As humans, we often have preconceived notions about life. We have beliefs about how things are supposed to go, what life is supposed to be like, or what it’s like to go through XYZ.
That’s no different when it comes to the assumptions you have about cancer. Even for people like myself, who have been up close and personal as a caregiver, realize that until you go through it there’s a lot you don’t know until it happens to you.
Even though intellectually you recognize that your preconceived notions are often wrong, it’s still shocking to experience the reality. When you’re going through cancer treatment, you quickly understand that there’s often something unexpected. But that doesn’t mean you won’t feel completely caught off guard each time the unanticipated happens.
When cancer strikes, you might not have realized how much self advocacy you’d have to do, how much research you’d have to do, how many requests you’d need to make, so on and so forth. Recognizing how active you need to be in the process can be disconcerting, because it highlights all of the uncertainty that comes with a life threatening illness.
You want to be able to have trust that you can have full faith in the process. You wish that your providers had all of the answers. Yet each of us are our own unique being, which means that rarely is cancer “straightforward”.
It’s unnerving to realize that ultimately research cannot guarantee results. This means that trusting your experience and instinct, trusting how you are responding to treatment, is a significant part of the puzzle. Your ability to both trust yourself AND advocate for yourself is vital to getting good care.
It’s important to take stock of the implicit assumptions you have, because these assumptions often impact your ability to be resilient and respond to the curve balls. When we share our “myth busted” assumptions with others, we raise our own self-awareness and self-understanding. Additionally, by listening to the assumptions of others, we have the chance to evaluate if their assumptions ring true for us.
One thing I realized about cancer, was how complex the diagnosing process is. In my pre-cancer beliefs, the process was much more simplified than the reality was. While a biopsy might confirm that it is cancer, there’s so much more info than comes out of it. And when you add the process of staging cancers, well that can look very different for each person and each type of cancer.
It’s not a bad thing to have assumptions, this is one of the ways in which we try to prepare for life. However, it’s really important to do self-reflection around your assumptions, because not only do they impact you, but it will help you to communicate more clearly with your loved ones who are trying to understand what you’re going through.
With that in mind, let’s take some time to share below some of the realizations that you have had since your cancer diagnosis. I’d love to reflect with you!
-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 emotionally from cancer. Through Creative Transformations, she works with people in person and online to offer the self assessment tool, cancer coaching, an Art as Therapy program,virtual workshops, and this weekly blog. Sign up today so you never miss a blog and find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.