Connecting & Supporting People diagnosed with Brain Cancer
Mark [0:00] Just like to welcome Bec Picone the founder and CEO of Peace of Mind Foundation to the Heart Connection podcast. Bec started this not for profit, Brain Cancer Support Group nearly five years ago. The foundation keeps Bec very busy providing support for people going through brain cancer and associated complications. It’s wonderful Bec to have you on the podcast to have a conversation about the connection to self, others & ‘All That Is.’
Bec [0:34] Thank you I am looking forward to it.
Mark [0:37] Bec, how did you come to and what was the lead into or the precipitating event to developing finding – being the founder of the Peace of Mind Foundation?
Connecting to my loss of a loved one
Bec [0:52] Yep. So 2006 my brother’s wife was diagnosed with high-grade brain cancer. We call it a bit of the miracle diagnosis. She was a nurse and my brother was a nurse. She just started working in the MRI department of the hospital. It was very quiet diet and they said, let’s give each other some MRIs. Why not? You’ve never had one before you can have an MRI and explained to your patients and about what the experience is like? So yeah, they’ll just mucking around and her and her friend, one of the nurses they did, they did an MRI. Of course, it was then discovered that something was definitely not right. The radiographer looked at the scans and said, you and your your husband need to get in here immediately. She was told that day that she had a brain tumour in her right frontal lobe the size of a tennis ball. So that sort of, I guess was a life-changing moment for our family, especially for my brother and his wife. She managed to live for nearly five years but just after giving birth to my nephew, little Benjamin, she had the tumour come back again and passed away very quickly. It was a very traumatic experience for our family and we realized that there was virtually no support at all in Australia for people with brain cancer. There’s very little funding, not much, not much research taking place, and certainly nothing in the way of support charities that are out there running support groups and offering supportive care services. We thought, well, that needs to change. So two years later, after she passed away, my brother said to me, will you start a charity with me in honour of Caroline and that’s how it all began.
Mark [2:54] As you’re sharing about the support, in the support how much connection is involved in that support?
Connection is a Core Value of our Organisation
Bec [3:03] Yeah, a lot. I guess it’s actually one of the core values of our organisation, is connection. That’s what we’re sort of all about – is connecting people within the brain cancer community connecting them with to their families closer as well, but also to other people that are going through brain cancer. We host support groups and retreats for people all across Australia, who are either a patient or a carer. They’ll come together and they’ll learn from one another and share what their experience has been and vice versa. We watch people just forming these incredible friendships and walk away with all these new support networks, especially after we have our three days of weekend retreats, we do that every year.
Mark [3:52] When people from those connections, and they walk away – they have formed those connections, what do you notice happens to them as they form those connections?
Forming Connections Heals Anxieties
Bec [4:01] I think it’s an instant reduction in anxiety is the main thing. We people that will come along to the retreat and the first day that they’re there, they highly anxious and they nervous, and I don’t know what they’re about to experience. They feel very isolated as brain cancer is still classified as rare cancer. So you may not ever meet someone in your lifetime that has brain cancer, especially whilst you’re going through it. That’s what these retreats and support groups are about is is taking away that isolation. It enables people to come together and have that friendship and then going forward, they know that, well, I’m not alone in this. There’s someone else going through this, there’s someone else I can call upon. I guess, as an organisation, that’s probably the greatest thing that we do. Even though we may not feel that we can change the outcome of what happens to that patient. We know that we’ve made a difference along the way. Them knowing that there’s someone there that they can call up or they can email or I can meet up for coffee with someone which makes the difference.
The Isolation of Disconnection
Mark [5:05] When they’re isolated to you notice they experience a disconnection?
