Taking Care Portland: Community-based Cancer Survivorship

By Michelle Frost

Roughly eight million new cancer cases occurred in economically-developing countries in 2012, the most recent data reflects. Chances are great that every person reading this knows someone with cancer, or has been diagnosed themselves. Cancer is prevalent and changes the lives of every person involved, including patients, family, friends, and caretakers.

There is a wellness program for cancer survivors called Taking Care Portland, a local non-profit, and a long-term and collaborative model for cancer survivorship. Founders Daniel Miller and Hamid Shibata Bennett, LMT, CAMT believe it takes a community and they bring together survivors and family members with healers to build a network for continued recovery.

“The vision is to create a model that can be shared with other cities,” Miller explains.

With the help of a team of volunteers, including naturopathic doctors, massage therapists, musicians and community members, the Taking Care Community model intends to host 12 events quarterly.

Each event is hosted by one of their sponsors, TaborSpace, and includes guest speakers, therapeutic massage, energy work, guided meditation, all followed by a meal prepared by interns and volunteers and a discussion about survivorship nutrition after the meal.

Miller is planning an event in Spring 2016 to declare March as Ayurveda Awareness Month, “involving healers and NCNM in educating the community on this 5,000 year old science,” Miller explains.  Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word meaning  ‘the knowledge, or truth, of life’;  a ‘whole person’ or holistic, approach to optimal well-being, recognizing the physical, emotional, energetic, mental and spiritual aspects of health affect each other.  “Allison Jones with Portland Monthly has called us radically collaborative,” Miller smiles.

Another event, two years in the planning, will be a children’s event with musicians, games, tea, and ‘tween’ guides for the children. The focus of this event is to introduce Ayurvedic yoga, mantras, breathwork, acupressure, and music therapy through storytelling. Like the events for adult survivors, a guest lecturer will explain these modalities and dinner prepared by interns will follow the lecture.

The American Cancer Society gathers facts and figures to estimate the cancer burden, to follow trends of occurrence and survival, as well as to understand symptoms, prevention, early detection, and treatment.  They have been publishing Cancer Facts & Figures since 1952, and believe much of the suffering and death from cancer could be prevented by more systematic efforts to reduce tobacco use, improve diet and physical activity, and expand the use of established screening tests.

ACS states that breast cancer is the second most common newly-diagnosed cancer and second leading cause of cancer death among women in the US.  Colorectal cancer is the third most common newly diagnosed, and lung cancer is the most common type of cancer among men globally.

Miller is a local. (“My parents met in 1967 when they both worked at Rheinlander.”) and was on the opening team at Country Cat on SE Stark St.. He has extensive experience opening and managing restaurants including the MGM Mirage Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi in 2002.

It was during his time in Biloxi that Miller was involved in a violent incident that changed the course of his life.  He was severely beaten when he stepped in to help a gay man who was being attacked.

During his recovery, his father, a chef taught him to cook again. “I was empowered, more in control of how I felt,” he recalls.

His mother introduced him to energy work and exercise for healing. In 2007, the same year Country Cat opened, Miller built a survivorship program, the model for what is now Taking Care Portland.

Bennett offers advanced massage therapy, sound therapy, and myofascial bodywork.  He is also a musician and sound therapist, recording artist, writer and published photographer and has been in remission from a rare type of lymphoma since 1991. His services, videos, and blog can be viewed on his website: compassionartspdx.com.   Taking Care Portland held its first event in 2012, the same year they redefined cancer survivor to include all caregivers. Within two years, they were officially a 501c3 non-profit organization and recorded their first CD of Bennett’s sound therapy.

They have already organized a music concert and expect to hold two more concerts in the upcoming year, in addition to the children’s event and the Ayurveda Awareness program in March.

The Family Wellness Team includes Dr. Rose Paisley, ND; Susan Bass, Registered Ayurvedic Practitioner, Nutritionist and Yoga Therapist; Chelsea Harper, MA, BC-DMT, NCC, RYT; and Brian Rohr, Storyteller and Mythteller.

“I am a network junkie,” Miller explains “attending 8 to 10 meetings a week.”  He says he has this guiding principle from R. Buckminster Fuller, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality.  To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

See takingcareportland.com for more.

Taking Care Portland: Community-based Cancer Survivorship

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