoming these communication gaps is an important aspect of health education and health promotion. Identifying images, finding appropriate words to discuss, explain and explore people's attitudes, knowledge and behaviour is what health promotion is all about. Looking, reading and listening to the images and words of Michele Petrone is a most educative experience.

We realised the importance of these pictures through sharing them with a health promotion colleague who had breast cancer. The paintings brought relief and comfort to her, for Michele was painting what she had been trying to put into words.

Michele's pictures and words are very important to everyone with a cancer experience. We shall always be grateful to him for giving us the opportunity to create a dialogue with those we serve and care for.

Margaret Felton
Senior Health Promotion Advisor
Sussex Downs and Weald Primary Care Trust