Bec [5:11] Yeah, massively. It’s almost something happens immediately, because when someone is diagnosed with brain cancer, it often means that it may have happened due to seizures. That is how they found out. So they lose their licence it instantly. So there’s a loss of independence, which happens within a week. Someone gets diagnosed, they’re told that they probably got 12 months to live, they’ve lost their licence and they have to give up their job because I’ve got to go and have brain surgery and have treatment. So, there’s instantly a loss of connection socially. But even sadly, sometimes within families is a loss of connection, because people don’t know how to deal with the fact that they are terminally ill. They don’t know how to deal with all the changes that are happening around them. So, families then sometimes sort of pull away from that person. That’s what our organisation is about is trying to build and rebuild some of those connections within the family. That’s why we host family retreats, where they all come together to create memories, and build connections with new people as well.
Mark [6:12] In the connection to us, we’re connecting to your positive state of being or negative states of being. I would imagine for someone diagnosed with brain cancer, the family of connecting to a painful emotion – that potential loss and grief. That must be really hard – to be able to support that and hold that space for people – sounds really powerful?
Connecting to the Loss & Grief of Death
Bec [6:40] Yeah it really is. I think we meet people in their most tragic circumstances at a point in their life that they never thought they would ever be experiencing. You don’t wish it upon your worst enemy. So e meet people in a really down and out of situations. It’s amazing resilience, I think of people as well. What we see sort of happening through the support we offer in our retreats is just that they band together and support one another. They’re still – they are so hopeful and very courageous. I’m personally inspired by the people that I connect with on a weekly basis.
Mark [7:22] Can you share in the connection to themselves? Can you talk a little bit about the resilience that you noticed, the people that have been diagnosed? What’s is resilience? Where’s that come from? What do you notice?
Connecting to our Human Resilience
Bec [7:36] I think it’s something that we all, as humans just have within us. I think we are resilient. I think people sort of thing – I can never cope in a situation and then, of course, they’re in a situation, they realize that there’s no other choice but to cope. From what I’ve seen, in many, many cases with the families is that they cope very well and they surprised themselves. Yeah, I think it’s in hope, I think is a very big thing. Is that right to the very end, you know, people they need hope and they cling to that hope. That sort of helps them to keep carrying on and keep fighting. I’ve seen people live well beyond what they were told that they were going to live. I think a lot of that, I don’t think it is just luck, I think it comes down to that resilience and their fighting spirit in the belief that they’re going to be okay.
Mark [8:32] When they hit into that resilience, is that coming from a really deep place within themselves?
Reaching to the Depth of Resilience
Bec [8:38] Yeah, absolutely. You’ve gotta dig deep I think for that sort of thing. Hearing you know, you sort of given a diagnosis of – we’ve had one person recently, and they were told that they had maybe six weeks to live. He was a young man who had a young family. I think you’ve got no other choice, but to dig very deep, to find that kind of resilience and to also look for positivity in that. You could just give up right there and then, but they don’t. There’s always, I think, positive moments and everything that happens around us. I’ve seen some people turn some really, really tragic situations, into something quite remarkable and beautiful.
Mark [9:25] As you’re watching this, and as you’re experiencing it, what happens to the connection to yourself as you’re on the journey with them?
Bec [9:33] Yeah, I think we discover a lot about yourself as well. Obviously I have been through it personally, myself and you discover your own level of resilience. Then meeting others, and you get inspired by what you see. I think for me, it was being part of this all – every day I’m reminded of life is very short. We have to make the most of absolutely every day and never take things too seriously. If you do you’ll get to weigh down, in a situation. Just to try and be happy and help someone – that’s sort of my motto, I think in everything I do. That I have to be of service to other people and it’s about finding your purpose.
Mark [10:21] Whereabouts in your body do you find that purpose?
