It’s no secret that there’s a connection between the mind and body. More and more, it’s at the heart of many self care and healing practices. Sometimes this connection feels difficult to feel beyond an intellectual notion. However, if you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, it’s very evident that body and mind are deeply interconnected.
For example, when you feel physical pain you might worry that the cancer has returned or has progressed. Your cancer-versary, i.e. the anniversary of the day you were diagnosed, is often experienced both somatically in the body (perhaps a heaviness, sadness, or anxious tension) and in the mind with memories, photos, images, or conversations with your loved ones.
Since cancer is a sickness that happens in the body, it complicates how you experience your body. The treatment has short and long term effects that make it difficult for the mind to forget what’s happening.
The continuous reminders, mentally and physically, pop up over and over again, asking for your attention. Most of us aren’t quite sure what to do, yet we are desperate to recognize ourselves once again.
When I began to formulate my mission for Creative Transformations, I realized that it would be impossible to help myself, or anyone else, heal emotionally if I didn’t address the needs of the body, mind, spirit and self. Over the next few blogs, I plan to focus on how each area supports your emotional healing.
So how does caring for the body support emotional healing from cancer? Here are some of my thoughts:
- The physical reminders of treatment need to be attended to hopefully improve functioning. When you do this, it’s a reflection that your body, and therefore yourself, is worth the investment of your time, energy and focus.
- If you feel betrayed by your body, taking care of it is an act of forgiveness that allows you to repair your relationship with it.
- Cancer brings a massive dose of reality to how uncertain life is. Even when you’re healing your body, you have to live without a guarantee of what the outcome will be. Coming to terms with this is important as emotional health and wellness. To be resilient, you need to be able to sit with life as it is.
- In attending to the body, you’ll be grieving what has happened and what many never be the same again. Grieving is a vital step towards emotional healing. To do it properly means that you need to be aware of the losses you’re facing. Healing the body will bring you concrete examples of what that is, as well as what steps you can take to meet the needs.
- Your body holds the experience of having cancer inside. Memories are often triggered by what your sensory system has held on to. Certain sounds, smells, sights, etc. will bring you right back to moments- as if they were happening again. This is unsettling and yet if you find ways to support your body and yourself through the triggers, they eventually become more neutral once again.
Figuring out how to care for your body and how it relates to healing emotionally from cancer isn’t something that you should have to do yourself. Here are some ways that I can help:
- If you live in Northern or Downeast Maine, sign up for the next 6 week, online, survivorship program that I am running in partnership with the Beth C. Wright Cancer Resource Center. We begin in September, space is limited so register today!
- If you live anywhere else, I will be rolling out a online cancer wellness group program towards the end of 2019. Stay informed by making sure that you’re on my mailing list.
- Contact me if you’d like to explore working together individually
- or keep reading my blogs, peruse the archives, and chat with me on social media!
-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.