If you were to ask a woman diagnosed with breast cancer how she’s been impacted, you’d need to find a way to reassure her that she doesn’t need to protect you from her reality. After all, if she’s going to be honest, it has to be ok that she’s going to discuss topics that are taboo to talk about openly, like the fear of dying, the fear of being alone, and the fear that she’ll never feel safe again.
You’d hear about how overwhelmed she feels, even though she doesn’t really understand why. You’d hear her wonder if she’ll ever feel like herself again. You’d hear her describe the lessons she’s learned through the process and the strength that she’s found inside herself that she didn’t know existed.
She’d tell you about how her fears spring up all of the sudden. She’d describe how hard it is to trust her body once again, since it betrayed her by allowing cancer to grow inside. She’d apologize for not being more grateful, because after all she knows other women who have it worse. She’d shy away from appearing to be negative, because she worries that being stressed will make the cancer worse or make it come back.
She’d tell you how hard it is to look at herself in the mirror because her surgery scars are a constant reminder that she had cancer. She’d talk about how the “free boob job” is not as exciting as others think it should be. When she sees the surgical changes in her breasts, she wonders if she’ll ever feel beautiful again. She’ll worry that her current or future significant other won’t find her to be desirable.
She’d express how tired she is that cancer takes up so much of her mental and emotional energy, because the story that needs to be told remains unspoken. Telling the story is how she’ll make sense of it, but without someone guiding the process it feels like she has no idea how to begin or whether or not she’ll have the emotional stamina to really confront it.
As you can see, the emotional impact of breast cancer cannot be simply defined in a few words or sentences. These are some of the most common themes that come with the breast cancer experience, yet how each woman experiences them is unique to who she is and what she’s already gone through in life.
This is why my Virtual Art Therapy Group for Breast Cancer is centered around giving you permission to feel what you need to feel, to unpack your unique experience and tell your story authentically in a group of women who understand where you’re coming from. I’ll be the guide, helping you learn how to use art and writing for transformation. Together, as a group, we’ll move from surviving to thriving.
If you’d like to learn more about the group, click on the link above. You’ll be provide with important details about the group and a scheduling link to sign up for a free consultation call to see if this is a good match for 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.