Volunteers Preserve Stories at Huntsman Cancer Institute


(Photo by Jameson Clifton)

(Photo by Jameson Clifton)
(Photo by Jameson Clifton)

For nine years the Living Legacy Program has helped preserve the life stories of cancer patients in the Huntsman Cancer Institute.
Living Legacy is an ongoing project of YourStory, a program supported by the Documentary Studies Program in the College of Humanities. YourStory allows any Utahn to create a record of their lives for $30.
The program was started by Meg Brady, director of YourStory and a former professor of English and Ethnic Studies at the U. It started with a class Brady taught and has continued since.
YourStory has done various projects over the years ranging from documenting the history of Copperton, Utah to recording the stories of refugees in Salt Lake, but the program’s longest and ongoing program is recording the life stories of cancer patients in Salt Lake.
Brady said since 2005, they have recorded more than 800 stories and have no plans on slowing down. She is now getting ready to train more volunteers and hopes to quantify some data on the program’s success.
“I would also like us to do some actual research on how telling your life story can help the healing process,” Brady said.
Brady wants physicians at the Huntsman Cancer Institute to utilize more integrated types of medicine, such as story telling.
Despite not knowing much about the project, Margarita Ruiz, a senior in health promotion and education, said it seems like a helpful experience for patients.
“I think it would be really cool if they could listen to other patients to hear how they’ve handled what they’re going through,” she said.
Brady retired from the U in 2012 and has continued to volunteer her time to the YourStory program. She devotes most of her time to the stories at the Huntsman Cancer Institute because she said those stories are the most important to record.
“I think that this is a positive way of reflecting on their lives and it leaves a legacy for their families,” she said.
Brady encourages everyone to participate in telling their individual story and said students should start with their family, particularly their grandparents. She also said the program has had a tremendous effect on her life.
“I have observed the power of stories to heal people, the incredible resilience of people in hardship, and the rich diversity of the human experience,” Brady said. “It has made me so aware of the gift it is to listen to others.”
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