The Healing Circle Book Chapter Blog – Chapter 16 – Miracles Can Happen

By Healing and Cancer Foundation December 15, 2015

Read Chapter Sixteen:  Miracles Can Happen

Dr. Rob Rutledge Blog by Dr. Rob Rutledge

Miracles can Happen (again and again)

Kathy McLaughlin, featured in the attached chapter, Miracles can Happen, possesses the attributes of a remarkable cancer survivor, as defined by the leaders at, which include:
  1. They undergo a “spiritual transformation” – an awakening of the true values and aspirations that had lain dormant inside them. Truly alive – perhaps for the first time – this spiritual re-awakening brings a new authenticity to their life as they reconnect with their deepest values and aspirations. Once healed, they may look back upon their illness as a “gift” that helped transform their life.
  1. They bring a new authenticity to their relationships with others and the world around them.
  1. They take more time to simply relax and enjoy their life. For many, meditation or prayer becomes an important part of their daily life.
  1. They learn to ‘listen’ to their bodies and to surrender to, rather than resist, the day-to-day fluctuations of energy, symptoms and emotions that accompany the healing process. In doing so, they listen to their bodies for guidance for optimally loving and taking care of themselves.
  1. They release any sense of guilt about fully caring for themselves. In so doing, they learn to fully love and support themselves – creating a wonderful life that optimally supports health.
  1. They reconnect with their sense of community and reclaim the joy that comes from being of service to others. In healing themselves, they facilitate healing in others.
To read a full list of these attributes read page 4 in Chapter One of our book.
It’s been more than five years since we wrote Kathy’s chapter.  Since then, her life story is even more miraculous, including undergoing two liver transplants in a week. Kathy has written the manuscript of a book which I’m hoping will be published shortly.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Kathy recently to write this blog. In hearing how hard she worked even when she was desperately sick with liver disease, I realized she continued to work with the issues of keeping her life in balance (our conversation quickly turned into a workaholic’s support group meeting). Like most people, Kathy and I continue to work at some major life issue throughout our lifetimes, spiralling ever more closely to the core of the issue – perhaps never resolving it completely.  For some of us, it may be feeling unworthy, and having to prove our worth through our actions and accomplishments. For others, it may be the belief “I’m no good” which drives them into depression over and over. The universe has the remarkable capacity of creating circumstances in our lives in which we keep bumping up against these core beliefs, continually offering an opportunity to stretch past our growing edge.

The second reflection relates to the nature of suffering. After her first liver transplant began to fail, her doctors put her into an induced coma. Miraculously, another donor liver became available within a week (any longer and Kathy’s body would not be able to recover). When Kathy woke up in the ICU, intubated, she didn’t know where she was.  She suffered from a kind of ICU psychosis, experiencing a kind of uncontrolled rage at the nurses for no reason. When the tube was removed and she could talk, her emotions settled, but she was like a quadriplegic; her limbs wasted away from months of inactivity and a week of total paralysis

The following year saw her suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder that caused a depression so deep there seemed to be no way out.  She broke down into uncontrollable sobs when she was left alone in her house. She finally made an appointment with her family doctor who recognized the depression, and Kathy was referred to a depression support group.  The group members were amazed by her story through cancer, liver disease and transplant.  Kathy’s depression began to lift when she realized she was able to give her love and support to others even when she was feeling so terrible. Fortunately, Kathy has made a complete recovery.

Kathy is a remarkable cancer survivor – a living miracle.  But even with doing all the deeper psychological and spiritual work (like aligning her work with her authentic self), at times she’s still going to feel lost in the dark forest. We inhabit this human body, and our psyches will follow evolutionary rules of threat and response. It only makes sense she would suffer a post-transplant rage followed by depression after what she went through.  But when we can see the true nature of human existence, and especially if we can be kind to ourselves when we are suffering, we begin to hold our lives with loving consciousness, and healing at the deepest level naturally occurs.

Dr. Rob Rutledge is a Radiation Oncologist in Halifax, Nova Scotia, specializing in breast, prostate and pediatric cancers. He is also an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at Dalhousie University.

In 1999, Rob co-created the ‘Skills for Healing’ Cancer Weekend Retreats. These weekend support groups teach a powerful and integrated approach to the cancer diagnosis and ways to heal at levels of body, mind and spirit. To date, more than 1,600 people have attended the retreats in over 20 cities across Canada and abroad.

Rob also leads the Healing and Cancer Foundation, a Registered Charity, that freely offers educational videos, documentaries, and webcasting seminars – and he is co-author of a book called The Healing Circle, which captures the teachings and inspirational stories from the weekend retreats.

In 2010, Rob received Cancer Care Nova Scotia’s Award for Excellence in Patient Care and, in 2006 Doctors Nova Scotia presented him with the Health Promotion Award in recognition of his contribution to physician health and health promotion in cancer patients.


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