The art of caregiving

Dr. Relly Nadler: This week we have Dr. Michael Barry speaking on Forgiveness. Reverent Barry is the Director of the Pastoral Care Center at Cancer Treatment Centers of America, in Philadelphia. He specializes in the connection between spirituality and health, particularly as it relates to cancer.

He has written two books on the topic. One is A Reason For Hope, which deals primarily with issues related to faith and physical well-being, and the second, A Season for Hope: A Daily Devotional For Those Battling Cancer. His third and most recent book, is The Art of Caregiving. It deals with how to lend support and encouragement to loved ones with a chronic illness.

Reverend Barry earned a Doctor of Ministry degree at Fuller Theology Seminary, he earned a Masters of Divinity Degree at Princeton Theological Seminary, and a Bachelor of Arts Degree at the University of Texas, at Austin.

Throughout his twenty-year ministry, Reverend Barry has conducted numerous radio and television interview around the country on the topic of spirituality and health.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: We are privileged today to welcome Reverend Dr. Michael Barry. He is a coach, an inspirational speaker and he is a leader in so many ways, not only at Cancer Treatment Centers of America, throughout the Nation, but in his area of expertise which is in health and healing. He is an innovator and his whole idea around forgiveness, and it is such an honor to have him on the show today.

Today we are going to focus on forgiveness. Dr. Michael Barry is going to talk to us more about the science of forgiveness and how it can improve your performance and the performance of those around you.

It’s a very little known leadership skill and innovation that Dr. Michael Barry is really going to be one of those people you are going to remember because he is so well-known for this work.

It’s such an absolute privilege and a pleasure to have Dr. Michael Barry with us today. Whether you refer to him as Dr. or Reverend, doesn’t matter. He is one of those individuals who is rare, he’s spiritual, he’s giving. He is one of our founders of our Journey of Hope program at CTCA. He is a very special person because he is one those rare, gifted individuals who understands the importance of the whole person approach to cancer care. At Cancer Treatment Centers of America we incorporate faith as both a practical and often a very necessary resource for healing. But it’s often ignored.

Reverend Michael Barry now resides at Eastern Regional Medical Centers, he was previously with the Mid-Western Regional Center in Zion, in Illinois. He works daily with cancer patients and their families as they cope with the disease and move towards recovery.

He has written very specialized books for the very common man, the very common women, the person who is being touched by this, I want to say horrible disease, on a daily basis. He makes it so clear, so easy, and so helpful for people through his writing.

Many of us work in organizations today, for those of you who are regular listeners of Leadership Development News, you know what we are talking about. That chronic illness is stress. It is deadlines. It is policies. It is procedures. It is, unfortunately, a way of life which we have become accustomed to, that our bodies have not, and I think what Dr. Michael Barry has to share with us today on the subject of forgiveness is going to be powerful and enlightening, insightful, and scientific.

So without further ado, welcome Michael, to the show.

Dr. Michael Barry: It’s great to be with you Cathy.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Something we always start with is trying to find out who has been most influential to you; maybe some of the people and thinkers in your life, that have shaped some of your thinking and your work today. So maybe you can tell us.

Dr. Michael Barry: Well, as the saying goes, talent attracts talent, and you know I have taken leadership courses at the graduate level, at the doctoral level. I feel like at one point I had read everything there is to know about leadership and although I have to admit that I never felt like I was a great leader, I do feel somewhat versed in the topic and can just without question, say that the premier leader I have ever met and had a chance to work with is Richard J. Stevenson, who is the founder of Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

Dick is an amazing person; there’s many things he could do with his life and the fact that he has chosen to follow the star of trying to defeat cancer and to improve human well-being, to me, is just a phenomenal star to follow. But he is also a charismatic fellow, but he has also attracted many other very, very talented people to follow that star with him. It would be endless in terms of the individuals that he has been able to attract to attempt to try and defeat cancer.

I could talk about John McNeil, for example, he is the president here at Eastern Regional Medical Center of Philadelphia. He is also just an amazing gentleman himself. John would be the first to say to you that he is one among many that have helped make this organization what it is.

I can’t reduce it down to one, but if I had to I would probably say Richard J. Stevenson. He’s quite an extraordinary and exceptional man.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Fascinating isn’t it, how we meet people who seem in this life just ordinary people who have the passion or a conviction about something and then they begin to create momentum around them. Richard Stevenson is one of those special people who through his own experience losing his mother to cancer, didn’t want anybody else’s mother to have to suffer through what she had suffered through and founded the hospitals. Michael and I met in around 2003, if my memory serves me correctly, when I was looking for different organizations that I could use in my first book, What Happy Companies Know, to demonstrate the Happy Principles.