Bec [10:24] In you gut. (Laughter)
Connecting to my Purpose ~ my Gut Instinct
Bec [10:28] In your gut I think, you know, obviously, your mind and your heart backs it up. I think it’s in your gut I think it’s just instinct. It’s something that you know. When I got involved in this, I always had other plans what I was going to be doing with my life. You don’t wake up one morning and go, I’m gonna start up my own not-for-profit brain cancer charity. If somebody said that to me 10 years ago, you’ll be CEO and helping people across Australia was brain cancer, I would have thought that was hilarious. Why would I be doing that? But when my brother asked me to do this, then I sort thought I’d help help you out. I’ll give you 12 months of my time and get this thing up and running. Three months into it, I’m sitting there and I’m like – I think I sort of burst into tears, actually, because I’m like, I’ve discovered what I’m meant to be doing with my life. Yeah, you feel good about something, you know, something’s right. You feel it – I would say in my spirit is the words I would use. In your gut as some people would say
Connecting to my Flow-state of passion & Purpose
Mark [11:28] So as soon as you connected to that passion and purpose you just flowed?
Bec [11:35] Yeah, absolutely.
Mark [11:37] Was spirit flowing through you?
Bec [11:39] Yeah, definitely. I mean, it’s – I wake up every day, and I have to re-motivate myself to keep doing what I’m doing. When you know, you’re on the right track, when you know you’re doing what you meant to be doing, and it’s helping others. And you feel like it’s helping yourself as well, it’s easy to keep that motivation and that passion going. So, I’m nearly six years into it now and still extremely passionate about what I do. I keep sort of aspiring to just keep achieving more and more and more.
Mark [12:11] When you’re in that passion, how much of a flow state are you in? Once you’ve got the mind out of way – that ‘old mind’ out of the way?
My flow-state finds a way through obstacles
Bec [12:26] The mind keep saying no, you can’t keep going. No, you can’t do this. I think it’s very free-flowing. I mean I’ve always just grown up with a belief of whatever I want to achieve in life I can achieve in life. I’ve been I think I’ve been quite fortunate to have that kind of mindset, or not everyone does. For me, that’s just been, that’s just how it is. That’s how life is – if I want to achieve something, I can achieve something and there’ll be obstacles and things will certainly get in the way but you just have to keep pushing through to get to where you want to be.
Mark [13:03] When you’re in the purpose and the passion and it’s fully flowing – what do you notice the impact that has on others? The flow-on effect?
Co-creating flow-state connections
Bec [13:17] Yeah, well, I get called inspiring all the time. I don’t see myself as inspiring because, for me, it’s like, well, I’m just doing what I’m meant to be doing. But it clearly does have a flow-on effect to others. There’s people that I think have been drawn to our organization and perhaps even drawn to me which is really lovely. It shows that I’m doing something right. For me, it’s sort of I think everyone would be doing the same if they found their purpose.
Mark [13:52] That connection to others – as you’re sharing that are they’re resonating with that? As they’re resonating with that – what impact does that have on you? Does it lift your spirit? Does it lift your heart?
Bec [14:06] Yeah but I think at the end of the day, I keep doing what I do because it’s also personally rewarding for me. So as much as I don’t need the praise and acknowledgment, I don’t need to win awards and that. When that happens, I guess it just confirms that you’re doing something that people see is really positive and influential.
Mark [14:32] How do you come – As you put all that passion and purpose in? How do you keep checking in on your own connection to yourself? What’s your strategy? (Laughter)
Checking in on my Connection to Self my Self-care
Bec [14:43] That’s always the good one, isn’t it? So, let me tell you a story Mark (Laughter). So, I get people say to me all the time, they’re like, oh, you’ve gotta slow down, you’re going to burn out. That’s why I tell them will have already been there, I’ve already done that. So, when I was 28. So before I six months before I started this organization, I was 28, I had just been divorced. I had no idea what I was doing with my life had not achieved anything I set out to achieve. I had not completed the university degrees that I set out to do and had been diagnosed as having a complete nervous breakdown. So I had completely crashed and burned. I was hospitalised and I was put on high level anxiety medication. At that point, it was a real wake up call to self-care (Laughter). There is such thing as self-care, and you do have to apply it otherwise you absolutely burn out. So what I’ve discovered since then, is that I’m busier than what I’ve ever been. I’m probably more stress than what I’ve ever been I carry a lot of stress with what I do and my family life, what have you. But because I found purpose and because I know I’m doing the right thing. It’s almost a level of self-care in itself. But yeah, I sort of check in with myself to make sure that things don’t get too crazy, out of control. I probably apply you know, a few different activities and things that I do. I’m terrible at – I’m okay at mindfulness, not too bad. I’m terrible at meditation, you can never ever get me to do a session or anything like that’s – it’s not my thing. I’ll just go for long drives, and I need time to myself. So, I feel if you’re constantly giving of yourself emotionally, I’m the type of person I need to have some level of alone time and that’s where I reflect and that’s where I recharge.
