The Value of Welcome

Colorblind Caring

By Kate D. Mahoney

What if, in the month of the pink ribbon, we were color blind? What if the patient with the diagnosis was given a marketing budget, resources, treatment protocol, financial assistance and an invitation to be a part of a conversation — before there was any cancer to define their level of worthiness?

In a time when division is getting a lot of play in our culture, what if we committed to elevating each other, in all phases of wellness and illness? What would that really look like? What if everyone always felt welcome?

I had the opportunity to share remarks at the Great New York State Fair on Women’s Day. I offered some insight: while it’s a tricky business, women have been the CEOs of humanity for a long time now. So, why are we still so comfortable with letting what we do or don’t have define us?

Even though the noise around it is often the loudest, jobs, money, neighborhoods and even cancer aren’t what make women great leaders, mothers, teachers or people.

Love, respect, dignity – that’s at our core. We don’t always ask for it. We don’t always acknowledge that we need, or needed, more of it. We don’t always believe we deserve to give or receive it.

We are deeply engrained in a system of have and have not; so much so, I think we forget it’s actually a framework of members and guests. In crisis, what we choose may feel like the only option we have. In reality, the truth doesn’t always match the hindsight. We have the power — and dare I say, the responsibility — to invite one another in. We are the world’s welcome wagon. Twenty-six years ago this month, I was diagnosed with stage 4 germ cell ovarian cancer. I was 14.

Cancer was kind of like an unexpected visitor, one who arrived on the doorstep unannounced and invited itself to stay for few days. Mail arrived in its name. Furniture was delivered. Rooms started being taken over and, before I knew it, cancer had made its home in my life and my family. In our collective vulnerability, my parents and I decided to welcome cancer, setting in motion a chain of events in which we often became the spoils and it the victor.

Surviving cancer — in a world in which many do not — challenged my belief in my own worth. I’ve doubted my deservedness to be loved. As a professional, I’ve questioned my capacity to command respect. I neglected to see cancer as something I could collaborate with. I forgot to welcome myself. I forgot that I wasn’t cancer.

Today, my travels take me all over the world sharing and hearing people’s stories. My favorite moment continues to be the one in which a person realizes they have been given a seat at the table, just as they are.

Amidst fundraising and fighting words — not only for cancer but upcoming elections as well — consider looking not at what someone or something will give or take from you, but what both sides might benefit from. Engagement and responsibility go hand in hand. We are all patients and caregivers, regardless of medical status. We are all members and guests, depending on circumstance. You are welcome. SWM

Stop by to visit with Kate and pick up a copy of her book, “The Misfit Miracle Girl: Candid Reflections,” at the Junior League Holiday Shoppes at the New York State Fairgrounds on Nov. 9, 10 and 11.

Kate D. Mahoney is a speaker, actor/educator, patient & caregiver ambassador and author. Her book, “The Misfit Miracle Girl: Candid Reflections,” is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. To continue the conversation or book Kate for an event, email MahoneyKateD@ gmail.com. 

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