Vulnerability: My New Super Power

Over the past 4 years, I have faced so many life challenges. In doing so, I have uncovered and developed personal strengths. I find it annoyingly difficult to articulate the details of it all. It’s as if my brain is like a snow globe and it has been shaken up so many times, all of my memories swarm together in a snowy blur. Thinking back, it was an emotional whirlwind of one intense challenge after another. Life at full throttle with no commercial breaks. Then, my life and cancer both began to slow down. I stopped working full time and literally killing myself trying to balance it all as a single mom. My cancer became my new favorite word: Stable.

The Emotional Turbulence of Stage IV Cancer

Death and fears associated with so much uncertainty are by far at the top of my list of emotional rollercoaster rides in Cancer Land. But, I want to share different emotional struggles right now. And, they happen to show up in many of our lives.

Our culture often tells us that we are not enough. And, for personalities like mine who seek beauty in simplicity, this can sometimes be squashed by this view of “not enough.” I am a creative heart that fully embraces being and expressing who I am, including owning all of my crazy.

Struggle Summary: Confidently living my most authentic life… despite the haters.

Cancer has offered a new perspective of time. Oh, the irony. A procrastinating perfectionist receives the gift of open ended time to focus on her health and time with her daughter. I will give myself credit for my many good days and moments of living in the moment with intention and gratitude and embracing the beauty in my life. But, there are struggles in attempting to make the most of my life while I am feeling good. I have to balance it with my crazy ass defaulting back to feeling stuck and overwhelmed as a result of wanting to plan and perfect the time I have been blessed with.

Struggle Summary: Living in the moment with Grace, minus perfectionism and over thinking


Lately, I have frequently been wanting to work on my blog and fill it with encouragement and support by sharing my story. My thoughts begin with that one harmless idea and then branch out into a multitude of unattainable expectations of doing so, “perfectly.”

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Then, comes the “monkey mind” and constant fleet of thoughts and worries. Picture each thought as a tree branch and your mind is like the monkey, swinging from thought “branch” to thought “branch.”

Instead of identifying my mind being filled with monkeys, I like to think of the two old men on the Muppet Show in the balcony. Sitting up there filling my mind with their heckling and cantankerous opinions about all that I think and do. (Yes…I am a goofball. Whatever way you want to describe it, it helps us remember we are not our fleeting thoughts and mental chatter).

“Why didn’t you begin writing when you were first diagnosed? What’s the point in writing now? Who will even read it?” I can hear the old men heckling me loud and clear. And, they are persistent little shits.

Analysis paralysis (overthinking, over planning, but not actually DOING anything), self-doubt and fear are the perfect combo to spiral into anxiety and depression. A trio of fuckery that has made its way into my creative process and many aspects of my life, all too often. I often pride myself with embracing being perfectly imperfect and authentic. And then, analysis paralysis, and his friends shame and fear, come to visit. They don’t just bring a beer and sit on my porch and then leave. They are the type of unwelcome visitors that like to stay so long that you begin to believe in them more than you believe in your true self. And then, chug a bottle of wine to attempt to tame or quiet them. They are like the shit talking co-workers in the break room that shift your entire attitude because of their negativity. You don’t want them to influence your day, but sometimes before you know it, you are filled with negativity as well.

Tonight, I turned to a few of my favorite mentors to soak up their words of wisdom and positive energies. What I did not expect was the mental reset button I needed so badly. I had finally given myself permission to quiet my mind and relax. I didn’t do so with any expectation to achieve anything, but to ease my anxiety and seek peace in doing something that lifts me up or at least balances me out. Then, some clarity and peace quieted those Muppet bastards from the balcony in my mind.6bbd3b70542cf5b76129cd0bd78cb6715421306691483803559.jpg

Brene Brown and Elizabeth Gilbert are two women that stir up my creative soul, self confidence and fuel my desire to live a purposeful life. The Universe most definitely helped guide which videos I chose.

