Unwavering Spirit: Hope and Healing at Ground Zero

Remembering 9/11 causes me to feel both sadness and gratitude. I remember exactly where I was and my utter disbelief in watching the events as they unfolded. Revisiting that day causes emotions of fear, sadness and anger for me. I don’t think that will ever go away, but as time passes I understand, given a sense of history and a heightened awareness of what trauma and life challenges do and can do to each of us, I chose to look at this event, this day feeling sad but also grateful and a heighted resolve.

September 11th reveals the worst and the best in others. A horrible event reminds us of the innocent people who lost their lives and those who sacrificed for causes greater than themselves. They need to be remembered. Survivors, holding onto hope, find that in the midst of this horror, there can be, will be healing and some good that comes forth. Promoting and supporting healing does not mean we forget. The scars we carry, physically and emotionally will reveal our past challenges and traumas. They remind us that we will be tested but when we meet those tests, we recognize our strengths and sense of gratitude for the lives we have and opportunities we have to serve.

John McCain said, “The important thing is not to look back and figure out the things I should have done but to look back with gratitude”.  It is with a sense of gratitude and purpose that Dr. Joyce Mikal-Flynn and Team Metahab remembers and uses this day to strengthen our resolve to bring forth healing and hope to all those who have suffered trauma and challenges. We are here to serve.

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Promises to Keep

Our future may lie beyond our vision but it is not beyond our control.

Robert F. Kennedy

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Quite by accident I came upon a book entitled: Promises to Keep by Robert F. Kennedy. The title was intriguing to me especially as I celebrate 29 years of survival. It is a short book, just 60 pages. But as I read his powerful words, I was overwhelmed with the ideas and ideals talked about in this simple but profound book. I want to use this as the underpinning of my July message --- July, the month that so much changed for me, my family and friends.

Twenty-nine years ago today, I died. Coming back to life was both a miracle and a challenge. I have shared my story many times and in doing so, I continue to recognize the life I was given back has been both a blessing and a test. Initially, this harsh journey involved adapting, adjusting, finding out what I could control, moving forward in the face of intense fear, deep depression and self-doubt. Helping me to overcome and move forward was making promises, both to myself and others. It was rough, but overtime, life got better. I answered to and took on challenges, both big and small, by first promising and then, working diligently to fulfill those promises. I chose to use my come back as a tribute to the efforts of those who brought me back and all who provided endless support to my survival and life after. I understand that promise is a big word. It’s meaning and practice is not taken lightly. It asserts that one will unquestionably follow through. It is a binding declaration giving the person to whom the promise is made the right to expect successful completion of the activity. I interviewed David Faber, a survivor of several Nazi concentration camps during WW II, sharing his story in my book, Turning Tragedy to Triumph. He recognized, after time, the challenge to move forward in the aftermath of traumatic events was necessary but not at all easy. Certain adjustments, adaptations and acceptance of what happened is required. He shared his vital motivation and encouragement toward survival in the camps involved promises made to his mother. He knew she would not survive, so he promised, she made him promise that he would live to tell the story of these horrific events, letting the world know what happened with the expressed intent of ensuring this inhumanity, these atrocities would end and to bring compassion and love into the world. He did, spending much of his life sharing his story in an effort to spread tolerance, acceptance and yes, compassion and love for one another. As he told his story, I thought about the promises I made after my brush with death and how this unwelcomed event uncovered and informed my future, my life attitude, my work and contribution to others who suffer challenges crises and traumas.

I promised to take on life in earnest, focusing more on what I could do and less on what I couldn’t. I let go of my prideful attitude and instead adopted one of openness, when I needed help, I asked for and accepted it. I asserted myself, surrounding myself with friends, family and colleagues that gave good, honest advice, guiding and supporting my efforts and at times, pushing me, making me believe in myself when I could not. These choices and promises brought me back to school, eventually earning my doctorate studying others who had navigated through tough times, enlightening and enhancing my work on posttraumatic growth and Metahab.

