In the fall of 2020, Forge partnered with the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Master of Occupational Therapy (OT) program in a year-long project to collect stories and share experiences from breast cancer survivors and their loved ones. Students in the Groups & Communities course learn to work with organizations, providing “systems-level OT” versus the traditional “individual-level OT” through hands-on, service-based learning.
Occupational therapists help clients achieve goals that are meaningful to them, so that they can do what they need and want to do in their daily lives. Most people are familiar with OT terms of an individual role helping patients gain independence after an illness or injury. In this course, students are taught that they can apply the same individual-level knowledge to working with organizations to meet their goals. When asked how it has been applying OT practices to an organization, the students said, “It’s been useful implementing what we have learned in the classroom within an actual organization. Being able to work with clients while developing our project is something that we all will cherish as we begin our careers as practitioners post graduation! Being able to help Forge increase their visibility within the community has been a unique experience and we are excited to see Forge’s growth in the future.”
In partnering with UAB OT, one of Forge’s goals is to find new and creative ways to tell breast cancer stories. We know that by building a community for survivors to feel comfortable and share about their experiences, survivors and their loved ones can feel empowered to find a common bond and community with others.
As part of this project, UAB OT students helped to create a storytelling plan enabling Forge to reach other individuals in the community who have been impacted by breast cancer. After developing a questionnaire, UAB OT students interviewed several survivors, volunteers, and friends of Forge to share their stories, including initial feelings when they learned of their diagnosis and their journey. It is through these interviews and stories that we hope to share not only experiences, but also strength and hope through adversity.
As the semester concludes, our UAB OT student cohort shared, “Hearing the survivors talk about the value of connecting with someone who is going through what you have been through is deeply moving. We found it very meaningful to be able to witness the amount of vulnerability these women shared with us throughout such difficult times in their lives. The strength in each of their journey’s is absolutely remarkable and we believe that the values they shared with us can be applied to anything in life. It is amazing to witness the impact of supportive relationships when battling through hard times.”
We look forward to sharing more about this project and the impact Forge has had on breast cancer survivorship on both our social media platforms and our website. If you or someone you know would like to share your story, please contact Forge at 205.838.6159 or by emailing [email protected]