Dr. Rob Rutledge practises the age-old adage: Physician heal thyself.
A radiation oncologist for 20 years, the 51-year-old meditates daily to decrease stress.
Meditation also helps Rutledge — an oncologist at the Nova Scotia Cancer Centre, associate professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax and a sought-after speaker — to find balance in his jam-packed schedule.
Recently, he adjusted his work hours to follow his passion — spreading the word about his integrated approach to body-mind-spirit healing.
His professional speaking fees go directly to The Healing and Cancer Foundation, a registered charity he co-founded to help people affected by cancer get the best medical care and combine it with healing techniques, such as mindfulness-based stress reduction.
Saskatchewan Breast Cancer Connect (SBCC), in partnership with the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, is bringing Rutledge to Saskatchewan this week.
He is scheduled to speak at Ramada Plaza Regina from 7-9 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. In a quick turnaround, he’ll be in Saskatoon to speak at the Cosmo Civic Centre from 7-9 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.
The evening sessions’ focus will be How Understanding Your Brain Can Empower Your life on the Cancer Journey — appropriate for a diverse audience, not just cancer patients, he said.
“If you’re somebody with a cancer diagnosis, put that into context of what I call integrated medicine, which is getting the best care from the medical system with what you need to empower your body, mind and spirit,” Rutledge said.
He noted the amount of knowledge about the brain has doubled in the past decade.
“The idea is that what we practise is what our brains get really good at,” Rutledge said.“
“If you practise being calm and centred and peaceful and grateful, you will become better at doing that. You can literally change the circuitry of your brain by practising the techniques that I will teach in that public talk.”
Consider walking into a doctor’s office with a pounding heart.
“By practising a breathing technique, you settle down your physiology and you become more peaceful and centred so that when you go into that visit, you’re better able to retain information and ask the right questions,” Rutledge said. “You actually get better care because you’ve settled yourself down in an acute stress situation.”
Practising relaxation and meditation teaches the brain to calm down.
“You’re still going to have the same challenges, but you’ll come at it from a greater sense of peace and attention and mindfulness and you’re actually able to use the power of your brain that is wiser and is associated with long-term planning and executive function,” Rutledge said.
At the day seminars in Regina and Saskatoon, he’ll teach healing skills and people will be able to share their stories and connect with others.
“People often feel very alone during their cancer journey, so when you hear stories from other people, there’s a sense of common humanity — you’re not in this alone,” Rutledge said.
The SBCC’s mission is to connect breast cancer patients and their families with needed resources and support services.
All the group’s events have a supportive side to them, said Diana Ermel, co-chair of SBCC with Tracy Gardikiotis, a physical therapist who has specialized breast cancer training.
“We wanted something that would include healthy living, understanding the mind-body connection, yoga, meditations, art therapy and interaction,” Ermel said.
The evening sessions are free. There is a $10 charge to attend the day-long seminars at both sites.
People must register for both presentations. Regina attendees can register at: (www.sbccregina.eventbrite.ca) and in Saskatoon at:(www.sbccsaskatoon.eventbrite.ca).