It was fascinating to me to meet with this gentleman, to meet with John McNeil, to meet Bob Mayo, to meet Steve Bohner, the gracious Reverend Michael Barry, who spent inordinate time with me explaining this important philosophy around forgiveness that has been a foothold in the journey for recovering from cancer at CTCA.

Dr. Michael Barry: Well, you know, they say wise men follow stars. The star that Dick is following is just an amazing think. To see so many others crystalize behind that same pursuit is a remarkable thing to be a part of.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Let’s zero in a little bit more on some of these concepts of forgiveness. Why would cancer hospital, from your experience, be interested in forgiveness? Maybe just to position this; how long have you been with the Cancer hospital?

Dr. Michael Barry: I started on a part-time basis in 2002 and it wasn’t too long thereafter that the hospital in Philadelphia came on line and they invited me to come out here. I’ve been here four years, in Philadelphia, as the Director of Pastoral Care, here.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Can I just ask, Michael, if you would just give our listeners a little bit of background on you prior to joining CTCA.

Dr. Michael Barry: I’ve been in Parish ministry, meaning that I have been pastors of churches throughout the United States, for the 15 years prior to coming here. Before that and before I went into ministry at the age of 35, I was in the title insurance business in San Antonio, Texas. So I bring to my skill sets not only whatever religious resources and what I’ve learned, but also some very down-to-earth practical, day-in and day-out of having to earn a check, and provide for family.

So I have a business background too, I guess is the point.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Why would a cancer hospital be interested in forgiveness?

Dr. Michael Barry: Well, I couldn’t answer that in terms of why any cancer hospital, but I can tell you why Cancer Treatment Centers of America is interested in it. It’s because our patients want absolutely every opportunity they can to defeat that disease.

Therefore, we have a commitment to mind, body, spirit, medicine. Dr. Jerome Groopman from Harvard Medical School, said that “true hope is proven to be as important as any medication that he has prescribed or surgery he has performed.” Which means, reading between those lines, that medical science has its limits. Medicine can only take you so far.

I did some research on the history of medicine several years ago, and I came across a manuscript 4000 years old in India where they Shaman or Witch Doctor, or whatever they called their healers in those days, said that, “if a patient does not want to live or have a strong will to live, don’t waste your medicine on them.”

Which is essentially what Groopman is saying. That medicine is good for you and is part of it, but our minds, our emotions, our desire to live, all factor into that as well. So Cancer Treatment Centers of America has a commitment to hold us healthcare. So to say, why would a Cancer hospital…this cancer hospital does it because our patients want to avail themselves of every conceivable resource.

Let me share with you a quote from Robert Sapolsky, he’s the author of Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, I think it is, he says “the continuum between optimal, normal and impaired function is subtle. So too the line between health and disease, is a fine one.” So the question that I ask myself is, well where is that line drawn between those who survive and those who don’t survive?

The chief of our Medical Oncology department here is Dr. Rudolph Willis. He too has written several books, and in his most recent book he says, “the frustrating thing about medical oncology is that you can take two people with the same exact disease, same stage, give them the same medication or treatment; one does well and the other one doesn’t.

The one that does do best, is the one who has the correct attitude, faith, belief system, they have a very positive orientation. So, there are subtleties to healing. Who knows where this line is drawn between surviving cancer and not surviving it. Our patients want every conceivable opportunity.

So forgiveness intervention fits very neatly into our medical paradigm here for this reason. Stress is one of the primary causes for your immune system to under function. But unforgiveness, which we understand to be the suppression of negative emotions, keeping all of the anger and hatred within you, it very stressful. It takes a lot of energy to keep all of that anger and hatred inside.

So, if you are dealing with patients who need to have their immune systems operating at the highest level, it makes no sense, in light of what we know of the biology of stress and the biology of forgiveness, to withhold this information from them.

You don’t have to work with cancer patients for too long to realize that a very high percentage of our patients are carrying around a lot of stuff. By that you understand I mean past anger and wounds and so forth. I’m the principle investigator on our research project here. One of the things that we have learned is that 40% of our patients self-assess themselves with forgiveness issues. Half of those with severe forgiveness issues.

You could probably double that for the people that really have the issues that just didn’t want to admit it in front of someone they don’t know.

So the point is, anyone that who works around cancer patient populations understands that there are wounds that have not been healed, there is anger and hatred that is being harbored, sometimes it’s against a medical professional, as an example, but it’s such a common human experience in working with cancer patients, that to deny them what we know about the science and the biology of forgiveness and stress and so forth, just in incompatible with how we think here at CTCA. We want to give everyone absolutely every chance, so that’s why we offer a forgiveness program here at this hospital.

Learn more about the science of forgiveness. You can listen to the complete interview, above.


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