Honor suffering for what it is: a force in your life that you cannot always escape. Learn to acknowledge its presence without resentment or despair. It is a force that deserves to be recognized. Along with respect for your pain, respect yourself and your journey. You are strong, wise, and able. Don’t allow panic or fear to write your narrative. Breathe in grace for the journey, breathe out respect for your resilience. Treat your self like a fragile flower. We are barely standing, let there be friends to recline on, family to feed you. Never pretend that nothing happened. Denial is part of healing process but it’s important to confront your emotions and your “new” you.
The world seems to be reeling from one crisis to another. We’ve experienced a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, political and social turmoil. Then there are personal traumas that people are dealing with, such as the loss of a loved one, health issues, unemployment, divorce or the loss of a job.
Coping with change can be traumatic as it often affects every part of our lives.
How do you deal with loss or change in your life? What coping strategies can you use? Do you ignore them and just push through, or do you use specific techniques?
In this series called “5 Things You Need To Heal After a Dramatic Loss Or Life Change” we are interviewing successful people who were able to heal after a difficult life change such as the loss of a loved one, loss of a job, or other personal hardships. We are also talking to Wellness experts, Therapists, and Mental Health Professionals who can share lessons from their experience and research.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lorena Junco Margain.
Art collector and philanthropist Lorena Junco Margain is the author of On the Way to Casa Lotus, a memoir about her journey coming to terms with the permanent consequences of a surgeon’s devastating mistake. After studying visual arts at Universidad de Monterrey, she co-founded the Distrito14 gallery in Monterrey. She also co-founded and curated, with her husband, the Margain-Junco Collection to promote awareness of Mexican art internationally. She lives in Austin, Texas with her family.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I was born in Monterrey, Mexico, and my family moved to Mexico City when I was twelve. Family is everything in Mexican culture, and I was raised in that spirit. My parents have always been my warm, loving pillars of support. I grew up sheltered under my close-knit family’s wing. I feel so blessed to have wonderful relationships with my father, (“Papi”), my mother, (“Mami) and to have had the gift of knowing my mystical, delightful, vivacious grandmother (“Abuela”).
Our family traditions are built around my parents’ core ideal of unshakable integrity above all else. This ideal has shaped the choices I’ve made, and who I am today.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“No mud, no lotus.” This beautifully simple nugget of wisdom from Vietnamese Thiền Buddhist monk and peace activist Thích Nhất Hạnh is also the title of his book, No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering. It reminds us gently that the exquisite lotus flower will only blossom from mud. “If you don’t have mud, the lotus won’t manifest,” Hạnh writes. “You can’t grow lotus flowers on marble.”
This message resonated deeply with me during the most challenging moments of my journey healing after a surgeon’s catastrophic mistake. It is a reminder that suffering is necessary to happiness. Just as the lotus flower grows best when planted in the mud, the peace and serenity that we seek often grow in the dark, difficult seasons of life. Too often, we fear pain, run from pain, resent pain. But pain is a part of our existence. If we hide from it, we hide from life itself.
Thanks to these words, I learned that my pain and suffering were ultimately creating a beauty that otherwise would not have existed. Suffering was not the enemy. I couldn’t give in to it, but I couldn’t resent it, either. Instead, I learned to use it, to lean into it, to learn from it.
I began to see the lotus in the mud. And when I found the lotus, the mud took on a beauty all its own.
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- Gratitude, which has helped me see the beauty in the many challenges I’ve had to overcome on my journey.
- Humility, which helps me maintain a healthy perspective.
- Integrity. This value passed along by my family is at the core of all that I do. Nothing is more important to me than making choices from a place of integrity.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Healing after Loss’. Do you feel comfortable sharing with our readers about your dramatic loss or life change?
My family and I had just settled into our new home in Austin, Texas, having fled Mexico for our safety. I was pregnant, and already shaken from the move. Then I learned that I had a tumor on my adrenal gland. Although not life threatening, the condition was serious and required surgery right away. For a long time, I had been experiencing unexplained symptoms of dizziness and lethargy. I had tried everything, from medications to holistic and Ayurvedic treatments, but nothing helped. So I was relieved to learn of the tumor: I was told that with a simple surgery, I would soon be back to my usual self and start feeling joyful and energetic once again. But after the surgery, I felt worse and worse each day.
After seeing many doctors and hearing over and over again that I was suffering from depression, I learned that my surgeon had made a grave mistake. He had removed the wrong adrenal gland, leaving me with one aldosterone producing tumor in my adrenal gland that wielded a profound influence on my physical and emotional well-being. I write about this in my memoir, “On the Way to Casa Lotus.”
The loss of my healthy adrenal gland dealt a devastating blow to my health, leaving me with a lifetime of medical issues. Ultimately, I chose to embark on a quest for peace and healing — beginning by seeking space in my heart to forgive the surgeon so that I could move on and live life to its fullest. I had to make piece knowing that I literally lost 9–11 years of life expectancy.
What was the scariest part of that event? What did you think was the worst thing that could happen to you?
It was terrifying to think that I might never be “myself” again. That I’d never again have the energy, strength or stamina to laugh with my children or enjoy the company of my husband and other loved ones. This was my biggest fear throughout the entire ordeal, because these are the most precious things in my life.
How did you react in the short term?
I sought answers and solutions. Before my first surgery, I tried every possible course of action, consulting holistic and Ayurvedic practitioners, reading, doing research and trying to solve the puzzle on my own. When I didn’t feel better after the surgery, I went to new doctors and asked every imaginable question. Once I learned of the surgeon’s error, researched, and found, a new surgeon who agreed to perform a partial adrenalectomy.