When Robert Kennedy announced his Presidential candidacy, he stated “I do not run for the Presidency merely to oppose any man but to propose new polices”. I promise to continue my focus and work on posttraumatic growth and Metahab, not to argue or oppose others but to propose new ideas and promote each survivor’s sense of strength, resilience, and capacity for growth, not in spite of their challenges but as direct result of them. Kennedy reminded us, “the revolution is within our gates”, so especially this month, I continue my efforts toward this revolution and promise to extend gratitude to those who brought me back to life and supported my survival, recovery and growth. I promise to continue working with those who suffer from traumatic events and those who care for them, encouraging and promoting growth as the ultimate result of critical events and work. I promise to live my life in service of those who suffer, sending a message of hope and reminding them of their remarkable capacity for survival but also their ability to grow, to be transformed as a direct result of their sorrow and strain. Prompting all, in the depth of their despair, to find a sliver of hope, promising themselves that they can and will move forward.

Like myself and Robert Kennedy, we all have promises to keep. What are yours? What undertakings do you have planned to better your life and the lives of others?  Join with me, as a tribute to this significant anniversary, to make some promises to improve your life and the lives of others.

It is with deep gratitude to all who brought me back, kept me going and showed me a purposeful future, I promise, Metahab promises to continue our service to survivors, their families and communities,

Dr. Joyce Mikal-Flynn and Team Metahab

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Happy Father's Day!

Anyone who tells you Fatherhood is the greatest thing that can happen to you, they are understating it.

- Mike Meyers

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Fatherhood is both a noun and a verb. It defines a role but also describes actions associated with that role. As I think about my own father, I recognize and have come to appreciate what he gave, how he expressed his fatherly love. It was through his authenticity, strength of convictions, unwavering dedication to his wife and family and unending sacrifices. He didn't say a lot but when he did, it was meaningful. As all great leaders, he chose to use his actions rather than words to get a point across - he led by example.

Every Sunday after we attended church he would rally the family, my mother and all six children, into our Volkswagen van telling us, 'we will not only learn how to live together, we will learn how to have fun together' and off we went to some interesting and exciting destination. We did not have financial wealth but he made sure we had what was most important, spending time as a family, using road trips throughout Northern California, showing us places we still cherish, taking time to learn about our surroundings and having time to explore.

In my own family, I remember vividly when our young son was involved in baseball. Every evening, he patiently waited until dad came home. As soon as he heard his car, he would run to the door and shout out, "Let's play some catch." Later that time became motorcycle road trips together.

My wish is that you take this opportunity, follow my father's lead and give the most important gift you can - the gift of timeand attention. This Father's Day, tell Dad he is special. Disconnect from television, computers and social media, from what you think is so important and call your father - laugh and share some stories.  If you can, go somewhere, do something together, a sports event, take a road trip or a hike - play some catch. Take time away together to connect and play. As Margaret Mead said: "It is only when you grow up and step back from him - or leave him for your own home - it's only then that you can measure his greatness and fully appreciate it". Let your father or a person who represented for you the 'greatness' of a father, know you fully appreciate him.

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Team Metahab.

He not only survived; he thrived.

"The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it."

-Ernest Hemingway; For Whom the Bell Tolls

Hero; a person who consistently acts courageously and is noble of thought and character. He/she has acquired the honorable and self-sacrificing behaviors of beneficence, empathy, and fortitude by engaging and practicing these deeds regularly. They are part of one's personal infrastructure. Courageous thoughts and behaviors become instinctive, intrinsic to their everyday life guiding every decision and action. There may be natural born heroes but I think most achieve these special abilities and status by using crises, challenges, trials and errors to provoke and strengthen their ability to survive, overcome and grow. Senator John McCain did just that. Enduring incredible physical, emotional and spiritual pain and despair - he survived. Hero; a person who consistently acts courageously and is noble of thought and character. He/she has acquired the honorable and self-sacrificing behaviors of beneficence, empathy, and fortitude by engaging and practicing these deeds regularly. They are part of one's personal infrastructure. Courageous thoughts and behaviors become instinctive, intrinsic to their everyday life guiding every decision and action. There may be natural born heroes but I think most achieve these special abilities and status by using crises, challenges, trials and errors to provoke and strengthen their ability to survive, overcome and grow. Senator John McCain did just that. Enduring incredible physical, emotional and spiritual pain and despair - he survived. And as with the message of Metahab, he not only survived but he thrived. Not in spite of his trauma but as a direct result of it.

