Several years ago I found a little token that was inscribed with a saying “Your aspirations are your possibilities”. I found it at a time in my life in which I wondered if I would ever find my place in this world, my true purpose. I was living a life that was perfectly acceptable, but I always had this sense that there was more awaiting me. This token really spoke to me, and I carried it around with me trusting that one day I would figure it out.
When you’re diagnosed with cancer, it can bring startling clarity to what’s not working, to what you’ve settled for, or to what’s been holding you back. Cancer shines that light on the areas of your life that need TLC, so that you can live life as fully as you can.
Cancer drives you to live life more boldly, to take chances on being seen, on being visible in ways that perhaps you’ve shied away from. The ripple effect can bring significant changes to who you are, how you’re living, and who you surround yourself with.
This can induce an incredible internal pressure for transformation, which is counterproductive if it leads you to feel paralyzed or to be highly self critical. This is a delicate moment that needs a gentle, compassionate voice because after all, as my mom always said, Rome was not built in a day. You need time to also care for the ways in which cancer treatment has impacted your body, mind, spirit, and self.
When I’m feeling that pressure, or when I’m supporting someone who’s in that same spot, I use the metaphor of the caterpillar. Since butterflies are often seen as a symbol of transformation, I like to remind myself that the butterfly could not have achieved it’s transformation without the energy of the caterpillar. Caterpillars know how to live life one bite at a time, slowly preparing themselves for the transformation ahead. They trust their instincts, they listen to their needs, and when they’re ready, they build a cocoon and go inside.
So if you’re in that space of seeking to transform but feeling overwhelmed by what that looks like, embody the caterpillar. Let the immediate needs speak to you and trust that you will find your way.
For me, Creative Transformations was that aspiration I sensed, but could not clearly identify, so many years ago. I feel so lucky that cancer helped clarify my purpose, and because I have taken time to heal physically and emotionally it has become my reality. Who knows exactly where it will lead… I’m forever grateful for all of the support and encouragement I’ve received as I continue to evolve and grow.
-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.