By Mariam Bowen

The excitement was palpable as 45 volunteers gathered in the yoga room at the Wellness Centre to spend the day with Dr. Rob Rutledge. It was the morning of June 4th, 2019, the start of a Self-Care Day for volunteers, with a “Skills for Wellness Workshop” that I signed up for as soon as I got the e-mail. Several years ago Dr. Rutledge was the keynote speaker at a Hope & Cope Volunteer Conference Day and he had made a lasting impression on me.

Compassionate, wise and knowledgeable, Dr. Rutledge is a radiation oncologist, a psychotherapist, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at Dalhousie University and co-founder of the Healing and Cancer Foundation. His integrated approach to the cancer journey fuses the benefits of modern medicine and science with a “mind-body-spirit” training that is practical and empowering. As a volunteer working with other cancer survivors, I’m curious about the ways in which we can heal and manage stress and uncertainty.

It was clear from the moment Dr. Rutledge entered the room that this was going to be a meaningful day filled with learning and sharing. “Sitting is the new smoking”, he advised us as we stood up and recharged our batteries with a few Qi Gong exercises. Using clear speech, calm directives and some fun activities with paper and crayons, Dr. Rutledge created an intimate space where we shared personal stories, practiced deep relaxation and mindfulness and learned techniques to handle stress and anxiety. By teaching us how to look at our core beliefs and refocus our attention on changing our attitudes, Dr. Rutledge gave us a prescription for healing physically, emotionally and spiritually.

This workshop was a huge success. “A very nourishing day” and “what better way to take care of ourselves” were remarks that spoke for all of us as we said goodbye to fellow participants.

The Volunteer Education Series is part of Hope & Cope’s commitment to supporting its volunteers. This is the type of programming that “pays it forward”; benefiting the volunteers as well as the patients we strive to help. Hopefully I’ll be there the next time Dr. Rutledge is in town and maybe I’ll see you there too!