The word 'hero' is used so nonchalantly today.  There is a difference between a heroic act and a hero. Senator McCain is a HERO and his story is an example for us all with identifiable poignant aspects and valuable lessons. He was brave but also flawed. As he said, "I have been tested on a number of occasions. I haven't always done the right thing, and I think I understand given my family's history and given my experiences, the important thing is not to look back and think about all the things I should have done ...but to look back with gratitude." He learned from his errors and used his imperfections and admitted mistakes to grow and improve. He experienced life's beauty and brutality and recognizing that, his is a story about

possibilities. Identifying possibilities means you have a chance, an opportunity for a future. He modeled the way for that future providing a mindset that revealed hope is the correct response to suffering, even though there is terrible and tremendous loss. He was determined, and over time found a way out of the depths of his fear and misery using his Vietnam experience for growth and insight. He focused less on what cruel circumstances took from him and recognized what they gave. He accepted, moved on and found ways to give back to his family and the country he loved. His favorite book was; For Whom The Bell Tolls. He was 12 years old when he first read it and it became his corner stone and guiding principle throughout his life, "nothing is better than the story of someone who sacrifices for causes greater than themselves".

Finally, the bell tolls - death comes for us all and thus our focus must be on how we choose to live. "I think all of us think about death, but I think more about life." He lived life to its fullest, recognizing hope in the midst of despair, embracing the goodness of others, forgiving the flaws, accepting and handling mistakes honorably, moving forward and always finding ways to serve.

Thank you for your service Senator John McCain, 

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How am I going to come back from this?

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These were the first words I heard from Michael. His daughter, Dr. Jennifer Gonzales Shushereba, seven months pregnant with her first child, was murdered on Friday, March 9, 2018 while serving veterans at the Yountville VA. It was and still is...awful. My work, my professional focus involves trauma informed care, specializing in posttraumatic growth. But this is a tough one. How is there going to be anything worthy coming from this? I have known Jennifer for her entire 32 years of life. When she became Dr. Gonzales, graduating from Stanford, specializing in counseling soldiers suffering from PTSD, we worked together. She is Metahab's clinical consultant. Together we provided training at various agencies and with clinicians on how to incorporate the use of Metahabilitation into their recovery and rehabilitation programs. I attended Jenn and T.J.'s wedding one year ago and was with her just 3 weeks before her tragic end - at a lovely family function. She was her beautiful self, looking very pregnant and very happy.

 

We lost a wonderful person, a dedicated professional, wife to T.J. Shushereba, and mother of their lovely daughter, Cecelia Rose, whom she took with her to heaven. There are no words of real comfort but the hundreds of people who surrounded her and T.J.s family - holding them up, crying together, honoring Jenn was a beginning. As I told Jennifer's parents, I am in this for the long haul. Now, but more importantly, in 3 months, 6 months, and on.

 

"How I am going to come back from this?" I simply hugged Michael and said, "one breath at time and by leaning on your friends. Use the love and support from the rest of us." That's all there is for now. This is the grieving time. The disbelief time. The, 'what just happened to my/our life' time. There are no good answers. Only love - holding one up when they cannot do it themselves. Even at the end, Jennifer did that for us. This is the final message on her funeral Mass Card. She loved Winnie the Pooh and especially this message; You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think. If there ever comes a day when we can't be together, keep me in your heart, I'll stay there forever.

 

Thank you Dr. Jennifer Gonzales Shushereba. Metahab, your family and friends will never forget you. Your dedication and contributions in assisting the wounded among us as well as your kind and loving spirit is both an inspiration and our motivation. We will follow your lead and spread your message of love, caring for one another and promoting personal strength.

 

God Bless you Jenn. We will now serve you by taking care of and supporting your family and helping them 'come back from this'.    

 

With love,


The Metahab Team

Dr. Joyce Mikal-Flynn

Elizabeth Brim

Rosie Dauz

Marc Cruz

How Can I Serve?

