Author Spotlight: Fern Buszowski
We are pleased to introduce Fern Buszowski. Fern recently published Embrace Life, Embrace Hope with us, which is now available through the Word Alive Press Bookstore, and everywhere fine Christian books are sold. We asked Fern to share a little bit about her new book and her writing. But first, a little bit about her.
Fern Buszowski, a recent oral cancer survivor, counsellor, and retired pastor of counselling and soul care, has dedicated her life to empowering others to grow, develop, and find hope. With two master’s degrees, one in ministry and leadership and the other in counselling, she uniquely weaves concepts and practices from different fields to help others learn to cultivate sacred space for their souls.
She served most of her career giving back to her community in non-profit, educational, and charity settings. Her unique combination of education has equipped her to draw from the best of two worlds to provide holistic counselling and soul care for many individuals, groups, and couples seeking healing, wholeness, and growth.
Professionally, Fern has written and designed training programs and resources, Soul Care Companioning, Unstuck, and Sojourning, and developed peer-led programs to train leaders who wish to journey alongside those seeking healing and wholeness. She has also spent time equipping and developing her own teams of volunteer lay leaders to provide care and compassionate support in various settings. She has provided coaching, team-building workshops, and coach training in local and international settings for charity-based leaders. These training programs have concentrated on enhancing team dynamics, communication, and collaboration in international settings with remote teams.
Her extensive experience with personality assessments and tools (such as EQ-I 2.0, Birkman, GRIP-Birkman, and Myers Briggs I/II) have helped her provide training for undergraduate behavioural science students who are preparing for practicum placements.
She now spends much of her free time being a grandma to her four delightful grandchildren, writing, painting, connecting with friends, and spending time outdoors. This includes training her dog Bailey, who aspires to be a therapy visitation dog encouraging others. Fern Buszowski lives with her husband Steve in the foothills of Alberta with their ginger-coloured mini-Australian labradoodle. They have two grown married daughters and two sons-in-law.
Q: What inspired you to write this book?
A: As a counsellor and retired pastor of counselling and soul care, I thought I knew everything about how to live a life of faith and hope. I’m that person who once thought they had it all together -- that is, until I was diagnosed with the devastating news of having oral cancer. My life was instantly turned upside down. An 8-hour surgery, a reconstructed tongue, treatment, disfigurement, and recovery, followed by more illnesses, quickly overwhelmed my once optimistic outlook.
Everything I once believed, valued, and knew to be true was instantly challenged. Why cancer? Why me? Where was God in this? Was I good enough? Was I still loveable? What’s next?
One thing that was consistent throughout my healing journey was writing. I kept a private blog during my eleven days in the hospital as well as afterward to keep friends and family up-to-date on my progress since this all occurred during pandemic restrictions. Many enjoyed my writing and encouraged me to write a book. The more I reflected on the idea of publishing the more I realized that we all go through crises and life transitions, yet we don’t often prepare for the unexpected through caring for our souls and building resilient habits that will help us along the way.
Q: You talk about writing as healing. Did you find that you healed as you wrote the book?
A: Yes, writing has always been an important tool I use for my own healing process.
I am one of those sporadic journallers who writes to understand my own difficult situations and make sense of challenging experiences. Writing helps get all the words that can roll around in my head out and into a new, external place where they can settle and get organized instead of bothering me. When that happens, I’m better able to make sense of my circumstances and heal well. Facing stage III oral cancer was one of those times. And in many ways, writing gave me a much-needed voice because during surgery I had to have a tracheostomy to help me breathe which meant I couldn’t speak and then with the impact of having part of my tongue removed and then reconstructed, it took a while before I could speak comfortably and coherently. Writing helped me gain back that voice.
Q: The genre of this book is Inspirational Memoir with Self-help. What does that mean?
A: Well, the book’s foundation is memoir – personal stories. Some are cancer-related, and others are life experiences that provide examples from which the reader can learn about cultivating resilient ways. The one thing the stories have in common is they all talk about challenges and how we can overcome them by building different skills in our lives that cultivate resilient ways. I integrated my own insights so there is a reflective teaching style that is integrated into the book. It becomes inspirational as I apply these themes to my journey of recovery and finding ways to live life well even in difficult circumstances – not just pushing through and ignoring those challenges.
At the end of each chapter, I have a highlights section that outlines some of the key takeaways from each chapter as well as a reflections section with questions where the reader can take the time to make connections between the concepts covered with their stories. Often when we read a story, we can connect it to our own stories. Books can change us and help us grow. In many ways, we can learn from a writer about how to look at our own stories differently. The reflections section is designed to facilitate this.
The book is filled with opportunities for the reader to take their time and reflect on their own stories. It’s not a fast read. It can be read fast, but benefits come with reflection and interaction with the stories.
Q: Because your story is about cancer, does this mean the book is just for cancer patients?