Throughout the process I also surrounded myself with loved ones: family and friends. But after doing all the prep work emotionally physically and most important spiritually I surrendered to Gods will.
After the dust settled, what coping mechanisms did you use?
After my second surgery, I realized that what I wanted more than anything — what would make me whole again — was for some good to come from this experience, some form of healing equal to the hurt. I realized that revenge, such as a lawsuit, was not the answer because it would not lead to healing. That’s why I decided to turn my energy to forgiveness as and agent of change in the world. It’s a way to move forward.
Can you share with us how you were eventually able to heal and “let go” of the negative aspects of that event?
That process began when I confronted the surgeon who’d taken my healthy adrenal gland. I needed to do that in order to make peace with what happened, and to achieve a sense of closure. I met him face to face and told him about my 2 long years in and out of hospitals and he never reached out. I told him I came in peace but wanted to ask him to ponder for future patients. If she where my daughter, what would I have done differently. We need to humanize the experience of malpractice. Not hide behind insurances and lawyers.
I also decided that I needed to effect some small but meaningful change in a health care culture that functions as an incubator for disastrous outcomes. This wasn’t about one doctor who botched one surgery. Patients are routinely ignored until we’re in full-blown crisis mode.
We’re criticized, blamed, and eye-rolled. And then we’re supposed to stuff our feelings and get back to normal. I couldn’t go along with that anymore. If I felt any responsibility here at all — beyond accepting responsibility for my own body — it was to disrupt the old idea of normal.
Aside from letting go, what did you do to create an internal, emotional shift to feel better?
Writing my book was the first step in the process of both effecting change and creating an internal shift. Bringing the book out into the world, talking about it and sharing my story as I’m doing now is a continuation of that process
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to cope and heal? Can you share a story about that?
There are so many people I am deeply grateful towards! My family and friends, the team that has helped me edit and publish my book, all those who have shown support and enthusiasm for my message. But perhaps the people who played a key role without which I might not be here today are two doctors: Nancy D. Perrier, MD, FACS, who is chief of surgical endocrinology at the
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and performed my partial adrenalectomy, and Dr. Thomas Blevins, the endocrinologist who has gone above and beyond in supporting me emotionally throughout this journey.
Were you able to eventually reframe the consequences and turn it into a positive situation? Can you explain how you did that?
Yes. I have turned my journey into one of promoting forgiveness as a force for personal and universal change by writing my book, speaking about my story openly both in person, on social media and with the media.
What did you learn about yourself from this very difficult experience? Can you please explain with a story or example?
I learned just how resilient I am. Before this experience, I would never have imagined continuing life with the set of limitations I now deal with every day, no less going forward with an energetic mission. Now, I am doing both. I see the lotus emerging from the mud.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experiences and knowledge, what advice would you give others to help them get through a difficult life challenge? What are your “5 Things You Need To Heal After a Dramatic Loss Or Life Change? Please share a story or example for each.
Embrace your emotional and physical pain. You do not die from feeling emotional pain. It’s healthy to visit with it.
Honor suffering for what it is: a force in your life that you cannot always escape. Learn to acknowledge its presence without resentment or despair. It is a force that deserves to be recognized. Along with respect for your pain, respect yourself and your journey. You are strong, wise, and able. Don’t allow panic or fear to write your narrative. Breathe in grace for the journey, breathe out respect for your resilience. Treat your self like a fragile flower. We are barely standing, let there be friends to recline on, family to feed you. Never pretend that nothing happened. Denial is part of healing process but it’s important to confront your emotions and your “new” you
- Practice gratitude
Ultimately, suffering is an ally. It is a friend. It is a force that works for your good, impossible as that might seem right now. The dark moments are shaping you, transforming you, growing you. If you can thank the pain for what it is accomplishing, you will keep your perspective balanced. You will be a beneficiary of the process rather than a victim of it.
2. Practice patience
The mud comes first, and there is always a time of waiting before the lotus blooms. Right now, the circumstances around you might seem to contradict the vision of happiness in your head, but give it time. A flower is growing even though you can’t see it. Let trouble do its work. Let pain run its course. This isn’t passivity, but rather perseverance: quiet strength under pressure.
3. Embrace humility
We are small in the universe, and it is good to be reminded of that. Success that comes too easily can make us arrogant and aloof, but the happiness that comes after suffering makes us compassionate, merciful, and kind.
Although you are small, you are enough. Just as you are. Humility means knowing who you are and who you are not and then being confident in that.
4. Keep the faith
Things will get better, friend. Believe for a better tomorrow. The mud does not define you, it only prepares you for a more beautiful future. Yes, you honor the pain, and you are grateful for it, and you have patience in it, and you remain humble because of it. But you also have faith because pain cannot hold you back. It can only move you forward. Hidden in the mud, your flower is growing. It might be slow, even invisible, but it is unstoppable.
You will rise. Your beauty will blossom. Your happiness and peace will prevail. I am thinking of you, dear friend, and I am praying for you. You might be surrounded by mud, but you are a lotus.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I would love to see a movement spring from the very mission I am on: to promote forgiveness as a force for personal and universal change.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. 🙂
I would be humbled to be under Oprah’s wing and learn from her because she’s a minority who has dared to speak her mind and her heart to make a positive difference. I’m a good student, hard worker, avid reader and open to challenges. Her mentorship would mean the world to me. It makes me smile how we can also be representing a Mexican/American that has faith in turning bad into good.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!