When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, there was a load of information to understand, but to be honest, it was overwhelming. This was because there was so much information and it was all new to me. It was like going back to school—I was student again.
The steep learning curve
What a steep learning curve it was. I had to become a really good student, educate myself and do it really quickly. So, I waded my way through all the information and learned what I had to.
At times it was really overwhelming. I needed to understand what was happening, why it was happening and how to take control of it. And, do it all in a really short time frame—just like cramming for an exam!
When treatment finished everything changed
When I finished treatment, however, the silence at times was deafening. There was no information, no advice, no help—I thought I had to do it all on my own. This had a devastating impact on my confidence and my self-esteem, as shame, guilt and survivor loneliness took over.
To the outside world, everything looked great, but inside I was crumbling. I didn’t expect this to happen. I was a confident, fit and healthy person before the diagnosis and I expected “that me” to return.
No one ever said that finishing treatment would be worse than being diagnosed! And I was shocked. In conversations with other women over the past 13 years, I now understand that I was not alone and being young, 38 at the time, only compounded the problem.
Learning the truth about survivorship
My purpose then became letting you know what can happen when treatment finishes and give you the tools, but more importantly, the skills to use to move forward instead of getting “stuck” in fear.
In the Survivor Secrets guides, the ladies shared a lot about the “tools” they used to move forward and let go of fear. The next step in this project is to drill down on those tools and give you the skills you need to use them—in other words, help you be the eager student again.
The tools and skills for survivorship
One huge “aha” moment for me, was understanding the difference between tools and skills. I focus a lot on skills or instructional “how to”, because tools without skills can disempower you and deflate your confidence.
Lets look at an example:
Meditation is one of the tools I used to settle the fear I felt when I was diagnosed, going through treatment and still use today. It is without a doubt, one of the most empowering tools I have used for the past 13 years in particular. But, I can hear you saying, “So what, I don’t know ‘how to’ meditate!”
And you’re exactly right—without being the student, without understanding, without the skills to break down those basic “how to” meditate steps, having that tool will not help you at all.
Become the eager student
So let’s take one more step and go a little deeper.
You will need to be the eager student. You will need to get curious about meditation.
So you might look for a an expert or master of meditation. Someone that can teach you the basic steps and skills you need to learn how to meditate. Then, it is up to show up and practice, just like a baby learning to walk. You take baby steps and slowly develop your skills through practice, perseverance and patience.
Something I need to tell you first. I was a control freak who could not sit still for a minute, but I knew that my health depended on slowing down and giving myself a well deserved break, so this was the commitment I made to guard myself against fear and illness—find someone who was really good at meditation, then get them to teach it to me. That’s it!
Taking baby steps
These are the baby steps I took as a student, to develop the skills I needed to meditate:
- I tried a meditation class – I went with a girlfriend it didn’t work for me, but I was still curious to look for another way to learn
- I talked to people I knew and they told me about a women her name was Petrea King – so I got curious about her. I went to the bookstore and looked for books on her (there was no internet back then)
- The bookstore had meditation tapes so I bought a meditation tape by Petrea King (Yes! A tape…it was a long time ago) – From then Petrea became my teacher.
- I committed to listening to that tape every day. It was my number one priority.
- I would sit up straight with my feet on the floor, put the tape on and close my eyes and follow her voice.
- It wasn’t always easy but I still did it everyday
I honoured that commitment every day, as it was one way I saw to empower myself in a chaotic time. Slowly over time, I noticed that I didn’t need the meditation tape as much. Slowly, I could meditate on my own without the tape.
Developing the skills further
I then started to the skills I had learned in the lead up to doctor’s appointments. I would visualise myself leaving the doctor’s appointment smiling. I would do that every day for weeks leading up to the appointment. When the appointment came, I was no longer consumed by fear and I knew I would leave the appointment smiling. I felt that in every cell of my body.
I had taken control and taken one action to control the fear. It took 30 minutes a day, but I felt empowered and in control, rather than disempowered and paralyzed by fear.
Recently, a colleague I used to work with remarked that in the midst of chaos, I was always a calming influence.
This was a skill I developed, because 13 years ago I made a commitment to myself to buy a tape and set 30 minutes aside a day and become a student in order to master the skills I needed to develop against fear!
As the old saying goes:
Question – When was the best time for me to start cultivating the skills to meditate? Answer – 13 years ago.
Question – When is the second best time? Answer – Now!
What could you develop curiosity about to help you overcome fear?
P.S. Last year I met my teacher Petrea King, it was a really moving meeting for me, as I owed her so much.
P.P.S Now I lay down when I meditate, sometimes I even fall asleep:)