Share a little bit about yourself.
I’m a writer, tenured professor of psychology and creative writing, grief therapist and book coach. My most recent book is The Grief Forest: a book about what we don’t talk about, which I wrote and illustrated to help people of all ages navigate complicated grief. I have a trilogy of writing and yoga/movement books through Shambhala. The most popular one is Writing Begins with the Breath: Embodying Your Authentic Voice. I’m also a novelist, and my speculative memoir, A Constellation of Ghosts, will be out in October 2021. I love helping people navigate grief through writing and other creative practices. I have 5 amazing cats.
Share a little bit about your cancer experience.
In early 2017, I was dx with stage 2A colon cancer. Within 2 weeks, I had surgery, which removed about a foot of my sigmoid colon. I was fortunate that it was caught before it had breached the colon wall and spread to the lymph or other organs. I chose an integrative approach to care after surgery.
How has it benefited you to be part of the JoyBoots community?
Kelly is pure light.
What is your meditation practice like?
My meditation practice is writing and drawing.
How has yoga and meditation benefited you?
I came to yoga for the first time in 2002, and it fundamentally changed my life. So much so, that I went through yoga teacher certification. I had never learned to meet my body in the way that yoga allows. Yoga changed the way I write and teach, and it gave me a lot of tools I used after dx (breathwork, yin yoga).
What practices have benefited you the most?
Writing, drawing, yoga.
What are you still struggling to cope with?
Scan-xiety, trusting in how I feel in my body, the dance of moving forward from cancer while always having to stay in touch with it (scans, etc) for optimal outcomes.
What brings you moments of joy?
Watching my cats sleeping in a cat-ball together.
What is something you’d like to share with the community to help them along their healing journey?
I learned very quickly the power of self-advocacy and the need to listen to my body and stand up for her. It can be overwhelming in the medical arena. So many choices. So much urgency. So much fear. Like Kelly’s Joyboots concept–find that way that you can connect with your inner knowing, and listen to her and act on it, even if it goes against what other people say. You know your body and heart better than anyone else.
How has Covid-19 affected you physically and emotionally?
When we left work (I teach at a community college) for spring break, we never went back. I haven’t set foot on campus since then, and have been teaching entirely remotely. We will not be back in the spring either. I haven’t been able to see my mom (she lives in Phoenix and I live in Northern AZ) since then. I don’t go out, except to the grocery store. I miss the spontaneity of seeing people around town. I miss *trusting* people. Our town does not have a mask mandate, and I’m really troubled by how many people not only flaunt no masks, but actively intimidate those of us who wear them. I miss students in real life. I hate Zoom. I absolutely hate it. It is not good for my limbic system. I feel like there’s not much to look forward to, and that I can’t plan anything, and that is challenging. Also, because of my job, I’m providing support to 160 students, which is draining, especially since there are few ways that teachers are being supported right now. I’ve been doing Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube about five times a week since March, and that has helped a lot. I used to go to yoga classes and Zumba classes, and those have been shut down. I am sleeping too much. Fortunately, I am not sick (to my knowledge), but I feel despair and helplessness by all of the many challenges facing our country right now, and without being able to be in the physical presence of friends and a support network, that is intensified. I am grateful that I am also a therapist (which means I also **have** a therapist, lol) and have tons of tools for self-care, but it’s definitely hard. I’m an introvert, and I have introverted enough now.
How has being a cancer survivor prepared you to better deal with the pandemic or how is it making it harder to cope?
Being a cancer survivor means learning to live with uncertainty. It’s not something I’m great at, so I had to really dive into my own issues of control. I had to learn how to check in more immediately with how I’m feeling (psychologically & physically), and not leap too far ahead into the future. That’s COVID-19 in a nutshell. I don’t know that I’m better able to deal with it because of cancer or not, but there are similarities for sure.
What is something surprising you’ve learned about yourself as a result of the quarantine experience?
I can illustrate an entire book in 3 months. 🙂
WILD CARD: What is your most treasured possession?
My most treasured possession are the letters my dad wrote to me on birthdays and Christmas. He died in 1987, and I’ve returned to those many times over the course of my life.