Healthy Disconnection to Reconnect to Self
Mark [16:44] And in that alone time you disconnected from others, but reconnecting to yourself, and then allowing yourself to savor into that beautiful self-care. On the long drive, what’s it like to reconnect back to Bec?
Bec [17:01] Well it’s the same thing. Often people don’t like to drive in the car with me because they always want the music on. I don’t want the music on because for me, the drive is where I think about how I’m feeling about things. I process what’s happening throughout the day, and I guess just in life in general. So for me having that sort of quiet time is what I really need and I do that to recharge. I’ve always been like that I remember even from a really young age that I would have to go away, and I’d have to just have time to myself. I think I was 18 and I’m like I’m going out to a mountain and I’m going camping by myself for three days. I think everyone falls inside but that’s just what I have to do just to – find yourself and how you truly feel about something, I think.
Bec [17:01] What’s the same thing?
Mark [17:48] Any other self-care measures that you use, the drives one – what other self-measures that you use that others could perhaps use?
Bec [17:58] I’m actually sort of activities actually, where if you’re feeling stress, like want to put things on a scale of one to 10. So it’s just sort of monitoring throughout the day. If you’re feeling like an eight, nine or ten, then you know that you need to stop for a moment, step back, think about – okay, what can I do right now that’s going to help me? What can I do to calm myself? It’s possible that sometimes I might have three showers a day, I love a hot shower. It’s just for whatever reason that calms me. So I think just evaluating how you’re sort of feeling within things. Talking to other people. I never used to do that very well but I do that a lot now. Where I definitely just share with people that I trust with what’s going on and how I’m feeling and they give me a motivation to keep going as well.
Mark [18:53] In terms of connecting to others, and connecting to the ‘All That Is’ when you are in flow and in your purpose is there a sense that you’re in the “All That Is’?
Flow of “All That Is” a Purpose???
Bec [19:09] Yes, the ‘All That Is’ for me and not everyone has that. I’ve grown up as a Christian so for me, that’s the ‘All That Is.’ For me, it’s just it’s a no brainer so I have faith and a belief in God. So that just spurs me on and I guess that’s why I feel I found purpose. When I talk about knowing something in your spirit that you’re on the right track and what you need to do.
Mark [19:35] I wonder when the people that you are providing that support and the retreats – whether they also tap into that ‘All That Is’ within them, through their loss and grief?
Bec [19:48] Yeah, I think it’s one of those things as soon as you’re diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, it’s an instant question that arises. I think people you know – you see people that have never, ever had any kind of spiritual beliefs. They are searching for that, and they turn to that. Or people just find it just within themselves. They find just the comfort within that, you know, they might not be certain whether there is eternity or where they’re going to but I just wanted to peace within themselves. I think it’s a big question.
Connecting to our Deep Peace Within
Mark [20:23] When you find that peace within yourself, what happens to Bec?
Bec [20:29] And I feel great (laughter) I stress less.
Mark [20:35] What’s the energy like in your body as you’re connecting to that within? Does it flow and all the dominoes just seemed to flow through?
Bec [20:44] Yeah, I think well the pieces of the puzzle kinda does fit together. I think I pick up very quickly if something’s not right, within, within myself, it’s something you sort of just discern, I think when something’s not right, or even in a situation, you feel that there’s something isn’t right. I guess that’s kind of helped to guide me in what I’m doing in life and the decisions that I make very much based upon whether it internally or whether that feels right.
Mark [21:15] The connecting to the ‘All That Is’ when you’re at driving in the car is that like a meditation for you?
