The cancer journey can work our way
Aunty Clair Jackson tells a story about an Aboriginal man’s experience with cancer treatment in hospital and how the hospital and the man’s family were able to help his healing with a smoking ceremony.
It’s been shown that if the hospital or the clinic or the Aboriginal Medical Service can offer the conditions that put the cancer sufferer and his family or her family at ease. Take away the stress of being in a strange place, making it culturally okay in the person’s mind. Then you get a much better result.
L. Clair Jackson is Aboriginal Advisor, Mentor & Researcher to CSRH, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, UNSW and Aboriginal Advisor and Mentor to the Cancer Council NSW APOCC Research Project. We thank the Art Gallery of NSW for generously allowing us to shoot this video in the Yiribana Gallery.
I’d like to tell you just a little anecdote from one of our interviews. The interview was with a health care worker who had impressed him. I think it was a man.
It impressed him so much that he wanted to tell us this anecdote about, which illustrates a cultural safety and lack of diminishing of stress in the treatment situation.
Okay. There’s a fella in his 50s from northern NSW diagnosed sent down to a city hospital in an area he’d never been, and he was sent midweek and his family had to stay up north coast where they were working.
They were going to come down and be with him on the weekend.
So here he is midweek down in this terrifying situation and he thinks to himself and says to the nurses, I need smoking, I need smoking. And the nurses say, Oh no, Mr. So-and-so, you can’t smoke while you’re under treatment.
And he just shakes his head.
Anyway, he is pre-op preparations are not going well and the doctors are very worried.
So one of them rings his daughter up in northern NSW and tells her and she laughs and says, “Oh, he means he wants a smoking ceremony. He wants to be smoked. So he’s clean. So he’s cleansed for this terrifying operation.”
So the hospital very sensibly arranges that on the Saturday, they’ll bring the uncle down with them who can do the ceremony. And they give him, they give them a little side lawn to do the smoking ceremony on.
They do that on the Saturday.
By the Monday, the man’s body is doing what the doctors want it to do is moving with the treatment he’s getting. He had his operation and very quickly recovered and very quickly was back home again where he wanted to be.
So I think this tells you that we’re modern people us blackfellas. We have jobs. We contribute to the mainstream society, but we hold very dear our culture.
It’s been shown that if the hospital or the clinic or the Aboriginal Medical Service can offer the conditions that put the cancer sufferer and his family or her family at ease. Takeaway the stress of being in a strange place, making it culturally okay in the person’s mind. Then you get a much better result.