There is an emerging form of medical practice called “narrative medicine”, and it focuses on stories–how we tell them and how we listen to them. According to Dr. Rita Charon, executive and founding director of the narrative medicine program at Columbia University, narrative medicine is a “clinical practice fortified by the knowledge of what to do with stories.”
Narrative medicine seeks to approach medicine and healing through the components of storytelling, both in literary craft and natural intuition. Diagnostic measures are improving all the time, but so much of what a doctor does, or should do, is listen to a person’s medical history, as told by the patient, in order to diagnose and treat.
Narrative medicine’s approach is gaining momentum as science reveals its effectiveness. But the good news is, you don’t have to wait to experience the benefit of telling your story. Having the opportunity to express your story and be heard while telling it is already so beneficial to you, and something you should seek to experience often.
No matter the outcome of your physical disease, the science is very clear that expressing your story–in writing and with others–is good for you and may alleviate some of the burden of cancer.
If you know someone going through a difficult diagnosis, remind them that their voice matters by spending time with them. Ask them questions, listen deeply, give them the gift of your time and attention, and also consider gifting them For the Girls wind chimes to remind them that they’re not alone in their story. (50% of For the Girls sales are donated to breast cancer research and treatment.)
To learn more, consider reviewing these resources:
Honoring the stories of illness | Dr. Rita Charon | TEDxAtlanta
Division of Narrative Medicine – Columbia University