Driving on my Own is my Meditation & Prayer Time
Bec [21:22] Yeah, well, for me, it would be. It would be like my sort of talked to God prayer time. Yeah, absolutely. I think life gets extremely busy and if you constantly go-go all the time, and you’re surrounded by other people, sometimes you get a bit claustrophobic. I need to have that sort of time for yourself to reflect and to pray or meditate, whatever it is that you do.
Mark [21:52] In the support when people connect to ‘All That Is’ within themselves that connect to the God within whatever – external God. Is there and do you notice is there a sort of a surrender to the diagnosis and a process of letting go?
Connecting to Peace of Surrender
Bec [22:14] Yeah, I think I’ve seen a few situations where right to the very end, you can see that they haven’t found peace with it. But in most cases, I’ve always seen that they have found peace with it, and however, that is. It’s different for each person as to what the level of peace is and what they’ve come to believe or hold on to. It’s remarkable how some people and some very young people, especially young people, like teens, and children, have been able to really accept their situation and meanwhile the family can’t come to accept it. The patient-the person going through it has really just found peace within it and has said that it’s okay, this is what’s happening. They don’t and what I found amazing is I’ve seen so many people don’t even really hold this resentment or this or why this happened to me. I’ve seen so many just remarkable people who have said, well, it’s okay. It’s okay, I understand this is part of life we live and we die, my time is up.
Mark [23:18] When you see that peace, what do you observe their bodies when they hit that – touched into that peace and acceptance and surrender to?
Connecting to Acceptance of Death
Bec [23:28] You can see they’re at ease. You can tell when someone is really torn up about something or their spirits really stirred up about something. So you can see they’re very much at ease, and they’re at peace with the situation. They’ve got a calmness about them a bit of glow even perhaps a t of happiness. They’re light and you can see that.
Mark [23:54] What’s it like when that light flows into the group?
Bec [23:59] Yeah great. Within our group I mean there are so many different types of people that we deal with. It can be very interesting group dynamic, when you put someone in there who hasn’t reached out yet who’s really quite bitter about the situation, and then someone who’s really calm and that peace. It’s really – just to watch that rub off on to the other people is really quite amazing. We had that recently, in one of our group sessions. I think get the person who walked in with I guess a lot of hatred and intention, anxiety sort of walked away freer I think in after they’d heard from the other person who really accepted the fate and their situation.
Energetic Sharing our Non-verbal Connection
Mark [24:44] That’s so important with that connection that we can learn from others and just non-verbally experience, their energy that they’re carrying, and can have that flow-on effect. As you’re going through the stages of death and dying, there are many different stages to that process and to come to that peace. Do you have that peace inside yourself?
Bec [25:10] Yeah, absolutely. For me, I very much and I think it’s the only reason why I probably cope in this type of job. Is I have people die all the time around me. People that I’ve developed friendships with and connections with but because I have a very good understanding that it is part of life, we live we die. We don’t get to decide when that happens and we just are thankful for every moment that we get. So yeah, I feel I have a very good sense of peace about it.
Mark [25:39] Yeah, when you’re sharing that – where you’re coming from Spirit as you were sharing that with me. Were you there – it’s like it was speaking?
My Acceptance of Death
Bec [25:47] Yeah, absolutely. For me, it is I guess, I’m just a truth you know. Some people might say that because that’s what they were told to believe perhaps. For me it just, it’s true, if I truly do feel that. I wouldn’t be – I’m not concerned about dying. I’d be concerned obviously, for my family that I was leaving behind but concerned for myself without dying. I’m definitely at peace with that.
Mark [26:13] Well done. What’s the biggest learning that you’ve picked up from developing this foundation? What’s the biggest teaching, that it’s offered you?
