Heal with the heart: know the story of a clown doctor
As Dr. Alegría, whose name means” joy” in Spanish, Guadalupe González dedicates her time and energy to working as a volunteer with children suffering from cancer, in a way that has reshaped her life.
Scenes of suffering and illness can be transformed with just a little imagination into a world of magic and make-believe. The isolated ward for children undergoing cancer treatment becomes a glittering spaceship flying across the galaxy, the serum and IV fluids are super powers promising victory.
“For a while, they can forget what’s happening to them,” explains Guadalupe González Alegría with a smile as she talks to Tecpetrol Today. She’s a Commercial Specialist at the Pesqueria Power Plant (CEP) and, some time ago, began volunteering her services as a clown doctor, known to all as Dr. Alegría. Her path began with her personal experience and grew through training, enabling her to put her "fun side" at the service of others.
As a Systems Engineer with a Master's Degree in Business Administration, González Alegría has worked for the last three years in the Commercial area of the Pesqueria Power Station in Monterrey.
"I started volunteering a few years ago when I worked in a service company based in Villahermosa, Tabasco. I joined an association that helps children with cancer," she says, adding, " I asked the HR department for permission to collect plastic bottle-tops at the plant."
These were sold to a recycling company, enabling the association to obtain the resources needed to buy chemotherapy supplies and special supplements that children need to regain their strength following treatment.
“When I discovered that through joy, people who are in treatment can raise their defenses, I trained and got certified in laughter therapy. I worked in this area as a storyteller until I met the Mexican branch of the Patch Adams Association, which is when I started visiting hospitals,” says this clown doctor, who wears a doctor's coat complete with a red nose and brightly-colored accessories. These laughter specialists don’t need any makeup, nor do they need to be actual doctors to make these visits. They generally go in pairs, hold random sessions, which can be anything between 30 minutes and two hours, and take great care not to develop any emotional ties with the children as individuals.
Tell me your story
“I was diagnosed with a thyroid carcinoma at the age of 25, I ended up in a medically-induced coma, and the recovery process was extremely long and very painful, something which took me much longer to accept, understand and be able to assimilate. While in the hospital, I saw how many children there are with cancer, as they’re the most vulnerable, and this disease causes them a great deal of suffering,” says Guadalupe. "Honestly, I feel privileged to have been able to reshape my story and learn something so I can put all this at the service of others."
"I was born with the gift of joy," she says of her talents. “To be a clown doctor, you only need to bring out your fun side and put it at the service of other people. It’s the side we generally try to forget—doing dumb things, making mistakes—in our efforts to be rational. This is about connecting with your inner child, being able to laugh at yourself and playing with other people as a jovial clown to help them heal from the heart.”
In addition to her bottle-top collection efforts, González Alegría organized a talk for parents on how to recognize cancer symptoms in children. Although the pandemic meant that visits were online for a time, this also meant that the team could reach many far-off places, in meetings where they developed other ways to communicate affection, humor and spontaneity.
Following her first voluntary stints in Tabasco, she shared these initiatives with her colleagues from System 3. “I always met with a lot of empathy, I told them about the children, most of whom are from low-income backgrounds, and together we created what we like to call our “Little Notes of Light”. Everyone collaborated on a blackboard by sticking up these messages of encouragement for the children on post-it notes. Then it was framed by Dr. Silvia Cano and placed at the entrance so everyone could read them and sense the good energy being sent from here.” At the Pesqueria Power Station, a project to set up a heart-shaped bin to collect plastic bottle-tops is already underway.