When you go through breast cancer treatment, there’s a lot of pain involved physically , emotionally and spiritually.
However, as you’re going through the pain, you’re also being told to be strong, be a warrior, fight harder, and it’s really tough to do that when you’re in pain and feeling, vulnerable.
So, when you finish treatment, you’ve got all these conflicting emotions and disconnects within you and often, between you and the ones you love. Sometimes you can’t even consciously identify these emotions, you just know that you’re having meltdowns, you’re feeling anxious, or misunderstood or alone.
If you try to talk about it, you might be met with comments like, “You’re ok now” or “Just stay strong”
But what if you chose not to be strong? What if you chose to say, “Actually, I’m not ok?”
In today’s show I talk about exactly that. I’ll tell you why it’s important to acknowledge the pain you’ve actually been through and how doing that will move you forward to a place where you can change your story from one of being a victim of cancer to one of being a victor in life.
You’ll hear about
-How your reactions to news about others is an indicator of your own suppressed emotions
-How putting language and words to your emotions starts the healing process
-How emotions are stored in the body and how identifying them can lead to release
-How you are so much more as a human being because of your experience.
Read Full Transcript Below:
Hello and welcome…
Listener shout out...Tanya
So I’m going to jump right into today’s topic because it’s something that has been both weighing on me and inspiring me.
Most of you may have heard that earlier this month the actor Shannon Doherty made the announcement that she has stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. After that announcement, I heard from four different women telling me that they were in an emotional spin as a result of that announcement.
It wasn’t so much that they were’ raving fans of Doherty but hearing the news struck a chord with them that triggered some heavy emotions and a lot of fear.
But here’s the thing...that fear and those emotions aren’t really for Shannon Doherty, they're triggering something that concerns them about their own life, their health and their experience.
And there’s nothing wrong with that unless...you don’t stop to sit with it and understand what it is you’re actually feeling.
I’m going to repeat that because it’s really important… you need to sit with it and examine what you’re actually feeling.
Now, what I see most often and what I have been guilty of doing for most of my life is when we find ourselves in an emotional spin is we shut that shit down.
You go to sleep, you have a glass of wine, you distract yourself with whatever keeps us busy or you dismiss your feelings with my pet peeve phrase...I should be grateful I’m alive and you numb yourself to the real frickin trauma and the painful emotions that you are experiencing and guess what...that doesn’t work.
Suppressing your emotions, denying what you’re feeling or worse yet, telling yourself you have no right to feel what you are feeling will not heal you. It will not free you or make you stronger or help you thrive.
With that in mind, he goes onto say “ when you follow the interoceptive pathways to your innermost recesses- things begin to change.
Which in layman's terms means that when we sit with our feelings and we give ourselves permission to experience our feelings we get in touch with what’s really happening inside of us and we start to grow and change.
But that’s not how most of us are raised or groomed. We’re not taught to sit with feeling shitty, we’re not told to just sit and cry. We don’t show emotions publicly, for the most part and when we do, people tell us to stop, to be strong...but why...and is that really strength? Isn’t it easier to shut shit down than to experience pain? Of course it is.
But what are we programmed with as we go through breast cancer? Fight, be a warrior, be strong… and then we come out on the other side feeling lost, telling ourselves that we should be normal, being ashamed if we don’t feel normal, thinking being vulnerable and feeling fearful is equal to being weak so it’s no wonder why this is so damn hard.
So I want to make a couple of points about this idea of sitting with the emotions that come from surviving the trauma of breast cancer:
1-You didn’t choose this, but when you chose to treat it, you chose to start a journey. You had no idea what that journey was going to entail but you said yes, I’ll do this. I want to live so I’ll go through this.
I can remember waking up from my lumpectomy to my doctor telling me that they found cancer in my lymph nodes and that I would need to start chemotherapy...and as a side note what a buzz kill… I mean seriously, why do they have to wake you up from a perfect drug induced sleep and ruin your happy place with news like that?? Why? For god's sake let me have my peace and then tell me this crappy news when I'm sober and in pain...just a side note to any doctors that might be listening.
But my reaction to that news is the perfect example of what I’m talking about in this show. Because when they rolled me back to my room, my family was anxiously waiting to see me and tears were rolling down my face.
