Four years ago I was wheeled into my pain management doctor’s office, not to talk about CRPS, but rather my newest and most dire diagnosis: Triple Negative Breast Cancer. I knew I didn’t have a good chance at survival, but I didn’t know why I had the most rare and aggressive form of the disease.
I asked Dr. Richeimer why this cancer now, as my oncologist and genetic counselor were baffled. Without pause, he answered, “Cynthia, you’ve been trying to fix your dysfunctional family your entire life. The toll that’s taken on your body is why you have TNBC.”
Thus began my trauma-informed journey.
I was already aware and intrigued that many researchers were identifying trauma as the main driver for chronic pain. Despite this, I passed on trauma release treatment because I’d heard it could be triggering. But, now that I was fighting for my very existence, I was all in.
In the midst of full-dose chemotherapy, no less, I took to reading and researching everything I could get my hands on about childhood trauma and how it leads to adult on-set chronic illness. On the trauma release front, I jumped into talk therapy and EMDR, complimenting those treatments with big doses of music, writing, meditation, inner child work and ancestral healing.
I also started focusing my For Grace work on the trauma-pain connection. This included interviewing a boatload of experts and survivors as well as collecting and spotlighting lived experiences, all culminating into Friday’s virtual 11th Annual Women In Pain Conference – “The Trauma-Pain Connection: A Path to Recovery and Growth.”
You see, I now understand that my 40+ years of pain and chronic illness are the result of serious and sustained trauma, suffered primarily during my early development. In short, trauma is not a piece of my chronic pain puzzle. It’s the whole puzzle.
That said, I want to share all I’ve learned with women in pain during a day that I hope will launch your own trauma-informed journey, one that I promise will bring you healing and growth.
To start you on your way, our five-hour day, beginning at 10am PT, will be broken into three sessions led by world-class speakers, panelists and breakout leaders, all who have survived trauma and volunteered their time.
Session One will examine what trauma is, how it can be passed down generationally, and how it’s a driver for chronic pain. Session Two will highlight trauma release and the myriad of effective techniques, methods and strategies used to achieve that end, both practitioner-led and solo. Session Three will celebrate what I call the silver-lining of trauma, Post-Traumatic Growth, a process that paves the way for recovery, deeper meaning, new-found strength, and helping others.
Themed throughout the conference will be the beauty, struggle and resilience of the Native American people. Because I’ve read time and again that this community suffers greatly from generational trauma, the day will be infused with stunning music and photography compliments of one of our main speakers, Dr. Noshene Ranjbar, a leader of indigenous studies at the University of Arizona. It touched my heart that two of her students put in hours to gift us these sacred elements.
Perhaps the most poignant part of our event will be the extraordinary gift of intensely personal video vignettes sprinkled in from people who’ve traveled the dimly-lit trauma-pain tunnel, found healing through release and moved on to the light of growth. The courage of these generous souls is a triumph of the spirit.
There are no two ways about it, this conference was For Grace’s heaviest lift to date. Coming from a pain background, I didn’t know anyone in trauma and it took several years to build a critical mass of relationships. Also, because this conference is the first of its kind, our planning committee had to build it from whole cloth. Perhaps most difficult, and most satisfying, was getting people to talk publicly about their deepest, darkest experiences. I know the challenge well because when I recorded my story, I was brought to tears more than once.
It was worth the sweat and tears because we struck gold.
This is the most important topic we’ve covered, bar none, and I’m certain that if you do the work, it will be a catalyst for healing and renewed wholeness. Remembering, facing and addressing our past traumas is our best hope to overcome the scourge of chronic pain.
Don’t wait to get a deadly disease to learn, to explore, to discover trauma’s place in your life. You’re braver than you think – and when you use that courage, you’ll be on the path to finding the last piece to your pain puzzle.