23 June 2014

What happens when an oncology nurse attends a cancer self-help program? Kathryn's story

Over the years, many doctors and nurses have attended programs Ruth and I have presented. Recently we led our first Cancer, Healing and Wellbeing residential program in New Zealand and it was a real treat to have Kathryn Deacon attend – an oncology nurse with a deep passion for helping the people she cares for. Kathryn has a growing interest in the principles and techniques of Integrative Medicine, and she has kindly offered to share something of her experience as a guest blog.

Also, a reminder Ruth and I will be speaking twice in Sydney soon – July 3rd and 6th, and Katoomba on the 5th. More details below, but to book for these and the other East Coast tour events - CLICK HERE.

                        Thought for the day

                                      I am not young enough
                                     To know everything

                                                    Oscar Wilde 

Kathryn writes:
It always amazes me the way synchronicity plays out in our lives.  Or as the cliché goes, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. It was synchronicity that led me, a Registered Nurse, to Oncology.  I never had any plans of getting into this specialty, let alone staying for these past 9 years. Then, last year a colleague handed me a book, “The Dragons Blessing”, Ian’s biography.

And so began the chain of events that took me to the Gawler Foundation’s conference in Melbourne last November. Then in May I joined the 8 day “Cancer, Healing and Wellbeing” retreat Ian and Ruth were presenting in Auckland; the first of these cancer programs they had led in New Zealand.

Although it was primarily for cancer patients and their support partners, Ian and Ruth allowed me to attend in the capacity as student and observer. To be immersed for 8 days in this new found passion of supporting the cancer patient from a place of wellness, was for me the most incredible learning experience.  Strip away the clinical environment, the uniform, the time demanding tasks, and I learnt as much from the other participants as I did from Ian’s teachings.

For some time I have dabbled with meditation, mindfulness and diet, while having a fairly regular Yoga practice, so on a personal level it was a way of kicking my own lifestyle up a notch. But I was there primarily to learn how holistic practices can empower the patient by fostering a lifestyle of wellness as they travel through their cancer journey of conventional medicine.

Ian and Ruth, with their two facilitators Liz Maluschnig and Stew Burt, provided the most nurturing of environment’s and guided us with humor, integrity, love and the utmost professionalism.

A daily diet of vegan and almost entirely organic food starts the natural detox of the body.  I loved Ian’s analogy of a sinking ship, jettisoning all the unnecessary cargo to lighten the load.  And it is the same with our bodies; when we fast a little or purify our diet, it begins to rid itself of toxins that are stored in our systems.

Now, you must understand that I am not a morning person so it came as a bit of a surprise to learn that a bell would be waking us up at 7.15am so that we could all get to our morning meditation session at 7.45am. However, the reward for getting up at this time was a warm lemon drink prepared each morning by Stew.

This was followed by a wonderful meditation session led by Ruth, Liz or Ian.  The huge fireplace was crackling and giving out its warmth while we all sat or lay and learned how to scan our bodies, notice our thoughts, let the thoughts go and return to our ‘silent’ space.

Breakfast was next, and there were always herbal teas available and Dandelion tea which for some, replaced coffee.  I have to admit that for me, Dandy tea can never replace my morning latte!

Another brief meditation before commencing our morning workshops with Ian.  The sun would shine
though the stain glass windows while the leaves would float down from the Oak tree outside the door. We would all be listening to Ian share his wealth of knowledge that spans many years of personal and professional experience.

After lunch we would have down time, a space for resting, journaling, chatting, or a bit of laundry.
Then, as optional extras, Ruth ran Yoga classes; Liz held Qi Gong and Stew led walks through the surrounding bush.

Another work shop took us into the early evening when after our vegan dinner, we would have topic related movies, a question and answer session or speakers. These amazing people, who came to share their stories, had a profound effect on my own learning from both a personal and professional perspective.

One of the presenters, Dr Robin Kelly, said “You can learn a lot by listening”.  Never a truer word was spoken, which was why I learnt so much from the other participants. Just having the opportunity to really listen to what they felt, their wants, needs, wishes, ideas and experiences, held so much learning for me.

When I first arrived at the retreat, I was feeling very self-conscious.  I am blessed with good health and I was not there in the roll of support partner. I was there as student.  However, my feelings were unfounded as the group embraced me and what I was there to do. On my last day, a participant gave me the most heartwarming hug and said “Thankyou for being here, it gives me hope that a nurse like you is wanting to learn about this and use it to support people like me”.  It was incredibly humbling.

I went to this Retreat with an open mind and an open heart and feel my life has changed for the better.  I feel my career path has also changed. I do not know how it will all play out but I am sure synchronicity will play a part as it has in the past.

Oh, and I am still meditating every day and continue to eat a vegan diet.  However, I do still enjoy my morning latte, but with soy milk!

Kathryn Deacon
June 2014

My hunch is that many who read Kathryn’s account and find themselves in hospital, will be hoping to be cared for by someone of her ilk. Integrated Medicine is nothing new. It is what good medicine always was; always will be – it takes account of the whole person – body, emotions, mind and spirit, and it works collaboratively with a full health team. Natural really!

Cancer survivors? Cancer thrivers!

BOOK You Can Conquer Cancer

CDs and Downloads : The Gawler Cancer Program

What to do when someone you love has cancer



Only a few days now and Ruth and I will in Sydney for the first of our series of speaking engagements up the East Coast.

Thursday July 3rd we are in Sth Sydney for an evening public talk.

Saturday July 5th it is Katoomba for a day workshop.

Sunday July 4th Sydney again – this time centrally at Camperdown for another day open to all.

Then we head for Pt Stephens on Saturday 12th, before continuing up to Cairns, across to Mt Isa and Alice Springs, then down to Adelaide. A road trip with a difference, giving talks along the way.

Hope to see many of you along the way. There will be the chance for a refresher, to help get back on track if needed; but also exciting new information and the opportunity to meditate together and to deepen the experience of what meditation really is.

A good opportunity to share what we do with family, friends and colleagues.

FULL DETAILS – CLICK HERE  and please do share the link.

2. Meditation in the Desert : August 29 – September 7 

Still a few spaces available, so come, join Ruth and myself along with like-minded people for 7 days of meditation in the extraordinary atmosphere of the Central Australian desert, followed by several days of close contact with senior local indigenous leaders.

Secure your place with a deposit. For details CLICK HERE


  1. Kathryn story is really wonderful. Living well with cancer is so important and most medical staff just don't understand the importance of this. Kathryn will be such a strong support to her clients. Lea Rose

  2. Amazing time had by all, thank you Ian, and Ruth for all you do. Giving this article over to Kathryn has reminded me of the wonderful people who work in the field of oncology with open minds and hearts. When being diagnosed with cancer the whirlwind begins and having knowledgeable and heartful people around is so vital.