Jean Malavoy, Our hero of Kindness

Today is Father’s Day.  A day to celebrate fathers around the world and I chose the HIH platform to honour ours.  Meet Jean Malavoy - father of five and our hero.

“My father inspired us with his love of the arts and life itself.  His support and affection has always kept us strong and grounded. He is my rock.” Pierre Malavoy

“My father has guided us through our toughest challenges and lifted us to accomplish our biggest achievements.”  Isabelle Malavoy-Mundle

“My father, however busy he may be, will always take the time to make each and every one of his children feel special. He is the reason we hold ourselves to such a high standard. To say that we are lucky to have him is an understatement.”  Erik Malavoy

“My father is a wonderful human being with his warmth and positivity.  He helps me achieve my goals and provides me with life advice. He has been through so much and always remains positive. “Andre Malavoy-Mundle

“My father has taught us the true meaning of human kindness, acceptance and love. In moments of weakness, I think of his strength and it carries me through more than he would ever know.” Anouk Malavoy  

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Jean immigrated to Montreal from France when he was 2 years old.  Montreal would be his home for 26 years. He and my mother got married when he was 28 and moved to Toronto. I was born when he was 30.  I am the eldest of his five children. Having suffered from having an absentee father, my father had vowed to be very present in his children’s lives.  He succeeded at this by remaining an important part of all our lives and always making us a priority. He was not only present as a parent but as a mentor, teaching us to never judge others and to never treat a person differently due to status.   He has the gift of bring truly present, connecting and elevating those who cross his path. He is my mentor, role model and has always made us feel loved. As he embarks on a new life journey I wanted my father to know the immense impact he has had and continues to make in the lives of those around him.

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Our father was first faced with severe illness 8 years ago.  He had to receive an emergency triple bypass due to severe blockage in his arteries.  The day after his surgery, his heart stopped and he had to be brought back to life. Two years later he would be diagnosed with advanced skin cancer (a melanoma) on his cheek and underwent surgery, followed by a battle with prostate cancer and a blood bacterial infection.  He would survive all of this with a smile. His secret weapon was kindness. His traits would shine through when being faced with intense physical and mental challenges. He had moments of sadness and anxiety as one would in the face of adversity but chose to wake up every day with a smile and a genuine warm heartedness for all those who surrounded him.  I never cease to be amazed at his ability to see the positive in very difficult situations.

He shared with me that through his moments of anxiety he has sought out his own ways of dealing with the challenges of his health issues.  He has discovered autohypnosis and watches videos online to help him handle claustrophobic treatments and procedures. When spending long hours in the hospital he also resorts to his love of reading.  A good book allows him to temporarily escape his reality for a world of imagination, possibility and adventure. Rather than fight what the universe is sending his way, he uses it as a tool to better himself.  One month ago my father found out that a third cancer had presented itself within his body. His treatment is invasive and will require 35 sessions of radiation. The medical field tackles cancer treatments with physical cures without a patient’s mental state being properly addressed.  As I watch my father meet challenge after challenge head on, I began to question the medical validity of what I was witnessing. Could mental wellbeing play an intricate role in healing one’s body?

I invite you to read an interesting interview I conducted with Sam Gibbs relating to the power of a positive mind and mental wellbeing.  Sam Gibbs is a certified Osteopath with a Masters in Human Nutrition, Functional Medicine and Applied Neuroscience. As a father of 3 himself, he is a strong believer in the connection of the mind body and soul.

Is there a correlation between physical healing and mental well-being?

Sam Gibbs: Absolutely. There is no debate in the current literature that physical and mental wellbeing are linked, but feeling well does not always equal healing well. These days there is more focus on how we can measure these phenomena, and just how much the two can be separated and effectively treated independently. i.e. what is the “best way” to leverage the mental state for physical change, and vice versa. This conversation has gained lot of momentum with the popularization of mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) and the work of John Kabat-Zinn. Related neuroendocrine and immune research has, quite literally, created new fields of study. This is no longer just about “feeling good”, there are tangible returns on mental fitness. 

Can a constant negative/stressed outlook lead to acute illness?

Sam Gibbs: The immune system is directly linked to the stress response. Inflammatory cytokines are molecules that shuttle inflammatory signals and guide responses of the immune cells. Whether you are sick or stressed the same triggering messengers can be released in the body and can wreak havoc. Once immune defences are lowered, viruses and infections have a chance to bloom. Skin, lungs, gut are common targets, but technically no tissue is exempt from a troublesome response.  The longer and stronger the stress, the more profound the sickness reaction can be and the more difficult it can be to reach resolution.

Do you feel spiritual consciousness can help people battle cancer?

Sam Gibbs: The brain is a powerful organ that is only starting to be understood. The networks involved in what we associate with spiritual wellbeing have indeed been shown to help with many chronic disease states. There might be many factors involved, but there seems to be real benefit in ideas like belief, hope and intangibility. In fact, these very concepts helped form the pillars of care of prominent health centres like the Mayo Clinic.

What are manners in which people can release stress/promote spiritual healing when they are A: the individual that is sick B: the support person for the sick individual?

Sam Gibbs: Entire programs are devoted to stress reduction and management at all levels of restoration. The operative role might lie in returning control of the body to the patient. This can be achieved in something as simple as breathing or remedial exercise, or as complex as Eastern healing practices. Caring for the sick can also produce a great deal of stress, so it is wise for the caregiver to unplug themselves from the immediate situation from time to time. Conveniently, the same practices and interventions can be used. Generally speaking, people find solace in activities that allow everything from introspection and solitude to action and community. The final common pathway of either direction is typically joy and/or wellbeing, so these two outcomes should be the ultimate goals of any stress reduction practice.