For the past four years, I have had the honor of serving on the CaringBridge Board of Directors. Along with fellow board members and staff, we’re working hard to ensure a strong future for CaringBridge by continuing to amplify the love, hope and compassion in the world.
CaringBridge has touched my life, both personally and professionally.
Before CaringBridge came to be, I lost both my parents to cancer. Looking back, I wish that CaringBridge had been available to help my family during those difficult times.
Years later, one of my sisters was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer. Not only was she a grateful CaringBridge website author and support recipient during her treatment and recovery — so was I. Living some distance from her, I would find new perspectives to talk over with her by reading her entries. I also felt a renewed assurance about her condition as I saw how her support community responded to her needs. She is now well and cancer free!
The “CaringBridge Prescription”
As a healthcare psychologist, I have had the privilege of working with patients and families of all ages and walks of life who are facing frightening, challenging and overwhelming health events. When I first learned about CaringBridge, I quickly saw the potential positive impact this healing social network could have for my patients and their loved ones. Quickly, I began “prescribing CaringBridge” to most of my patients.
Many people staying in the medical facility where I worked were far from home. CaringBridge helped to bridge major distances and eased some of the pangs of homesickness.
Easing Suffering and Enabling Healing
For example, one of my patients was living with a debilitating disease that caused long hospitalizations and would eventually rob him of his beloved life as a farmer. He was scared, demoralized and becoming detached from his family.
At first he refused the “CaringBridge prescription.” This gentleman’s depression and despair led him to focus only on himself and all of the losses that his condition caused. However, he allowed his wife to set up his CaringBridge website.
Gradually through the messages of support and encouragement he received on the site, he began to see the important role he still played as a father and grandfather.
He told me that his depression and grief lifted when he realized he was not the only person suffering, and he owed it to his family (and himself) to find a way to live as well as he could to help ease their suffering. He died a few months later, at home on his farm, with his family at his side.
I believe that his CaringBridge site was instrumental in helping him live more fully, as it does for so many users and their families and friends.
Ann O’Connor Sandgren, Ph.D., is a retired Clinical Health Psychologist and was one of the first psychologists to be embedded in a medical practice. She worked at Roger Maris Cancer Center and Sanford Health in Fargo, ND and retired in 2013 after a 24-year career there. She and her husband reside in Minneapolis.