No one wants a diagnosis of cancer, diabetes, depression or multiple sclerosis or kidney failure or any other illness. But in an instant, or slowly over time, life happens.
Recipients of an unexpected or unwelcome diagnosis and the non-patients around them (partners, family, friends, colleagues etc.) often stumble, trying to navigate and orient to the medical crisis as best they can. In exceptional situations, where we are so close to those undergoing diagnosis and treatment, it can be difficult to feel empathetic, to create connections through feeling with that person rather than feeling sorry for that person.
The project ‘Beyond Empathy’ introduces empathy exercises and learning for those impacted by long-term illnesses. Seven stories of relationships through illness are presented as a book and website, to be distributed by healthcare professionals at points of diagnosis such as at dialysis, rheumatology, cognitive disorder, and endocrinology clinics as well as cancer centres. Here, patients and non-patients are asked to read and spend time with the stories, stripping the plot down to the emotional level where we are best able to relate. In turn, their creative responses to the stories help foster a better sense of understanding and empathy for their own situation.