The Price of Healing

price healingPam Cordano & Anne HefFron Write

Pam Cordano:

Anne Heffron and I recently created an adoptee retreat. A dream for both of us. As an adoptee, I’ve attended and facilitated many non-adoptee retreats, and the little adoptee in me has always benefitted, but privately, because the retreats had nothing specifically to do with adoption. So to create a retreat centered on the healing of adoptees—Wow! How cool is that?!

Two things happened after Anne posted our retreat invitation on Facebook. First, a woman emailed me privately asking how I’ve healed enough to help other adoptees. Let me just say upfront that my adoption was complicated. I was born, neglected, starved and physically abused for 6 months before being adopted. A good Samaritan psychiatrist had me removed from my mother 3 times in 1965 before CPS was formed. He probably saved my life. Needless to say, I have a traumatized brain and have had a lot to overcome. By 6 months I had stopped crying and smiling, so it took a while to get my face and body unfrozen. But healing myself and others as much as possible is my passion, my life’s work. And I believe in it.

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The Extraordinary Superpowers of Adoptees

extra superpwr adoptee 1I woke up this morning thinking about Superman. We share an eerily similar story.

Our Planets Exploded. The enormity of this disaster for Kal-El (Superman’s original name) and for his parents, is essential to everything that follows. Without this gargantuan and permanent catastrophe, there would be no Superman.

Naturally conceived and birthed by our parents, Superman and I lived on our native planet, with all its flaws and delights. We were the newest additions to a long familial lineage. We basked in genetic resonance, if only for a short time. We had names chosen for us by our parents. For a moment, our lives were intact, though destruction was looming.

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Generosity is the Best Medicine

camp kesum magic 1Notes from Camp Kesem

A few months ago I was sitting in a cafe with a colleague discussing (ho hum) billing practices. Suddenly, a college kid entered. “Firefly?!” “Slider?!” They embraced and Disney sparkles surrounded them. What was that? I asked, starting to feel sparkly myself. The answer: Camp Kesem.

“Kesem is a nationwide community, driven by passionate college student leaders, that supports children through and beyond their parent’s cancer. By offering innovative, fun-filled programs that foster a lasting community, we aim to ensure that every child affected by a parent’s cancer is never alone.”

I applied to volunteer this summer as a Mental Health Professional at Camp Kesem/U.C. Davis. Had I known what I was getting myself into, I would have made a special glittery calendar to count down the days.

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Joyful Abundance

joyful abundanceA Timely Lesson from Gocho, a Middle-Class Ethiopian

Today I met my friend Gocho in Addis Ababa. The first story he told me over coffee inspired me—no, that’s not strong enough—it pierced me and split my heart open; but first some background.

Gocho, is a 31-year-old food server at a large hotel. He works 48 hours per week and makes $4.24 per day, $103 per month after taxes. He lives with his brother in a rented 12’ x 12’ mud house. The toilet and cold-water shower are out back and shared among four families. He doesn’t own a car.

To be considered Middle Class in Ethiopia, one needs to make at least $1.90 per day (World Bank, 2015).

I met Gocho two years ago when his brother invited him to join a two-week humanitarian trip to the destitute city of Assosa, “the forgotten land of Ethiopia.” I sat next to him on his first airplane ride and joyfully watched his surprise at the view above the clouds.

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Meaning: Antidote to Despair

meaning despair trump 1...during Trump's First 100 Days and Beyond

“An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.” Viktor Frankl, Holocaust Survivor.

The night of November 8, 2016, a malaise came over me, sunk into my bones, weakened my spirit. The therapist in me named this sickness “fear” and “grief,” but it’s still there, living in me, sucking my life blood when I’m not paying attention.

I have moments of inspiration and brightening—visiting the ocean, watching my kids march in D.C., but nearly every morning I wake up blanketed with this sickness and I have to talk myself into a different mindset, limit my time on social media, do with myself what I do with my clients—work hard to cultivate moments of meaning in the face of despair.

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remission challenging shift 1A Challenging Shift from Surviving to Living

On October 15, 2014, just 6 months after breaking my hip in a remote village in Ethiopia and receiving unprecedented love and care from my community, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. No problem, I thought in my state of shock; it’s the “good” cancer, with nearly a 100% survival rate. My plan was to find a great surgeon and get it squared away. I was embarrassed about so much upheaval in a short period of time and didn’t want to burden my friends and family with more caregiving.

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Davis group focuses on finding meaning

group meaningin the face of suffering

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
— Viktor Frankl, “Man’s Search for Meaning”

They gather on Monday afternoons in the serene quiet of Pamela Cordano’s office in the converted house on the corner of Fourth and F streets in downtown Davis.

Here, under the guidance of Cordano, a psychotherapist who specializes in illness and grief, a disparate group of eight people search for meaning in lives changed by both.

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