This week we passed an important milestone in our family, my oldest graduated from elementary school. It was a day filled with excitement and reflection- setting an intentional time marker that an ordinary day might not have. This day happened to align with my nieces birthday, the anniversary of our buying a home, and the anniversary of my active treatment for cancer ending.
What took me by surprise is that I completely forgot that this was the anniversary of treatment ending, even though I am an anniversary kind of gal. Nor did my body remind me, as it so often does on these occasions- which I will talk about below. I was blissfully immersed in the moment, in the experience, not in the past and not in the future.
If you are a cancer survivor, you can appreciate the significance of being able to be fully present. Regardless of your persona before cancer (BC), being fully present in the moment after a cancer diagnosis is no easy feat.
When I realized that I had forgotten, I took a moment to sip that experience in. I took it as a moment to celebrate that I am not deceiving myself that I have made progress towards emotionally healing. Being able to let go rather than avoid or suppress…
This is what I want for every cancer survivor I meet- the opportunity to be fully present, even if it is just a brief moment, independent of where you are with regards to cancer treatment or status.
In order for that to happen, you will need a way of being able to sit with yourself and your reality. To feel through it… and then release… even if you can only do it for a brief period of time. With practice, you can slowly build your muscles of present moment living.
Your body is the timekeeper of these milestones and anniversaries. Your body releases the energetic material of an important memory, almost like a reminder that you set ages ago and then forgot about. One of the first cues to look for is a heaviness inside. If you allow yourself time for introspection, the purpose of the release is often revealed to you- allowing for an Ah-Ha moment.
It can be very challenging to sit with this process of the energetic release. You may worry that if you fully allow ourselves to feel the pain, it will never stop. Yet the opposite is true, the more you try to push away the pain, the more you suffer.
You can strike a compromise by setting aside time to listen and experience the message, your body begins to trust you… rather than yelling the messages it can begin to whisper.
This trust builds because when you slow down enough to listen, you are opening the door to validation. Validating your experience is a crucial step in the healing process.
Every time I have been validated, internally or externally, the internal tension in my body dissipates, for the job my body was tasked to do has been completed.
When I realized that my body did not feel the need to energetically release prior to the anniversary of treatment ending, when I realized that my mind did not feel the need to remind me of milestone I was passing (year 3), I said THANK YOU to this marker- this litmus test- that yes, indeed, I have made progress towards the emotional healing I seek.
If you are ready to embark on that journey or if you have already started along it, having tools to assess where you are helps you build your own unique map of emotional and physical healing. By clicking here, you can sign up for the free assessment tool that I developed to help you do just that.
-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, she works with people in person and online to offer cancer coaching, an Art as Therapy program, workshops, and this weekly blog. Check out the individual packages, the self assessment tool, and virtual workshops. Sign up today so you never miss a blog and find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.