St. John Medical Center employees Candius Rapson and Maureen Trainer are both cancer survivors who now use their experiences in battling back from the disease to better serve patients.
They shared the story of their journey on Jan. 28 as part of the monthly SJMC Diversity Lunch program. The program is hosted by Sr. Kendra Bottoms, Director of Pastoral Care and the Chair of the Diversity Committee.
Topic for the day was “Resiliency.” It is a quality both Candius and Maureen have gained in abundance as they turned the roadblock of cancer into a stepping stone to the fullness of life as survivors.
“I don’t want cancer to define who I am,” said Candius.” It is a part of me. But it is not who I am. It becomes like all the other experiences you have in your life, part of you.”
“You have a mission,” said Maureen. “Internally, we all have a will to live. In the end, the human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it.”
Candius, a Radiology Service Representative in the hospital’s Breast Health Center, has used her experiences to better bond with fellow patients.
“I always look at something negative as an opportunity to grow, to keep moving forward and not staying in that history,” she said.“The disease was really a blessing to me in many ways that I never thought possible.
“I have sat with women who have had the ups and downs of cancer, who were dying of cancer. I saw the good, the bad and the ugly. But there was so much more good than anything else. It really brought me back to the center of who I am as a person.
“If I help one woman, I have done my job,” she says.
Maureen also sees the cancer challenge as a test of spirit. Two of the first people at her side were SJMC President Bill Young and Chief Nursing Officer Cheryl O’Malley.
“It was probably not the most comfortable spot for them to be in because I did break down,” said Maureen. “It was one of those moments that you are glad someone is there. It is just a moment where you don’t really want people to see you, but they were there, and I really appreciated that.”
Inner healing is “something I constantly work on,” said Maureen.
“I wanted to be present for my own life,” she said of the inspirational support she gets from her young family. “What I have learned is to live every day and be present in every moment.”
A wellspring for her hope is a simple slogan that hangs on the wall of her oncologist’s office:
“The Human Spirit is Stronger Than Anything That Can Happen to It.”
“When I go my oncologist’s office, it is on the wall, I see it all the time,” she said. “It is true. It is what has gotten me through this.
“It is your spirit. And nothing can conquer it.”
(Ed. Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the position held by Sr. Kendra Bottoms. She is Director of Pastoral Care and the Chair of the Diversity Committee).