Today is July 4th in the USA. The themes of freedom and independence have caught my attention. Cancer interferes with your ability to move as independently and freely through life as you did pre-diagnosis. Reclaiming your sense of autonomy and agency is typically a high priority for everyone who has been impacted. To do so, this means you’ll need to attend to the physical, mental, and emotional challenges that cancer brings.
How would you define what emotional freedom looks like to you?
For me, emotional freedom has meant that I needed to be able to tell the story of my cancer experience AND I needed to be able to listen to that story. I have been doing this slowly over time, and my work with cancer survivors continues to help me do so.
For me, emotional freedom has meant that I needed to confront how weakened my body had become from treatment AND to find a way to make peace with the fact that I might never feel as strong, as energetic, as oomphalicious as I once did. This required me to not only re-focus, time and time again, on what I could do in this moment to build strength AND this required me to have to grieve the aspects of my pre-cancer youthfulness that I had lost and might never fully recover. Fully grieving means that you’ll go through the emotional rollercoaster of shock, anger, sadness, uncertainty, and so forth.
For me, emotional freedom has meant that I had to come to terms with the uncertain reality that has always been present, yet cancer has you directly facing. Coming to terms with uncertainty has required a blend of acceptance, curiosity, and emotional honesty that has often been humbling. Cancer causes you to face the 4 universal fears (of being along, of dying, of losing your sense of purpose, of losing FREEDOM) while giving you the opportunity to take on that challenge of facing the fears and redefine how you approach life.
To say the least, it requires you to have a lot of emotional spaciousness to go through the process as consciously as you can, in order to reclaim your emotional freedom. And trust me, no one is fully prepared and equipped to do this at first, so I hope that you are being kind with yourself.
If your looking for somewhere to begin, start small. When you take small steps towards something that is important to you, you’re much more likely to feel like you’re making progress.
When cancer treatment ended, I realized that emotional freedom was not only something I wanted, but something I wanted to support my cancer community in achieving. As the saying goes, when life gives you lemons…
I’d love to hear your personal definition of what emotional freedom means to you. Let’s start a conversation in the comments below, or shoot me a private message.
-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.