Breast cancer is one of those life experiences that won’t simply fade into the background. It’s not the sort of experience that you can easily forget, or set aside. Breast cancer is more than a medical problem, it touches every aspect of your life and your identity. And more often than not, it feels like breast cancer has hijacked your life and will persist in seeking your attention until you’ve found a way to listen to what it has to say.
This is a tall order for anyone to take on, whether you’re diagnosed with an early stage cancer or Stage 4. Understanding the emotional, mental, physical, spiritual and impact on your identity is a massive undertaking, one that can easily have you feeling overwhelmed. Especially because there are so many parts of the story that you’ve had to set aside in order to survive keeping up with treating breast cancer.
Here are some common examples of being hijacked that I’ve heard, and felt:
- pressure to be positive and not stressed
- feeling like you’re falling apart
- not recognizing yourself in the mirror
- judging yourself for not being grateful enough
- fear that you will never feel like yourself again
- fearing that each ache, change is a sign that cancer has returned, worsened, or metastasized
- fear of the future, pressure to be healthy, pressure to not take anything for granted
- comparing yourself to how others seem to be doing
- losing you ability to feel like you can trust yourself, trust others, trust that you are going to be ok
- feeling like you’re invisible, because no one can see your pain
One of the antidotes to working through this feeling of being hijacked is to tell your story. After all, who we are is an ever evolving process. If we want to feel re-integrated, if we want to find relief from obsession and rumination, we need to assist and enable our body, mind, spirit, and self to tell our story.
Telling the story helps us to work through the energy of what we’ve been holding onto AND allows us to slowly unravel our anxiety surrounding what the future holds for us. This is imperative, for you cannot feel resilient, you cannot feel present, if you’re holding onto unprocessed or under-processed trauma from breast cancer.
Telling your story deeply validates your experience, which makes it more possible to re-integrate it into your concept of who you are. Yes, cancer may still remain a very present part of your life. However, if you’ve done yourself justice by owning the raw, real, and complicated ways in which cancer impacts you, you’ll experience the satisfaction that comes with not hiding, avoiding, stuffing, etc. your truth inside. You deserve that, and the reward will be a juicy, Ah-ha moment, that leaves you feeling seen and heard.
Telling your story to yourself is important, but sharing your story in a community of women who get it is powerful. We all crave the internal and external validation, yet finding other who understand is difficult to do. This is why I’ve launched my Art Therapy for Breast Cancer Community on Mighty Networks. I want you to find that community AND have the information, guidance, and mentoring you deserve to be successful in finding your inner peace.
In the community, we use art and writing to really uncover and discover the many facets of our emotional experience of breast cancer in order to heal. You don’t need to have amazing skills to benefit from this practice, but with the coaching you receive and the support of the community- you’ll probably discover your unique creative voice, which is always energizing.
Let that sink in- you can feel energized by the emotional healing process, especially when you tap into how creativity tells your story symbolically through color, shape, and form. This is always a joyful part to witness, when I see women moving from feeling hijacked to feeling empowered because they’ve found their voice. It’s an incredible honor to be a part of the process.
I’d love to have you check out the community. It’s an extraordinary resource at your finger tips. I’ve crafted the experience to have a structure that guides you and the community each month through the gauntlet of healing. I’ve priced it so that for a cost of a typical individual session copay, you not only have access to me, but a collective of women who are dedicated to their personal growth and to supporting one another. It’s a win-win solution that you can try for free the first two weeks, and then stay if you love it.
Check it out, and if you know someone else who could benefit, invite her to join 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 emotionally healing cancer. Stephanie works with people online and in person, offering individual and group cancer coaching and art. Her #TherapyThursday blogs offer guidance for healing the body, mind, spirit and self after cancer. Sign up today so you’ll never miss a blog and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.