I was lying on the table in my physical therapist’s office, updating her on the various sensations that I had been having in my body since undergoing treatment for breast cancer. We had been targeting numbness that ran down my arm on my non-radiated side. At the first appointment, the therapist shared with me that she could see and feel how the chemotherapy, double mastectomy and six weeks of radiation had damaged my tissues on multiple levels.
She laid her hands gently upon my body, to begin the delicate work of tenderly massaging my mastectomy scars to break up adhesions and improve range of motion. And at that very moment, tears sprung to my eyes and I became acutely aware of how detached I had been from this part of my body, where disease had taken over and thankfully the treatment had worked. To tolerate the treatment, I had become less attached to my body in some ways, because I needed to survive treatment and not drown in the sea of side effects that my life had become. And while yes, my breasts had been removed and expanders had been put in my place, the touch of my physical therapist reminded me that this area of my body still needed my love, support and attention. It still existed in its altered form. It was still a part of me, even if it had been removed.
After that session, I began to spend more time observing my new form in the mirror. I knew that it would be important for me to be able to see my new self, to help me accept and not reject the permanent changes. As a therapist, I am always guiding my clients to accept and come to terms with experiences, aspects of self they have pushed aside, as fragmentation causes us deep pain. And since I do my best to practice what I preach, it was my turn to do so.
As you move through your day today, think about how you relate to your body, mind, spirit, self. If you have found yourself closed off, can you imagine allowing connection to happen? What might that look and feel like to you today? You may experience a release of emotions, thoughts, and memories when you do this exercise. As needed, think of how you can support this connection and yourself as you do.
– Stephanie McLeod-Estevez, LCPC, is an art therapist and breast cancer survivor. She began Creative Transformations to help others who are healing from a life threatening illness or injury. Creative Transformations offers individual sessions in person or via Skype, as well as workshops and this weekly blog. Please visit our website to learn more: www.creative-transformations.com.