Connecting to Our Incredible Hearts
Bec [26:26] A lot. Look, I think probably perseverance would be from my personal point of view. So, it hasn’t been an easy ride. It’s not easy starting something from scratch and building it and re-motivating yourself every single day to keep going. There have been many times where I certainly could have given up, definitely consider giving up. I think perseverance has been the big key thing for me. That’s the the greatest thing I would say to anyone is to keep persevering. If you know what you want. If you know what the end goal is, and that’s what you want to achieve. Doesn’t matter what sort of things put themselves on the path and the way. You just need to knock them over and just keep going. I guess, meeting other people I found that to be uplifting for me. I’ve met some incredible people, I think you can put on the news and you can see all the bad stuff that’s happening in the world. But then you you only have to go and meet some of the people that I meet on a weekly basis and realise that – humanity is amazing. There are incredible people out there with incredible hearts. People are I think inherently people good.
Mark [27:47] That’s really powerful isn’t it. To sort of see it at that level it just so powerfully radiating and it gives us an energy to want to make you the world a better place because it is there.
Bec [28:02] Yeah, oh absolutely. I don’t really watch the news too often, to be honest, because we know that there’s negative stuff that happens in the world. There’s also just incredible things that do happen and I guess I’m fortunate to get to experience a lot of that.
Connecting to our Essence of Humanity
Mark [28:22] Yeah, that essence of humanity. The spiritual essence of humanity is pretty pure. A lot of peace and a lot of well-being in there. Learning how do we anchor back in there? How do we keep reminding ourselves to come back to that point? The point of connection to Self, Others and ‘All That Is’? Through your journey is any advice that you would have for a younger person coming through life?
Bec [28:50] Are you calling me young then? (Laughter)
Mark [28:54] A younger? What would that advice be for that person?
My Advice to Younger People Connect to Your Joy
Bec [29:01] I think it’s probably finding joy in every situation really. I think, laugh, you need to laugh because if you don’t, if you don’t laugh at life, then it’s going to get by way too serious. So yeah, I don’t take I’d be serious in the moments I need to be serious, but I laugh a lot. I laugh at myself a lot. So yeah, look, I think it would just be to not take anything for granted. Don’t take people for granted and don’t take the opportunities that come your way for granted. Sort of latch on to them and push yourself.
Mark [29:40] And always be mindful of self-care?
Bec [29:43] Yeah, very much always be mindful of self-care. At the end of the day, if you don’t, then you’ve got nothing to give, that’s the reality of it. If you don’t look after yourself, then no one else is gonna look up to you. So you can look after yourself.
Mark [29:54] Always keep a re-check on a connection to that?
Bec [29:55] Yeah, yep, definitely.
Mark [30:01] Any other advance anything else that you’d like to share as part of this podcast, Heart of Connection?
Connecting to Our Pure Heart
Bec [30:10] I think just using the word heart. So probably keeping a pure heart so not letting – just life circumstances and that turn you’re bitter or turn your cold. Just remembering that there are wonderful things in the world and that it’s for everyone as well. You can have terrible things happen in your life doesn’t mean though, that’s all there is for you. That life can very much it comes in seasons, and it can turn around. A good day will – A bad day will become a good day and vice versa. So it sort of evolved. You never ever stuck where you are he can get it.
Mark [30:53] Where can people get in contact with you for being diagnosed with brain cancer? How do they get in contact with your foundation?
Mark [31:15] Great and they can just make a connection?
Connecting to the Peace of Mind Foundation
Bec [31:19] Yes. So we’ve got like an online contact form and online referral form. So there are many ways they can get in contact with us or they can send us a message on social media.
Mark [31:30] The support groups, do they – are they running regularly?
Bec [31:33] Yeah, so I support group. So I’ve got one here in the Geelong region. So that’s at the Andrew Love wellness lounge. That runs once a month on a Monday evening. Some of that information is on the website as well. They can contact us and we can notify them when we’ve got meetings coming up.
Mark [31:52] Bec, I would love to just thank you for the opportunity to have this conversation with you and to experience the peace of mind that you have in your well-being. That beautiful peace was there and thank you for sharing it. Thank you for letting other listeners hear it-it was wonderful.
Bec [32:10] Thanks so much for having me.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai