1. Dobbie, Krista MD

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"Hope is a spirit that lifts you,

Finding Hope that He... - Click to enlarge in new windowFinding Hope that Heals. Finding Hope that Heals

should heaviness pull at your soul.


When torn apart by losses,


hope mends to keep you whole."-Wendy S. Harpham, MD


Hope. Such an abstract word, nebulous in meaning, yet such an important concept in the life of cancer patients. What does it mean to have hope? Are there different types of hope? Can hope be harmful to patients? How can hope heal patients? Does hope change? What if you are having trouble finding hope?


Wendy Harpham, MD, a physician and cancer survivor herself, has been sharing her personal story of hope, and how this hope guided and strengthened her ability to cope during and after her cancer treatments. She has dedicated her life's work to understanding hope-what it means to have hope and how hope can heal. Through her own survivorship journey, Dr. Harpham developed a keen insight into what hope means and how it changes throughout illness. Combined with her study of hope, she's developed an amazing ability to articulate and make sense of this vast topic.


I have had the pleasure of reviewing Dr. Harpham's book, Healing Hope, (Oncology Times; as well as meeting her personally. Hearing her speak helped me to further understand how hope plays a vital and ever-changing role in the life of patients coping with a cancer diagnosis and in my life as a clinician. I now often find myself asking what I'm hoping for when treating my patients. Even in terminally ill patients, I may be hoping to relieve their pain or facilitate their return home to be with loved ones. Dr. Harpham made me realize that we-patients and clinicians-can always find and nurture hope even when we don't have a cure. Most important, I now ask myself whether I am aligning my goals of treatment with my patient's hopes.


Dr. Harpham's latest work, an eBook titled Finding Hope that Heals, has been sponsored by the National Breast Cancer Foundation and is available for free downloading at their website


Finding Hope that Heals is a practical and innovative approach to helping patients with any type of cancer identify what they are hoping for and to recognize which hopes are realistic and healing. Doesn't that sound like a daunting task? However, this eBook is a succinct resource that can be read in 15 to 20 minutes, quickly guiding the reader through an innovative approach that works.


The chapters of this ebook walk patients step-by-step through a series of questions and examples. Finding Hope that Heals begins by asking patients how hopeful they feel and what they are hoping for. The next several chapters use practical examples of how a hope can be helpful or, if based on inaccurate information, might be harmful. The primer's goal is to help patients identify healing hope and to appreciate how this may ease anxiety and stress during and after treatment.


Dr. Harpham tackles the tough task of discussing false hopes and how these may harm patients. She shows how realistic and short-term hopes based on accurate information can motivate patients to action. Dr. Harpham explains how when patients fulfill short-term hopes they experience an energizing emotion of success, and those feelings go on to motivate and heal patients.


What about hopelessness? "Hopelessness is a symptom that needs attention, just like bleeding or a fever." She stresses to patients that they need to share with their health care providers that they are experiencing feelings of hopelessness. Hopelessness may warrant adjustment of their medical treatments, testing to evaluate for a cause for this feeling, and/or counseling to help restore hope.


Together, the chapters provide an easily accessible overview of hope. To make hope relatable to everyone, the ebook includes a workbook of practical exercises and activities that help patients define and prioritize their personal hopes, making this abstract concept of "healing hope" real and transformative.


Finding Hope that Heals is a must-read for patients and clinicians alike. This ebook will make you rethink "hope" and convince you how important it is for patients to always have hope and for clinicians to support patients' efforts to find hope. Having had the good fortune to hear Dr. Harpham give a grand rounds presentation on this topic, she has forever changed my practice of medicine. She has taught me that understanding what a patient is hoping for is imperative in managing his or her care. What we are hoping for may change over time, but there IS always hope. "What are you hoping for?" is a powerful question that I now routinely ask my patients.


I encourage you to invite Dr. Harpham to speak on hope and to recommend Finding Hope That Heals to your patients. Meanwhile, I hope you'll take a few moments to download for your own use this ebook that may forever change your thoughts about the power of hope in your own life and your ability to help patients find hope that helps.


KRISTA DOBBIE, MD, is a palliative medicine physician for the Taussig Cancer Institute-Palliative Medicine Program at the Cleveland Clinic.


Read More About Hope in Cancer Care

As an internist and cancer survivor, Wendy S. Harpham, MD, FACP, offers a unique perspective on oncology practices. Read more of her ideas in her blog, "View From the Other Side of the Stethoscope" online: