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Unpacking compounded suffering.

Updated: Apr 4, 2023

Words can wound. Words can heal.

I have witnessed countless telling lessons in the cancer care field. There was a beautiful young woman who was a working professional and recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She came to one of our You Can Thrive! non-profit supportive care clinics. During her initial intake, I asked her, “How are you doing? Are you ok?”

It was such a simple question. But it’s one that people, especially those in the medical field fail to ask so often!! I saw her shoulders shudder as she wiped her sweaty bald head, excusing herself for having a hot flash.

It was my job as the momma of this community to make initial contact and know who we were working with so they could be placed with the perfect practitioner for free holistic services, navigation and education. It’s common sense to me that the first step in healing is to foster environments where people feel safe. This is where we must do better in our medical and corporate structure. This is a pain point that we can leverage.

The pretty young mother talked to me about her kids and then we spoke about the deep fear of dying that she did not want to show her children. She was at the stage in chemo where she had just lost all her hair, and leading up to this she was gently introducing cancer to them by having informal conversations about Mommy’s new look. She needed to prepare them so that they would perhaps be a little less frightened by the way she would look moving forward. I was witnessing her whole body in pain and the entirety of her spirit barely holding on for the sake of her kids. I was honored to be holding space for her grief. Stroking her bald head looking down, I witnessed her face crumple as she started to become despondent. I said “What is it?”

Through her hands covering her face, she related an interaction that had just happened with her supervisor at work. It seemed that the previous day she was called into his office by this middle aged gentleman, who said that he needed to speak to her privately.

Now, I knew that this working mother was going through IV chemotherapy and other chemical therapies. This mother was putting her kids off to school in the morning, going straight to chemotherapy, throwing up in the bathroom before and after lunch, and with everything she had she was keeping a pleasant demeanor at her office.

After work she cooked dinner, all the while multi-tasking the constant needs of her young children. Later, doing laundry after putting her young kids to bed. Over drawn and nauseous she falls into a deep exhausted trench and sleeps a few hours, only to begin again in the morning. So much and with no breaks. All this with a sharp axe named ‘cancer’ hanging over her head in every single moment and onward into her tenuous future.

When her boss called her for a meeting, this valiant young mother probably thought he would be concerned and supportive. I’m sure she thought that perhaps he would offer to give her a few days or weeks off of work. Perhaps some paid leave during treatment? Instead, she was curtly asked if she could please wear a wig to the office. Her supervisor was concerned that their co-workers and clients may feel uncomfortable because she looked sick.

It was such a telling story. How we are told to coverup what is really and normal in life. A male in power, commanding a struggling mother with cancer that she was scaring people because of how she looked! At the hardest moment of her life, as she was being as brave as she could be. Courageous enough to not wear a wig, because the hot flashes from sudden estrogen depletion therapy overcame her need to look ‘normal’ and a wig was unbearable.

I’ve heard stories like this for so long. This one story though says so much about our society. The compassionless paradigm of profit over humanity. The dumbing down of emotional connection that made him do that. He literally told this beautiful woman who is doing all she can and being so courageous, break. Rather than uplifting her, as he could have done so easily. It was indicative of the broken paradigm in which we often operate. It is a spotlight on what needs changing. To the injustice of it, would we tell a man in the same situation with cancer treatment who went bald to wear a wig?

Was he thinking properly as a human citizen? He was the boss— doing what was right for the corporate needs in his mind. We are consistently squeezed in situations where profits outstrip humanity. Why are we living in a world where we are told to pretend if you are sick? Everyone gets sick! Everyone will DIE eventually. Whey is that shameful?

It is cowardly to order any individuals to wear a wig, or anything to disguise what is real in life. People are suffering and we can compound that or relieve it. Let us not operate in spiritually bypass. Let us not turn aways from a person in need. We are expected to pay attention to the bottom line at the expense of the individual. Unacceptable. The broken people in this paradigm choose only to see what is going to feed the machinery of corporate profits.

Touching her shoulder I looked deep into her salty eyes and said with soft, firm resolve, “This should never have happened to you. That was not right. I am so sorry that miserable person was so uncaring towards you.” She let it hit her and wailed, and in that soft scream was the dam breaking.

How do we create a more caring, less hostile environment so that we are leaving positive energy behind us in our interactions. We know that it’s hard for people to feel safe in a corporate medical environment, but the workplace should not compound medical trauma.

By simply stating that this was incorrect action, this woman felt seen in her human plight. We can do that. We can hold a compassionate presence in our world for each person to be witnessed so that the flood of angry tears that come will heal. So that things stop being compressed and blocked which leads to ‘dis-ease’.

The burning tears allowed her to let go and release the anger and injustice of not just this interaction but of the cancer itself. She was then able to feel safe enough to unpack the trauma. At that moment healing began. She once again felt that she could get through this. Adding holistic services reduced the side effects and she did get through it, eventually.

Unpacking the compounded suffering brought on by a systemic structure that has lost its humanity and credibility, is pivotal. Imposing sweeping rules and regulations rather than individual compassion has created entropy in many areas. We can find ways to address injustice in our personal lives that will reflect in society as a whole. We know that there are better systems and structures we can implement. But we must be courageous.

How can we find and walk the path to heal our world, when it is currently so enthralled by the surface? Our world that is so deeply beautiful and bountiful is waiting for the change in management so that we do not walk ourselves over a social media and profit-over-people cliff.

Can we as a society change the big picture in time? Are profits impeding our ability to even dream of a peaceful society or clean environment? Has this crippled our ability to stand, live or act in our humanity? Is this who we think we are? Is this who we want to be?

How can we realize the connection and interconnection in a systemic structure that is fractured and angry and puts profits before everything? Has technology outstripped humanity?

We must take a long look a the impersonalized format that the corporatized structure has imposed onto our everyday lives, and rail against injustice with courage. What thought patterns and personal freedom do we choose?

If we strive to have a unified and coherent world we can hardwire compassion rather than separation and regulation in our interactions. It is clear that we must embody peace to have that in our world, rather than war. We do this individually by standing strong in compassion in order to embody true connection that will heal us as individuals and then as a reflection, our world.

I see what is available to us in the ‘wish’ fulfilled and I charge each person to be a vehicle of manifestation. I humbly stand doing my part and asking that we all try to create more peace.

Founder You Can Thrive!

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