When we are called to be bridges

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Lesley Narayanan is the Sweet Louise Support Coordinator for Canterbury, West Coast, Otago and Southlands regions. Lesley explains more about her role providing practical, emotional and social support for New Zealanders with advanced breast cancer.

Lesley (centre) with members at a Sweet Louise meeting.

“At Sweet Louise, our kaupapa is to promote and enhance well-being for New Zealanders living with advanced breast cancer.

"We help with social isolation, connect people and let our members know that they are not alone.

"Sweet Louise also provides vouchers for complementary therapies and for initiatives such as family trips or treats, that give members a boost and help to create special memories and resilience.

“As a Sweet Louise Support Coordinator, I establish ongoing relationships with members, through regular email and phone contact as well as home, hospital and clinic visits. I also host member meetings, which bring groups of members together for peer-to-peer support.

“My background in nursing has helped me understand some of the bigger issues at stake for our members. My nursing philosophy has always been grounded in ‘presencing’, which requires deliberate, focussed attention and receptivity to the other person.

“I have specialised in hospice palliative care provision. Through this, I am aware of the trajectories that advanced disease can take and the importance of advance care planning.

“ A member recently told me she was scared about what might happen to her if she was no longer able to communicate. We were able to have gentle discussion around advance care planning, which helped to allay some of her fears.

“Palliative care also takes a holistic approach, where communication is key. I have observed so frequently that it is the little things that matter the most.

“This excerpt from Joy Cowley’s poem The Bridge has greatly influenced my work over the years:

“There are times in life when we are called to be bridges,

not a great monument spanning a distance

and carrying great loads of heavy traffic

but a simple bridge to help one person from here to there

over some difficulty

such as pain, fear, grief, loneliness,

a bridge which opens the way

for ongoing journey”

“My role as a Sweet Louise Support Coordinator enables me to act as a very simple bridge, supporting members with their on-going journey.

“I get the absolute privilege of journeying alongside our amazing members, who every day show courage, resilience and compassion for others, even in the face of adversity. I get to listen, talk, laugh with members – and know that what Sweet Louise does makes a real difference.

“I also love the welcome card that new Sweet Louise members receive when they join us. It says:

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one’.”
(C.S. Lewis).