Sarbjit Jawandha: journey through grief and cancer
Sarbjit Jawandha has never been one to sit down and meditate, engage in art, or watch a Netflix series.
A PhD graduate and busy teacher at Khalsa School in Calgary, Sarbjit has always been highly motivated, self-disciplined and decisive; spending any free moments on cognitive pursuits like reading or writing research papers. When her mind needed a break, Sarbjit would turn her attention to physical goals like doing 100 push-ups a day, or training for a marathon. Rarely did she find herself idle.
But cancer came along and taught Sarbjit some new lessons. Lessons in self-care, like finding strength and stillness in yoga. Lessons in relaxation gleaned from losing herself in art. And yes, even lessons in zoning out – watching a TV series recommended by her 14-year-old daughter.
Cancer on the Scene
At 48, while still reeling from the recent losses of both her parents and her grandmother back in India, Sarbjit discovered a lump in her breast. Ironically the lump turned out to be just a cyst, but two other small lumps that were detected in the process turned out to be cancer.
“The first time I heard the word cancer, I thought ‘no – it cannot be happening to me.’ I was in shock … completely numb,” said Sarbjit.
In her usual way, Sarbjit thought of her family first, and quickly gathered her wits to consider how best to protect her husband and daughter from the challenges ahead.
“Right away I decided that I was going to be the most positive person on earth,” she said. “No matter how hard it would be, I would stay positive and strong, even if I had to fake it. So this is how I did my best. Even if I had to fake it. I played that role well,” she said.
The Wellspring Connection
In the months that followed her treatment of surgery and radiation, Sarbjit discovered Wellspring. It was there that she found community and discovered the joy of art and other programs that taught that her to look inward and find untapped sources of relaxation and joy.
“Even in the worst journey in your life you have to find the best part, and for me the best part of having cancer is Wellspring,” she said. “There are many aspects – not just one. First of all – at Wellspring you don’t feel alone, you feel connected to others. There are many people going through cancer, for some it is much harder or worse, but you learn from everyone, how they cope – what they do.
The other thing about Wellspring is, it gives you purpose. When you have fatigue and you can’t go to work, you need a reason to get up every day – a plan – otherwise your life is just eating and sleeping. I wake up and know I have a class at 10 o’clock. It might be Brain Fog or art, any class gives me a plan, a reason to sit up, get up, get ready for the day.”
“Art is my favourite. I love spending my time there drawing, painting, creating a collage. In art classes people are so creative, I can lose myself in it,” she said, adding, “At Wellspring there is no pressure and nobody judging you. You are just free to be yourself and to work at your own pace.”
Another program Sarbjit enjoyed was Digital Storytelling. In this program she and others worked with facilitators to create their own digital story depicting their personal cancer experiences. This is Sarbjit’s Digital Story.
“I’m so grateful for Wellspring, it is beyond expression. Wellspring has helped me to come out of that dark state of mind – to get to the other side,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how positive or strong you are, you need other people to motivate you – push you – show you your strength. Wellspring is a place for this; a place to recover.”