I was crushed and I was terrified. I had watched my brother go through chemotherapy and spend a week at a time in the hospital projectile vomiting and losing over 100 pounds off his 6 ft 5 frame. I had no idea that chemo had changed since then and I was running all kinds of stories through my head about facing my worst nightmare.
But did I tell my loved ones what had happened or that I was scared to death...nope...I stayed strong…which I'm saying facetiously right now. I remember my mom asking why are you crying and I said oh i'm not crying the doctor told me the anesthesia just makes people emotional it’ll wear off.
What the fricking hell… did I not have a right to be scared and upset...of course I did.
I can remember them wheeling me in for the bilateral mastectomy...me with a smile on my face waving to my loves...hey, I got this… free boob job, don’t worry I’m good….
Or the first day I sat in that chemo chair...I can clearly recall the feeling I had in my gut at that moment, like nothing else I’ve ever experienced...this tormented struggle between run as fast as you can, get the hell out of here and you just have to do this, you have to do this take a breath just breathe just keep breathing.
Look at this disconnect… It's a disconnect with myself and it's a disconnect with my loved ones. It’s a false pretense. So it’s no wonder why when we’re done with treatment we feel lost, disjointed, and misunderstood.
And our poor loved ones are sitting there like what the hell is happening. All this time you’ve been saying you’re good, but now you’re done and you're safe and you’re alive so what the heck.. Why are you sad? Why are you lost???
I love this quote from Brene Brown’s book Rising Strong, “To bear witness to the human potential for transformation through vulnerability, courage, and tenacity can be either A clarion call for more daring, or a painful mirror for those of us stuck in the aftermath of the fall, unwilling or unable to own our own stories. Your experience can profoundly affect the people around you whether you are aware of it or not.”
I was not raised at home where we did not talk about emotions. We were taught to be tough, we were taught to suck it up to handle shit and don’t come crying to me if you don’t stand up for yourself and take care of shit.
I remember when I was in high school my first serious boyfriend, who became my first ex husband and who came from a family of people who had therapists, saying to me it bothers me when you say that.
I had literally never heard that term. I didn’t know what it meant. Did I do something bad...what do I say to that? I was emotionally naive and ignorant. I didn’t know people talked about things like feelings so how in the world would I be able to identify and discuss my own feelings?
I had no idea, so when my brother, my best childhood friend, my I want to be as good as him and make him proud me person died at 32, I came unglued.
I did not know how to process his loss, it did not make sense and It took me years to figure out how to move forward, how to find a spiritual view of the world that made sense to me and to find a justifiable reason for why we do this life.
Jessica Stern in her book, Denial a memoir of terror, says that trauma interrupts the plot of life. She says “ it just happens and then life goes on. No one prepares you for it.”
And I remember how hard that was for me, i was actually angry that other people were going on with life...how can life act like nothing happened here. when I’m devastated.
You really have to sit with that, to stay with the emotional experience in order to come to terms with it, release it and move forward.
So when you find yourself being triggered by the news of someone else's diagnosis or death from breast cancer, stay there. Stay in that place and check in with yourself. Start asking questions. Why are you feeling this so powerfully? What thoughts and emotions are running through your mind and your body and what do they mean to you? Stay in that space and create awareness.
Candace pert Phd and a pioneer in the field of neuroscience said that “A feeling sparked in our mind or body will translate as a peptide being released somewhere. [Organs, tissues, skin, muscle and endocrine glands], they all have peptide receptors on them and can access and store emotional information. This means the emotional memory is stored in many places... and You can access emotional memory...in any number of ways...The real true emotions that need to be expressed are in the body, trying to move up and be expressed and thereby integrated, made whole, and healed.
Let the emotions bubble up. Let the chips fall where they may…the process of catharsis is not complete without saying things as the first step to experiencing things…To feel and understand means you have worked it all the way through... Once integrated, the natural wisdom of the receptors will release interrupted healing and restorative and regenerative processes can take over.”
This is an essential step to healing and experiencing growth after breast cancer, after trauma. Becoming aware of your feelings, giving words to them, labels, language or better yet, writing about them is the difference between post traumatic stress and post traumatic growth. You can struggle through the stress and keep them buried somewhere in you or you can give yourself permission to let them come up, get a name, be explored and then you can heal and grow this is moving from surviving to thriving. It’s like pulling out a splinter and with that process comes release.
