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CancerLynx - we prowl the net
July 11, 2004

Life Tapes Project:

Naama Hirschberger, MA, Alison Siegel, MA, Ernest H. Rosenbaum, MD

What is the Life Tapes Project?
How are Life Tapes conducted?
Questions for you
Participant's comments

What is the Life Tapes Project?
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The diagnosis of cancer poses a powerful threat to the emotional stability of a patient and their family. It can create a state of communication paralysis and denial, even when family members want to talk freely. The forging of family support, however, is an essential component to physical and emotional healing.

The Life Tapes Project began in January 2002 following nearly 20 years of development by Dr. Ernest Rosenbaum. It is being sponsored by the Cancer Supportive Care Program with the goals of providing a safe, nurturing environment to open communication between family members touched by a diagnosis of cancer.

During a time when the psychological tension produced by disease frequently drives people apart, the communal production of a permanent record of a family's history, stories and legacies can be a powerful reminder of family bonds. The taping process not only allows participants to present themselves to people who are significant to them, but also fosters self-observation, both of which are powerful coping tools. A permanent copy of the interview, as either a videotape or DVD recording allows future generations to identify the roots and philosophies of their ancestors.

How are Life Tapes conducted?
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Interviews are generally conducted in the comfort of a patient's home, although it may be scheduled in a hospital or clinic setting if necessary. All family members, or whomever the patient wishes to have present, are encouraged to participate in the 1 ½ to 2 hour videotaped interview. A videotape and DVD of the interview is professionally edited then provided free of charge to the family (please allow up to several weeks).

This program is made free of cost by being part of a study on the effects of participating in the LTP, so that we can better understand and meet the needs of persons and families confronted with life-threatening illness. The person being interviewed must be willing to complete confidential questionnaires at three points in time (taking less than an hour each) and a brief telephone interview at the end. Many participants feel additional satisfaction from knowing that they may be helping us to help others in the future who face a life threatening illness.

What topics are generally discussed during an interview? The patient is encouraged to choose topics that are meaningful to them. Suggestions include, but are not limited to:

Questions for you
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If you would like to create a life tape for your family, here are some possible questions for an interview.

  1. What is your first memory of life (or one of your significant first memories)
  2. Tell me about your family history (genealogy): who were your grandparents( mention names, first and last), where did the come from, what did they do for living, what kind of people they were. If you knew them personally, what kind of relationships did you have with them. Are there any powerful memories you have of them?
  3. Same for parents (and siblings)
  4. Tell me about the values you absorbed in your family of origin. What values you decided to transfer to your own family.
  5. Significant life events: Talk about living your parent's home, meeting your partner (if both partners present each one can tell his version), exiting moments in raising the kids.
  6. Can you talk about your philosophy of life- What are the values that are most important to you. What kept you going and hoping during difficult times (If the family wants to talk about struggling with cancer, thats a good time to rise that question- ask each family member about his unique way of coping).
  7. What is your personal legacy to the significant people in your life. What way do you want them to follow in the future.

Participant's comments:
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"Since learning about my wife's cancer, we all have had a need to share the warmth of our past- not only the history, but the emotional past as well. The taped interview was especially important at this time as it was a way to focus on areas that are very meaningful to all of us."

"I felt great support from all after having shared my feelings. This was a beginning for me to open up."

"I felt this was a non threatening way to bring us together that brought up many intense emotions."

The Life Tapes Project was closed July 1, 2007. For those interested Conducting A Life Tape Interview

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