One of the things that gets many of us through cancer treatment, is finding some reason to do it in the first place. Yes, we are wired to seek survival, but often it is the people in our lives and/or our own purpose/life path that we focus on to get us through the worst of it.
Having something external to focus on can be very useful in the height of a crisis, it helps us to look ahead and be better able to compartmentalize that which we have little control over in the present. But what happens when what we are focusing upon begins to shift, crack or even disappear from view? Cancer treatment takes a big toll on our support system and often impacts our capacity to function in our purpose or life path.
When we feel that fundamental shift away from our loved ones and our life path, it can be very disorienting, confusing, and isolating. We may feel as if we are floating, unthethered from something that was secure, suddenly thrust into the deep sea of uncertainty- with no clear direction of where to find solid ground.
It’s not uncommon to feel panicky when this happens, because while cancer clearly throws a wrench into our health, we do not always anticipate the way it is going to impact other aspects of our lives. When we start to feel this way, the goal is to find a way to support yourself through it, because as Pema Chödrön reminds us:
“Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
So if you find yourself in this place, try to create some distance between yourself and the panic you feel inside, through slow, deep breaths and soothing imagery. The goal is not to avoid, repress or annihilate the panic, but rather to accept that it is there yet separate from you- giving yourself and your feelings enough space for you to co-exist.
If you feel untethered from your loved ones, it may be that they themselves feel untethered as well, for to watch someone go through cancer takes a lion’s share of courage.
Sitting with the void, sitting with uncertainty, pushes us to learn and grow. Find the flicker of light within, and let it be the focal point, until once again you find solid ground.
– Stephanie McLeod-Estevez, LCPC, is an art therapist and breast cancer survivor, and a former 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 Individual 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.