Sometimes I think my brain is totally emptied of any thought I would want to share with other human beings. I wonder if this is the end of writing this blog. And then life happens. Today life happened in my lymphedema support group meeting at the hospital. In case you are not aware of lymphedema, it is the accumulation of fluid under the skin and can be caused by many different variables. Often, it is caused by the removal of lymph nodes during cancer surgery and so the group sitting around the table today was comprised primarily of cancer patients.
Ellen, in her 80â€™s, was diagnosed with breast cancer six months ago and just completed treatment. But her sorrow goes deeper than that. She is trying to come to terms with her daughterâ€™s recent diagnosis of stage 4 breast cancer. Korrine, is a ten year survivor of breast cancer. But this afternoon, she is scheduled for a biopsy on a suspicious lump on her remaining breast. Sharon is struggling with increasing lymphedema, even though she is removed from her surgery by many years. And meâ€¦ I am waiting on CT scan results that will come in two days to tell me if I am holding my own. The canvas of this group is colored with grief and loss, strength and connection, and perseverance and faith.
Then my day at my therapy office started and I met with a client who has suffered with debilitating chronic pain since childhood. She shared that she had read my book and felt uncomfortable talking about her pain when I, too, had suffered with cancer. Beyond that, she had judged herself harshly for her own response to her long-term pain. She believed she should be â€śhandling it betterâ€ť.
I feel deep sorrow for all of the women I saw today who are in physical and emotional pain. I also felt distressed that so many of us compare our pain to see whether we have earned â€śthe rightâ€ť to our feelings of grief, fear, or pain. Are we as bad as that person? Do we have it as hard as they do? Are we handling it as well as they are? I would argue that we need to gently let go of our need for comparison and instead, embrace our ability to be self-compassionate. We are participating in life with our own unique experiences; with our own joys and challenges; with our own strengths and weaknesses. I believe we need to find acceptance with those experiences and all the thoughts and feelings that go with them. Not become the judge of them in order to determine their validity.
So I say a quiet prayer. A prayer or healing from pain for those in this world who suffer; A prayer for our collective ability to honor our individual suffering with self-compassion. Amen.
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