Being diagnosed with cancer can easily set off an identity crisis. For some, it’s reckoning with the lack of control that you have, despite your best efforts. For others, it’s coming to terms with your core values and making changes in how you live your life and who you live it with.
The identity crisis caused by cancer comes with silver linings and losses. Most of which aren’t immediately visible to the people you love. This creates tension, uncertainty, and confusion surrounding what is real and whether or not you can trust your perspective and instinct. Because after all, cancer deals a significant blow to your sense of safety, security, and confidence. You’ll likely be asking yourself…
WHO AM I?
Will I ever feel like ME again?
To care for your SELF, i.e. your identity, you’re going to need to take the time to re-tell the story of what’s happened since your cancer diagnosis and how it has effected your life, and the lives of those you love. You cannot incorporate such an important life experience by setting it aside and only looking forward. It will continue to speak through the lens of your body, mind, and spirit until it’s heard.
To care for your SELF, you need to work towards grieving the losses that you’ve experienced while repairing your self-confidence and self-empowerment. These two feelings are influenced by your sense of personal MASTERY.
Sounds lovely, right? Here’s the thing, cancer’s already proved to us that control is often an illusion. SO…
We need to rework the definition of mastery in a way that remains realistic and authentic. If we don’t, we run the risk of either AVOIDING the discomfort that comes with uncertainty OR we run the risk of feeling repeatedly DEFEATED or BETRAYED.
I’m not sure about you, but I don’t want to create either of those realities. They truly limit my ability to see life as it is and then respond. So here’s my two cents about reworking the definition of mastery so it supports my health and wellbeing.
It’s not about control, it’s about influence. At any moment in your life, you have the opportunity to INFLUENCE how you respond. And if we believe and take actions with what we can influence, this leads to greater appreciation for:
- who you are
- what you’ve been through
- and how profoundly strong you are in the face of adversity
- without having to deny all of the intense thoughts and feelings
And when this happens, you feel free again.
And when this happens, you are caring for your SELF.
And over time, you will feel like YOU again.
I realize this process of caring for your SELF is not easy following a cancer diagnosis. That’s why I’m here. That’s why I do what I do. That’s why I feel so alive when I get the chance to share it with you!
Taking steps towards caring for yourself involves taking time to connect with the support, community, and tools you need to move ahead with grace, dignity, and peace. Here are the upcoming opportunities to experience my work in person:
- My FREE workshop on October 9th: Coping with the Monster of Uncertainty as part of the Survivorship and Beyond series offered in partnership with New England Cancer Specialists. You don’t need to be a NECS client to attend, but registration is required.
- Warrior Revolution Retreat– This is an incredible weekend filled with pampering, education, experiential learning, and connecting in Southern Maine, the weekend of October 26th, 2019. Open to cancer survivors, in active treatment or finished, and their loved ones.
- 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.
How do you care for your self? Let’s talk about it in the comments below!
-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.