When Cancer Dominates Your Life
For the second time over the last 16 years, I recently had the sensation as I was going about my daily life: “I feel like I have my life back.”
The first time was a few years after finishing active treatment for stage 3 breast cancer. It had taken me several years to feel that I could return to what felt like normalcy, where I had choices on how to focus my attention and could trust in the future.
Again, things have shifted a lot for me personally and it feels like all of a sudden!
Many of you know that my husband of almost 30 years was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer 5 years ago. After grueling treatments which included months in the hospital during the pandemic (for cancer reasons, not covid), he has reached a place of relative stability.
By stability, I mean we are still living between 3 month scans but he’s on a break from treatment for 9 months now. Gotta love these breaks from treatment where you start to feel your energy come back! And then he surprised me by going back to work after being retired for almost 2 years.
It happened after I had spent a month away over the summer.
My daughter Alima, who is 16 now, and I spent a month in Spain this summer visiting relatives. She attended a 10 day camp and I spent 7 blissful days by myself on the island off Menorca. Read about how free I felt in Menorca: http://www.kellyinselmann.com/blog/what-makes-you-feel-free/
This fall, my daughter is in 10th grade at Westlake High School and works part time, while my husband was recruited back to his field and is enjoying himself.
And here I am asking myself a question I have asked before: “How do you connect with your identity after cancer has dominated your life for years?”
I feel a bit distracted as I turn back towards the work I love, with people who seek to make meaning of their lives, increase their vitality, and heal emotional wounds.
I’m grateful to the JoyBoots Inner Circle Group for keeping me devoted to our work together. They have continued meeting for 4 years through hell and high water, since initially meeting in yoga classes and my online course, Healing Well: Reconnect with Your Life after Cancer.
Together we have celebrated the life milestone of one member selling her house and building her dream cottage out in the country with her best friends. We have celebrated times of stability in treatment and good family news.
We have supported each other through recurrences and even through the heartbreaking passing of a beloved member, Jane. In group, we ask each other: “What do you think Jane would say to that?” And the answer is always something irreverent, brutally honest, and empowering. Her spirit and wisdom live on in us.
In the past few months, I have grieved the losses of a dear friend and a of a dear client, both age 41, both irreplaceable and leaving behind 2 children and heartbroken families.
I continue to grieve the losses of all these friends.
Sometimes people wonder how I work with people who are facing cancer. I admit, I have to pay attention to my own self care and make sure I’m exercising, and socializing and now…traveling!
But for me, it’s not a burden to meet with JoyBooters, it’s an honor and it’s often super fun. Being with people who recognize the fragility of life, who love deeply and care so much for their loved ones, makes my life more vivid. I am reminded that time is shorter than we think, and each moment more beautiful. For me, it’s an honor to have this deep level of connection. It helps me make meaning of my own life.
Quite frankly, JoyBooters always end up inspiring me.
So, this fall, I have turned much more determinedly towards revamping my signature program which shares my 6 Steps for Emotional Recovery from the Trauma of Cancer. You can listen to this podcast interview I gave about my ideas. https://therapistuncensored.com/episodes/tu63-living-with-cancer-the-six-principles-of-emotional-healing-with-guest-kelly-inselmann/
In early 2024, the course will open for people who are newly diagnosed and for cancer survivors who have finished active treatment. A version for people living with metastatic cancer and a caregiver version will come soon after.
As I work on the course, this question continues to guide me: “How do I connect to my identity after cancer has dominated my life?” Does this resonate for you?