“As you reach forward with one hand, accept the advice of those who have gone before you, and in the same manner reach back with the other hand to those that follow you; for life is a fragile chain of experiences held together by love. Take pride in being a strong link in that chain” –Author Unknown
Linda Phelan, the host of our Rhode Island workshop, is the founder of the Healing Co-Op, a very special center dedicated entirely to providing women and their families a supportive space where they may begin their healing process through and beyond cancer. She is cheerful, loving, and kind. Strong, resilient, and compassionate. Dedicated, trusting, and sincere.
After her own diagnosis at the age of 28 in the 80s, it was recommended that she attend a support group. The only one available to Linda convened at the local hospital. Her experience at the meeting left much to be desired. The women were wallowing. The social worker (who herself had never had cancer), was consumed with telling the women what they needed to do and how they needed to feel. Linda felt unsupported and realized that she needed something entirely different. In that meeting was birthed the vision of a nurturing, loving, cancer support center set in a home like environment.
Linda created the Healing Co-Op on the foundation of community. When women and families walk onto the beautiful property, they feel like it’s their place. At the center, all emotions are welcome. There are no agendas, right or wrong ways to be, or people without experience with cancer. It was also founded on the principle that it always be free to everyone that walks through its doors. All funds to run the center come through donations.
When I asked Linda for a poignant story about the center, she shared this one. A few years ago, she asked one of the groups what, if anything, they would like to do within the art program (art is a large component of what the Healing Co-Op offers). This group comprised of 17 women shared something in common; they all had advanced stages of cancer and had experienced a reoccurrence of their cancer, some as many as 5 times. One of the women responded, “Theater” and elaborated; Theater because it was a place where they could share their story, their voice. To say what they wanted to say to friends, family, and the community within a container that encouraged honesty and creativity.
Linda wrote the play based on the stories of the 8 women who wished to challenge themselves in this way. With the help and emotional support of their “sisters” in the group, each of the 8 women played themselves and were the stars of their own stories. The process of writing the theatrical production was incredibly healing and beautiful for all involved. Linda’s sister, a Canadian singer/songwriter, wrote the musical score. The play was described as “An open, honest, hysterical and poignant dialog which represents an actual support group meeting of the women”. In the end, the play, titled “Chemo Brain”, was performed on Rhode Island’s largest stage in front of an audience of 1,500. Family, friends, co-workers, and members of the general public all attended to honor this brave group of 8. What a sight that must have been!
Being given a prognosis of just 3 years to live at the young age of 28 while raising two young girls, Linda’s priorities in life shifted and became crystal clear. One of the core principles she embraced was to lead a life that leaves the smallest footprint on the planet possible. Straw bale construction fits that bill for her. Building this straw bale house is a dream come true for Linda, tying in her love for the Earth with cherished childhood memories of spending time in her grandparents’ naturally built home in Germany.
Linda’s 1,200 sqft, one story straw bale house will be run entirely on solar power. There will be a grey water system as well as rain catchment and solar hot water. Its heat source will be wood. Most of the building materials will be from reclaimed wood and locally-harvested and milled lumber. The south facing part of the home will have lots of windows to take advantage of the passive-solar opportunities the land has to offer. Designed by Chris Keefe, this home embodies grace, simplicity and elegance. Linda describes this home as her forever home.
Linda loves the idea of hosting a workshop because she lives and breathes community. It seems only fitting that such an amazing person who has done so much for the greater world, even in the face of her own adversities, would have people come to help build her house. We feel tremendously honored and proud to be a link in the chain of experiences held together by love by bringing a straw bale workshop to her. For every participant that signs up, we will donate $100 to the Healing Co-Op.
p.s. Last year alone the Co-Op supported over 1,600 women and their families. If you feel inspired to donate, financial contributions are very welcome. You can click here to read more about the center and to donate.