"Life's most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?" - 

Dr. Martin Luther King

 

 

I read this quote and immediately recognized it as the perfect concept to launch my monthly blogs. I was in a tough space when I read this. Things were not going well. I was doubting myself and overwhelmed with commitments that took my focus away from the work I love to do, the work that makes me happy - working with and doing things for survivors and their families. This distress prompted me to pause and think about what I needed to do to remedy the situation. I stepped back, took some time to read, listen to others and think - and then I remembered Drs. Ed Diener and Sonja Lyubomirsky research about happiness - how to measure, experience and generate this emotion. Dr. Lyubomirsky found that 50% of our happiness level is determined by our genes. We are born with a range of happiness called our genetic set point or set range. When really good things or really bad things happen to us we respond and then return to our set point. Our circumstances, things we are 'told' to focus on, what job we have, how much money we have, our social status, our health, only accounts for 10 % of our happiness. This leaves 40 % unexplained or unaccounted for. Thus, there is a great deal a person can intentionally do to affect their level of happiness. This is called intentional activity. Dr. Diener followed individuals and looked at their moods over time, all over the world, to understand what really matters and how happiness works. It appears there is a bit of a formula to experiencing happiness. One major activity, one part of the formula is: purpose - resolving to do something for others.

 

For a long time psychologists studied depression and psychological illness with the goal of eliminating and ridding people of these problems. More recently, there has been a different research focus - studying health, wellbeing and happiness. Concentrating on what makes us well, what brings forth healing and how to acquire a peace of mind that supports happiness. What are the building blocks that led to a life not just free of illness but one that flourishes with deep and genuine happiness? I studied this in the context trauma. Instead of intently focusing on the pathology of trauma and the significant problems that occur in the aftermath, my research, along with others, found that one can and does experience amazing growth post trauma. These events bring forth profound opportunities to evolve; spiritually, emotionally and physically. The research supporting Metahab involved listening to survivors who, over time, grew and found true happiness in the aftermath of traumatic events - recognizing why but more importantly how this growth was accomplished. The building blocks to Metahab involve intentional activities, mindsets and behaviors specifically directed toward moving forward. A key intention and behavior involves purpose. Survivors, after time, recognized purpose - ways to be of service. This behavior brought forth a remedy to their distress, grief and depression, guiding them toward happiness and posttraumatic growth.

 

Martin Luther King's statement motivates me to keep pushing. To keep the faith regarding my purpose and service. My valued friend, Dr. Bridget Parsh reminded me of this several years ago. Lacking confidence and filled with fear about writing my first book, she quietly but forcefully reminded me, "it's not about you...you found out something people need to know. You owe it to them to share this information." I frequently remind myself of those powerful words and message. Surviving my own traumatic event, experiencing all the angst, fear and frustration associated with recovery - I get it. I can't forget or discount the valuable lessons learned. I recognize the mindset inspired by Victor Frankl - a growth mindset that challenges you to find some meaning in your suffering. Once you recognize this meaning and look toward a hopeful future, you recognize what you can do instead of what you cannot - and you will be in a perfect place to do something for others. You will find your purpose. A way to do something of others. There are unlimited opportunities. Between natural and human disasters, some well-known, some known only to you and your family or communities, there is plenty to do. Call someone, ask how they are doing. Send a card. Take them a meal. Invite them out for a movie, coffee or a walk. Participate in an event to support a cause important to you. Keep it simple. These acts of intention, of kindness show others - they matter. Don't worry about knowing the right thing to say or having answers for their troubles. Just listen, have a laugh, give a hug. It goes a long way.

 

Sharing the message and system of metahab is my mission, my answer to 'what am I doing for others' and 'what makes me happy'. Let's keep this practice going. Let's do it together. Send me a message. Let me know what intentional choices you are making to be happy, to be of service. I would love to share what you are doing for others and your pathway to happiness.

 

With Gratitude,

Dr. JMF

What good shall I do today?