I know people like that and the ones that I know have what I would call a negative attitude, they’re pretty cynical, no is there go to word and judgement is there go to reaction. They’ve never really screwed anything up. They don’t have ex spouses or kids that got caught smoking pot in a high school bathroom so they’re opinion of life is very limited and their empathy for others is too because they don’t get it. They don’t have life experience.
You on the other hand have more life experience than most. You now know what it's like to ace death, you know what it’s like to fight for your life. You know what it's like to make hard choices and to live with the consequences of those choices. You are experienced, you are even more than most people will ever get a chance to be .
But that’s probably not the story you’re telling yourself is it? Here’s the good thing about that, you can change your story. But first you have to look at it and own it. Stop fighting it and saying no I don’t want this I want what used to be because there is no what used to be. That’s gone with yesterday so stop tormenting yourself with it.
So, I’m a big fan of the show survivor, in fact it's my dream to go on the show but ever since chemo my ankles and knees are so crunchy that I can’t run so I keep trying to encourage my youngest so to go on so I can come and visit him during the loved ones visits. If you're a fan too you know what that means and if you’re not a fan it doesn't really matter, I only bring this up because on the newest season of survivor one of the past winners is competing again after 20 years, and since his last appearance on the show he has had cancer.
And as they were doing an outtake interview with him he was talking about how much the game has changed since he was on it and somehow the fact that he is a survivor came up and he said this is the hard part of surviving cancer. It changes you so much and living with the fear of it coming back is incredibly difficult.
I probably shouldn’t cheer when I hear things like that but I do.
I sit there on the couch with my husband pumping my fist and saying yes...see...yes...this has to be talked about more.
I think that surviving cancer is so much more difficult than going through treatment because it’s not until you’re out of survival mode and on the other side that you process everything. You know this is how I feel, I’ve talked about it many times.
But what can make this experience better or worse, is the way you present the story to yourself and others now.
I came across this quote in Brene Brown’s book Rising strong which I loved for so many reasons but one of thee most compelling reasons is that her process for overcoming trauma and adversity is so similar to my own REVIVIFY process, so I felt very validated listening to her book and so many things in it resonated with me.
The quote is from Margaret Atwood’s book, alias grace and it says:
“When you are in the middle of a story it isn't a story at all but only a confusion, a dark roaring a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood, like a house in a whirlwind, or else a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept over the Rapids and All Aboard powerless to stop it.
It's only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all when you are telling it to yourself or to someone else”
That is the cancer experience in a metaphor for me.
In summary, You are the only one who can write your story.
First you have to look at what you’re telling yourself and I don’t just mean, i had surgery radiation, chemotherapy...those are tactical surface level actions what’s behind them might be..I was terrified, I felt powerless, I did things I didn’t want to do because I was afraid, I felt my existence as a human being was diminished, I feel like I’ve been assaulted and I have no recourse over my attacker…
You see where I'm going with this?
You have to get to the real deal. And once you've done that, you’re starting the process of release, you’ll start to relieve the spin outs, you’ll get to the pace where you can embrace your transformation, regroup and thrive.
If this resonates with you, you may want to consider checking out REVIVIFY. This new 2020 version is a ten week coaching program that is packed with great stuff beginning with releasing what’s keeping you stuck and suffering. Enrollment will begin next week and I’m going to kick off that enrollment with a 1 hour webinar where you will learn more about what I call the four phases of recovering from breast cancer.
Enrollment for this course will be open with that webinar on February 28th and continue through Sunday March 8th.
Then the enrollment will close and we will begin the REVIVIFY program on Monday March 9th. I know it’s later than what I originally announced because that was January but trust me, it’s worth the wait. After The first two iterations of this course the one thing my ladies wanted and I could see they needed was more connection and more coaching so I’ve created this course to deliver that this time around and I’m really excited about it.
If you want to hear more, you can go to my website and get on the REVIVIFY wait list, this will ensure that you get the webinar invitations and a special token of appreciation from me if you decide to join the course.
You Can find that list at lauralummer.com and next week. You’re actually going to hear from 4 incredible ladies who have been through the original REVIVIFY course and who have played a key role in helping me understand how to make it what it has become today.
So you can look forward to hearing that when we talk again next week.