A: Crises, suffering, and challenging life transitions are universal experiences -- no one is immune from them. Most of us have dreams for our future thinking things will pan out just as expected. Yet, when life goes awry and crises strike us or our loved ones, we can experience confusion, overwhelm, disappointment, and worse yet we can get stuck and unable to find a way out. Learning to let go of unanswered questions and the vision of the “old me” requires that we reexamine our values, beliefs, identity, and life purpose with compassion and insight.
So, in short, no it is not just for cancer patients. Many others will enjoy reading the book and benefit from it as well.
With this in mind, Embrace Life, Embrace Hope is for anyone going through a challenging period in their life who wants to uncover ways to cultivate wholeness and resilience through unexpected times. Many of my pre-readers have told me that although they have not experienced cancer firsthand it has helped them learn new ways to think and process their circumstances. Some have said they learned new ways to think about crises which helped them learn to get unstuck and find ways to trust in the waiting when the answers are not readily available.
When we go through challenging days, we can put so much focus only on the negatives, and sometimes our memories need a little help remembering what is good and true. It is my hope that my book will inspire readers to keep looking for the good along the way.
Many of us spend all sorts of time planning and preparing for holidays, weddings, and other life events but many of us don’t consider how we can prepare ourselves for some of the unexpected challenges, transitions, or periods in our life. Learning to cultivate soul care practices that address body, soul, and spirit can help us build that resiliency.
I think small groups and book clubs would also benefit because they will be intentional about reading and reflecting and asking great questions. And when I’m available I’d be happy to connect with a group via Zoom to answer questions. I also have a free handout of questions for such groups to help generate great discussion times. They just need to contact me (contact information in the Connecting Points section below).
Q: You are planning a Facilitator book and Participant Guide? Tell me about these follow-up books you are creating.
A: There is one important and surprising lesson I learned from having cancer and that is that the worst part is not the surgery and treatment; it is learning to live well every day afterward because most times we are just trying to survive through treatments and don’t have the support or resources to process our experiences through a faith-based lens. Many of us don’t know what normal is anymore since we are living a new normal and just trying to figure things out. It is not an oft-talked-about transition period moving from “finished treatment” to “return to life.” Yet, the lingering discomfort seems to simmer just below the surface for many of us. Facing cancer is traumatic and it affects all parts of us, not just our bodies. It also affects our caregivers – family and friends – and I think we heal best in community with one another.
At my local church, we’ll be starting a faith-based pilot program called Hope Connections, sharing an unexpected journey of cancer in community. We will be connecting cancer survivors as well as cancer caregivers who have embarked on a cancer journey while they learn to embrace life, embrace hope in community, and learn ways to cultivate wholeness and resilience through the unexpected and not just survive but thrive!
Resources are currently being developed for the program and there will be a Facilitator’s Manual as well as a Participant Guide for those wishing to lead such groups. We hope to train and share resources with other leaders so churches can run similar types of groups in their own church communities.
Q: Tell me about where the profits are going.
A: I consider my surgeons as some of my favorite heroes! Consequently, I’m awfully excited about being able to support our medical professionals as they uncover cures and treatments for cancer patients. Recent research forecasts that 40% of the population will experience cancer in their lifetime. That’s an astounding number to imagine!
Our surgeons spend numerous hours each week teaching at universities, conducting research, training residents, and operating while faithfully caring for their patients with great degrees of skill and sacrifice – they work extremely hard and always toward the best outcomes possible. I am grateful for the care they have shown me and continue to show me while under their care and I want to give back in any way I can. Consequently, I will be donating all profits from the sales of the books to support cancer research through the Ohlson Research Initiatives Greatest Needs fund or toward support groups for cancer patients and their families.
I have also set up a foundation fund called “Embrace Life, Embrace Hope” where prospective donors can donate to this fund and obtain a tax receipt. The donation link can be found below.
Finally, we have a book donation program where readers can buy a book in honour of a loved one who has faced cancer. The giver will receive a blessing card and a sticker will be placed inside the book with the donor’s name and given to a church library, hospital, or local library.
Q: Do you have any upcoming book signings or events you are involved in?
A: I am available to speak at churches, bookstores, libraries, conferences, charity organizations, and events. I just recently spoke at a ladies-night-out outreach event for 150 women. The talk was called “Strokes of Gold: Finding Beauty in the Cracks” and we did a great watercolour activity as well. Imagine 150 people painting at once – it was an amazing sight to behold. There was lots of buzz and conversation around the tables and many left encouraged and inspired in seeking wholeness in new ways!
I am just starting to look for speaking engagements so nothing official is set yet. If you are interested in contacting me about speaking events, please contact me using the contact form below.
Find and follow Fern, here:
Contact Form: https://hopeblooming.ca/contact/
Donations: Embrace Life, Embrace Hope Fund