While driving from Sonoma to Santa Rosa recently I faced the cruel aftermath of the fires. It was overwhelming to witness firsthand the destruction. Isolated chimneys, metal staircases and foundations were surrounded by only ashes and burnt remnants of what was. Right next to these devastating scenes were homes completely untouched by the fires. Why were some homes in complete ruins while others, only yards away, left standing virtually untouched. Why? The ultimate question.

 

I asked this question many times after my brush with death. Why? Why me?  Why are some people hit so hard - so traumatized, while others not? Why did some loose it all while others, with homes almost right next to them, didn't? In Las Vegas, why were some people hit with bullets and other not? When answering the call to service, why do some of our brave military men and women come home and others do not? Why? Why them?

 

These are natural, even necessary questions but ones with no really good answers, at least not at the beginning of the trauma journey. A good friend and spiritual advisor told me: 'you might not actually understand that for many years'. What then becomes necessary and important is to find a glimmer of hope, accept what is and choose to live a worthy, grateful, purposeful life - daily. You don't need to start a business or write a book, just take time and remind yourself of what you have. Focus on gratitude and daily miracles and live a life that praises your survival and the gifts that have and will continue to come forth. There is a simplicity, a simple beauty to living life in this manner. Being simple does not mean it is not worthy. It means you got to the essence, the core of the message and experience. So make it your purpose to just be there for others affected by the recent fires or other traumas. Survivors don't need advice or an opinion, they need your presence. Extend a useful hand, a hug and hope for a brighter future. It goes a long way toward helping and healing.

 

For 2018, instead of asking 'why', or 'why me' let's ask instead, 'what good shall I do this day'?.Let the focus of our lives bringing kindness, gratitude and love into our relationships and lives, not in spite of our suffering but directly because of it. It is through the most devastating times that we find our humanity, strength and purpose. Metahab has ours - it is to serve all who have faced and survived destruction, trauma and the hopelessness that can result. To help survivors heal, recognize a new life and grow: to survive, adapt and amaze. Please join us in this mission. If you know someone suffering, in despair or struggling, let them know about us. Make part of your purpose helping ours.

 

Merry Christmas and wishing all a life full of gratitude, love and purpose in 2018

 

Team Metahab

 

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Thanksgiving and Miracles

There are only two ways to live your life: as though nothing is a miracle, or as though everything is a miracle.

-Albert Einstein

 

Miracles, they happen every day but at times we fail to pay attention to or recognize them. I am from Santa Rosa. I knew several people who lost their homes. This along with the killings in Sutherland, Texas and Las Vegas left me asking, why? Always the first question when facing horrible, extreme events. Why are we going thorough this? One can feel discouraged and angry-as if prayers are not answered, as if we are alone. Faiths and beliefs about what should be are significantly challenged. In the midst of this despair, we can miss a lot, like every day miracles. 

 

Recently, I invited my friend Teri to have lunch in Sonoma. She and her husband Mark lost their home in the Santa Rosa fires. Another friend of mine from Sacramento, Cheryl, joined us. We shared a meal and bottle of wine and just let Teri talk...about anything she wanted to. Cheryl didn't know Teri before we met for lunch, but without saying a word, Cheryl paid the entire bill. When Teri realized this, she was moved to tears and said, "it is overwhelming to see and experience the amazing kindness from others, many of whom I don't even know or never met before".

 

Miracles are goodness. They are kindnesses, sometimes from people just passing through our lives, other times imparted by dear friends who are there for us. The film: Miracles from Heaven, tells us they are Gods way of letting us know "He is here.You are not alone".  So...be a part of a miracle. During this season of gratitude, let someone know - "you are not alone". Perhaps out of your own pain, confusion and struggle, you can feel better by lifting the spirt of someone else. As you bring forth the miracle you let others know, 'you are not alone'. In this process and sharing you feel happy - you experience your own miracle. Let's choose this path. The one that brings us from, Survival to Adaptation to Amazing.

