Recently I was writing an article for a magazine for breast cancer patients. I was asked to share my story of how I faced cancer and was able to thrive, with words of inspiration for others. I was so honored to be asked, if it is published I will include a link.
Part of the assignment was to look for photos to include with the article, and while I had a few from when I was going through treatment, I needed to reach out to my closest allies who had some of my favorite photos. Seeing them again brought a flood of feelings, these moments of sweetness and joy while I did the dance with cancer… the Zumba fundraiser in which I was able to lead a routine even though I was in my chemo low (a testament to the energy we get from fun loving crowds- for sure!), the boys first downhill skiing adventure in which I got onto the slopes for a few runs, the “wig night out” at the wine bar with my friends, in which I wore my wig for the one time- which lasted about 30 minutes before I reverted to bald.
In these moments, I was embracing and dancing with life, even though my longevity was in question. I couldn’t have done it without my loved ones, who encouraged me to still do what I could to walk on the wild side. And when your blood counts are hovering above transfusion level, you really are there! Did I rock the Kasbah the way I would have pre-cancer? No, of course not. I took measured risks and listened to my body about it’s limitations. I was in the game for the long haul, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t still be among the well, here and there, when possible.
The loveliest parts of these moments was being with people who could acknowledge that life wasn’t always guaranteed, and that making the most of a moment was something to embrace rather than cower from. We were calling attention to the veil that is always there, but not always within our consciousness.
Last week a friend from our cancer support group died, a friend whom had defied the odds in so many ways. She lived much longer than expected with brain cancer, and while she had to accept that the surgeries and treatment had caused permanent changes, she continued to see what was still possible. She had been a long distance runner, and while she could no longer run long distances, she did return to running. She felt slightly embarrassed, as she shared how she had run in a 5k and that many of her long distance running buddies slowed their pace so they could run with her. Because this is what is important in life, having close companions and celebrating what we are capable of still doing, not the finish line.
Jan was an inspiration to me, and this blog is dedicated to her.
– Stephanie McLeod-Estevez, LCPC, is an art therapist and breast cancer survivor, who works as an oncology counselor at the Dempsey Center. She began Creative Transformations to help others who are healing from a life threatening illness or injury. Through Creative Transformations, Stephanie works with people in person and online to offer cancer coaching, a DIY Art Therapy program to enhance any healing work you are undertaking; workshops; and this weekly blog. Sign up today so you never miss one by visiting our website, Creative Transformations, where you will also find the links to our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.