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Cancer Journal: The ARt of BEing-April 6, 2022,Systems Lessons From the Micro-biotic


It’s been about three weeks since my last post. I have had my chemotherapy delayed twice because I have a Staph infection that just won’t go away. I am beginning to wonder if it ever will, (or if maybe something was left inside when they closed me up after surgery?). Yes, this is where my mind goes. Some progress is being made, though, and I am hopeful. But this means that it will be almost 6 weeks between treatments.


Staphylococcus Aureus is a bacteria that is found in about 25 to 30 % of healthy people in our nose, or on our skin. When an opening in the skin allows entry, it travels into the deeper layers and causes and infection. If it is not dealt with, it can spread into the blood and other organs and lead to complications, even death. It is pretty serious. It also takes a long time to manifest, so I could have been infected quite some time ago. Needless to say it has been five weeks now since I went to emergency with an elevated temperature, and I am ready for it to be gone!


It begins with an element that is always present in the environment. It entrenches because there are openings and weaknesses that undermine normal protections. It has a number of treatment protocols that work for it, through various ways and means. It responds well when caught early enough, before it has found strong footing in body tissues. But it’s hard to recognize it right away to catch it soon enough. It can be picked up from any surface or from any person that crosses your path, so a-tuning your hygiene practices to minimize the risk would be helpful, but not always doable. Sometimes it just happens. Things happen beyond our control and without our awareness.


It requires diligent application of certain types of antibiotics, a lot of rest, and intentionality to get rid of it. I have to get it under control before my next chemotherapy session, because chemotherapy wipes out my white blood cells, and leaves me with no or low immunities. This infection could overwhelm my body systems. One of the antibiotics I am taking is an oldy but a goody, but that has the potential to create a harmful and life threatening bacterial infection in my digestive tract if I am not mindful and careful in my use of it, and definitely cannot be in my system when I get chemo. So timing is a factor as well. I will probably be taking some antibiotics until this necessary but dangerous? risk filled? systems unsettling chemotherapy treatment is over and my body systems can get back to their usual efficiencies. Enough to be getting on with, anyway, until I am able to do the work to improve and move those systems further along.


I did some thinking to find a clever analogy to segway elements of my cancer situation to mental health, as I do in this blog. I came up with the realization that like those bacteria that dwell within us and among us, we all have “seeds of dis-ease” present in our lives, in our personal make-up, in our interactions with our environment. Mental illness, addiction, and dysfunction can result if the appropriate protections and preventions are not applied at the right times. The mitigation of these disorders requires certain kinds of interventions and treatment protocols. They can be prevented through mindful and intentional application of certain practices which build resilience and protect from risks that weaken our defenses and affect our outlook, perspective, and way of being with ourselves and the world around us. But it is not always possible to protect ourselves. Things happen beyond our control.


Trauma often creates wounds that can open the way for those seeds to infiltrate.They can work into the cracks and breaks in our outer layers. They fester and take hold in the deeper tissues of our psyche and our spirits and overwhelm our natural coping and balancing systems. It can flux from physical to chemical, to emotional and back again. We are each unique in the combination of our personal make up and our environmental interactions. So the answers also flux across a range of approaches and elements. The risks and discomforts associated with solutions, and the systemic "interdependencies" we are entangled with and within further complicate and “complexify” recovery. There are elements outside of our control that must be addressed at some point as we move toward full healing. Or as full healing as is possible until we have the resources to move ourselves further along.


On a community level, (because you know we are going to go there now…) we inherit a community culture and way of being that may or may not be conducive to the changes we see that need to happen. This, along with systems interdependence and faulty or outdated systemic conditions contribute fertile ground and the seeds of dis-ease, dysfunction and dissatisfaction that fester and infect down into the deep tissues of the fabric of community. As with physical and mental health restoration, those challenges are also the pathway and map to healing when we apply the right approaches and diligent effort.


It is important to recognize how our systems interrelate, how changes to one aspect have effects through the entire community. It thus behooves us to look at the whole picture and balance our approaches to take into consideration the risks associated with the changes that need to be made, and to mitigate them with mindful, intentional application of the easy and simple as well as the difficult, problematic, complex and complicated solutions available.


Just as every human body in its unique situation, and every mind and life involve interrelated systems and require considered, careful and tailored interventions, communities also have their unique traits that must be considered in any solution making. But, there are also tried and true best practices that can and should be done by everyone to contribute to prevention of “dis-ease,” the development of resilience, and the successful treatment of what is broken by events beyond our control. To get us as far along as possible with what we have available while we find, make, or discover we already have the resources to move ourselves further toward a shared best version, and vision, of community.


From the micro-biotic, through the inner-psychotic to the macro-chaotic, the solutions are strikingly similar because they all involve systems.

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Shirley Penny
Shirley Penny
Apr 07, 2022

Beautifully and insightfully written, as usual❤️

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