 

Happy Thanksgiving from Team Metahab

 

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The Northern California Fires

his trauma is so far reaching. So much was destroyed. Growing up in Santa Rosa - I know how close this community is. If your home or business was not destroyed, you knew someone who suffered a loss. How do you start to get things back on track? How do you begin to move forward? Sometimes it is doing little things- something simple. I met a friend for lunch. She and her husband lost everything. I wanted her to get away and talk. I simply listened. She took me through that night and cried, not because of the losses, she said, but because, "it is hard to take in all the kindness and support that has been given".

 

Ursuline High School, now St. Rose, and Cardinal Newman High School were severely damaged. All six children in my family attended these schools. I heard that St. Vincent De Paul High School in Petaluma scheduled a Mass to pray for and spaghetti feed to raise money for these schools on Saturday, October 21st. Several family members and friends attended. It was heartwarming to see how St. Vincent's principle, parents and student body extended a huge helping hand. We overlooked the rivalries and instead, looked at commonalities and directly provided assistance. 

 

Finally, I had a chance to speak with Dr. Patrick Wuthrich, an emergency room physician at Kaiser Santa Rosa. He shared stories about that night and the following days. This was a special story. As they evacuated patients to the Santa Rosa VA, he was approached by 4 men who simply said, "what do you need doc? We are here to help". He sent them to the person in charge and witnessed how immediately, they moved beds, mopped floors, emptied waste cans...answering any request. He asked them, "are you medics?" They simply said, "No Sir. We are Marines, what else do you need?" Dr. Wuthrich also praised the American Red Cross. He was completely impressed and inspired by their work, their system and how they brought organization to chaos. They provided guidance and amazing assistance.

 

So, if you would like to help, start by doing something simple. Call a family member or friend, invite them out, let them talk and start to process the events and losses. Do not worry about fixing anything, just listen. Host a small event to bring direct funding or specific supplies to schools that lost it all. Lastly, consider making a financial donation to the American Red Cross by clicking here. I now know, first hand, the value of their contributions.

 

"The Red Cross brought an immediate presence of organization and structure to an inherently chaotic and traumatic situation." 

- Dr. Patrick Wuthrich DO, Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa and Santa Rosa resident

 

Metahab is here to help. 

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For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

This summer was a wonderful reminder of seasons and purpose. I attended the birth of my fifth grandchild, celebrated my husband's 65th birthday and 2 grandsons birthdays. I also had the privilege of participating in the American Cancer Society Relay for Life in Santa Rosa to honor my niece, Paula Marie. My brother Jude, his wife Paula and my husband Terry and I walked around the track, looking at all the lovely luminaries, each one holding a story of courage and brave battles. As I walked, heard the speeches and looked at the video full of pictures honoring survivors as well as those who passed - I realized how remarkably strong these people are. Paula Marie and her family endured years of treatments, good news, bad news, and all the emotional ups and downs associated with this journey. We tend to honor athletes for their strength. But I realized - Paula Marie was really the strong one. Born with cerebral palsy and mild cognitive delays, she was diagnosed with bone cancer at age 13 necessitating a below the knee amputation. She and her family dealt with a reoccurrence at age 15 requiring partial removal of her left lung. She came through all that. I never saw her without a charming smile and a "Hi Aunt Joycie". She loved parties, went to school, participated in the Special Olympics, and had a boyfriend. At the tender age of 35, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was too much. After one more long and courageous fight, Paula Marie left us - in the loving arms of her mother, there when she came into the world and there to send her to heaven.

Thank you Jude, Paula, your family and especially Paula Marie for reminding us how to live, love and be in the moment.

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Let's remember who the strong ones are and learn from them. Revealing unbelievable courage, they faced cancer diagnoses along with months, sometimes years of brutal therapy and unknown outcomes. 'There is a time for every purpose'. Take time for each purpose. Unplug. Don't hold grudges. Connect with others and focus on your life's purpose.

To support our ongoing purpose and to honor these heroes, Metahab has joined with Talos Health Solution and Esperity, A Worldwide Portal for Cancer Patient Information, in creating the first American Cancer E-Conference. This unique virtual conference, concentrating on posttraumatic growth, will be available in November to patients, families, caregivers and clinicians. 

 

If you would like to support this event and find out more about it - go to www.americancancereconference.com and contact  

Elizabeth@metahab.com.