A lot of time in life is spent on health, both physical and mental. However, what most people don’t realize is that there is one very detrimental cause to many maladies that we as human beings experience, and that’s stress. Take it from Danielle Massi, a Holistic Psychotherapist who started The Wellness Collective, the first wellness center in Center City that focuses on holistic healing. Opening up the center was a catalyst of what Massi learned after being diagnosed with cervical cancer the week of her 29th birthday.
“I was working long hours to pay for school, so my stress levels were extremely high and my diet was poor,” says Massi. “So in the years leading up to my diagnosis, I was very unhealthy—but I was doing what everybody told me you’re supposed to do, which is just drink enough caffeine to get you through the day. You have to work like crazy and then you work out to balance that stuff out, so leading up to that point of my diagnosis, I thought that I was doing what I was supposed to do. It was a week before my 30th birthday and I had an abnormal pap smear for the first time ever. That was a rude awakening about the way that I’ve been living my life up until that point.”
About 79 million people, most in their late teens and early 20s, are currently infected with HPV, and an additional 14 million are estimated to be infected each year. However, the main causes of cervical cancer besides HPV are stress levels and poor diet. After being diagnosed, the young mother of two toddlers spent the end of 2018 and half of 2019 going through treatment for the disease.
“Nobody prepares you for a moment like that—I just went into shock and I probably stayed there for a good week,” explains Massi.
Being licensed in handling emotions didn’t exactly make handling them any easier, but the process of figuring out what helps the body and the mind is how Massi found her solution and her new business venture built on helping others as well.
“I couldn’t really think, I couldn’t concentrate on anything. [I had] to call my clients and tell them I just needed time to figure out what the hell just happened. Right at the end of that, when I started coming to a little bit, I started to take some of the advice I’ve been telling my own clients over all the years that I’ve been a therapist: Let yourself feel every bit of the feelings that are coming up do not repress them,” explains Massi. “During my experience with cervical cancer, something that I noticed was that every doctor that I spoke to talked to me as if I was not a person.
“I don’t want to take anything away from them because, without the doctors that I had, I wouldn’t be here, but most doctors are not well versed in anything other than their claim,” she continues. “They only understand what it is that they treat and so they don’t know how to talk to you about your nutrition because they didn’t learn that at medical school. They don’t know how to talk to you about your stress levels, which are one of the biggest risk factors for cervical cancer and its resurgence later on—so I decided to make The Wellness Collective a center where there are so many different options for how to get yourself physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually aligned.”
The Wellness Collective offers Philadelphians an array of healthy options, think of it as a menu of options to feed whatever it is that their body and mind needs. In a world where Messi says the message is to “work hard until you burn out,” the cancer survivor wants to combat that notion with one that puts the emphasis on nourishing your emotional, physical and mental well being at all costs. The Collective’s offerings range from therapy (there is a marriage and family therapist on staff as well as a professional counselor); a spiritual medium that helps people connect with those who passed on ( “a lot of people are grieving and they don’t recognize how they’re carrying that grief around with them,” says Massi), someone who directly works with the physical aspects of the body really clearing out energy and making people feel more aligned; three yoga instructors; and also Shadow Work, which is what Massi handles.
“It’s all about tapping into the unconscious mind because so much of our trauma lies within the unconscious and that means the brain when it experiences something that it deems too much for it, what it will do is just store that somewhere. It’ll just take it away within the mind,” says Massi on the practice that is popular in Jungian psychology. “You don’t realize that it’s there until you experience the trigger. So this is like a war veteran hearing a fan and having it remind them of helicopter blades, but for someone who’s experienced cervical cancer, it could be physically just seeing a knife. Even though they were under anesthesia during their surgery, the body doesn’t forget how it felt being cut open, so the whole body goes into shock. The shadow work helps the trust of the unconscious things. “
According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 57 percent of adolescent girls and 35 percent of adolescent boys have received the first shot of HPV vaccine in a three-dose series, but a larger majority of adults might not realize the harm they are with their health on their own. With January being Cervical Cancer Month, it’s important to know what options you have and what can be done to prevent illnesses of any form to affect your health, and most importantly how there are local ways to help.
“I don’t think cervical cancer gets enough attention and actually one of the leading causes of death for women. I think we need to put some emphasis on the fact that cervical cancer is a huge risk for every woman out there, there’s 14,000 new cases every year, and 4,300 of those women die annually,” says Massi. “You have to make sure you figure out what works for you and making yourself feel better physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Don’t be afraid to take your health into your own hands.”
To learn more about The Wellness Collective, 100 S. Broad St., Suite 622, visit wellnessphl.com