These creative and beautiful minds spoke about exactly what I had been experiencing: FEAR AND VULNERABILITY. The difference is that they hadn’t let it stop them from living and experiencing the life they know is true to them. They are not afraid to share their vulnerability with the world, which in turn gives them a tremendous strength.

My primary goal of living an authentic life and living the remainder of my days with intention and joy has recently been overtaken by fear and vulnerability. Brene Brown highlighted 3 key ways to disempower shame. I got goosebumps as I realized they were all my current goals, as well:

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1.Share your story (shame cannot survive being spoken)

2. Reach out to people you trust (shame grows when kept silent)

3. Talk to and treat yourself like you are someone in your life that you love dearly

-Brene Brown, PHD, LMSW


This statement from Brene Brown summarized my current  metastatic mess perfectly:

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My “aha moment ” of the day

When we stop trying so hard and stop resisting emotions that need to be processed, we allow ourselves to enjoy living in the moment with peace and clarity. We squash the cycle of shame by loving ourselves, embracing vulnerability, sharing our story and reaching out to others. In return, we open up a multitude of opportunities from the Universe and we can Shine as bright as we are meant to!

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Panic at the Pink Disco

Friday, November 13, 2015, I had my follow up appointment to discuss my breast biopsy results. I felt a sense of panic. My mom and I were escorted into a small room and sat at a round table with the physician who had completed my breast biopsy and a Registered Nurse with brochures and a large text book sitting neatly in front of her.

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Sitting in the tiny consult room to discuss my breast biopsy results, I began to feel like the room was closing in around me. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the trash compactor scene in Star Wars. There was no way out of this. There was nothing I could do to change the news of my having breast cancer.

As a registered nurse and a history of working in women’s health, I didn’t mind the stacks of education I was given. After all, diving in to any education and support from other’s personal experiences help give me a sense of control in a situation that I have no control over. Knowledge is power. Reality and objective information brings me clarity. As my mind hit “survival mode,” I had at least some ease in my grief and sadness by considering a few different scenarios of treatment and then focused on feeling that their would be a light at the end of this dark tunnel in the future for me.

A valuable resource for patients full of important education and topics, but where was my chapter?

Four months later, I met with my oncologist for the first time. Honestly, my biggest fear was the possibility of facing and going through IV chemotherapy and its dreaded side effects. She ordered a full body PET scan to be completed before my next appointment, to rule out the possibility of cancer elsewhere in my body. This was a risk due to lymph node involvement that was identified in February during my Mastectomy.

My previous anxiety about discussing chemotherapy at the next visit became low on my list of top fears. The PET scan results were now at the front of the line to shake up my world and life as I knew it. My diagnosis had changed to Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer. The breast cancer had spread to my liver.

I quickly began to feel confused, isolated and overwhelmed (besides from the news of cancer.) None of the educational information I was given gave any scenarios or guidance if the cancer would spread elsewhere. I picked up the large text book-like resource that I was given upon my initial diagnosis of breast cancer. “The Breast Cancer Treatment Handbook.” The cover with its delicate flowers and pink pretty fonts. I turned to the book’s written summary: “Covers all aspects of breast cancer- from diagnosis to recovery.” Recovery. Something “met-sters” never truly see. Where was my chapter?

I used the energy driven by my fear and anger of my new diagnosis by diving into the internet and social media to uncover something or someone that had or has felt what I was experiencing. And, there it was. My angel, Holley Kitchen. Another young woman with metastatic breast cancer speaking out. Speaking truth. Shifting perspectives of how society typically views breast cancer. I finally felt understood. Raw truth and facts had set my unsettled soul free. I was not the only one feeling isolated and like the elephant in the pink room.

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Please take a minute to click the link below and watch her video…

https://youtu.be/QDQ0FjP7J-c


Holley Kitchen passed away from metastatic breast cancer on January 12, 2016, at the age of 42. She was a light of support and inspiration. She was a catalyst for change by speaking her truth and touched the lives of so many. I know she did mine.