Be a Thriver!

| March 11, 2013 | 1 Comment

“Until you make the uncon­scious con­scious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”  — C. G. Jung

By Bev­erly Vote


A beau­ti­ful sun angel.

I learned how Dad and I were dis­abling you.

These words were a defin­ing moment in my heal­ing jour­ney. How I looked at my life and how I took care of my heal­ing from that moment on were for­ever changed.

The words froze me in time, it became a sur­real moment. My daugh­ter Lau­rie kept talk­ing, but I no longer heard any­thing she was say­ing because I couldn’t get beyond her words — I learned how Dad and I were dis­abling you.

I was shocked, weren’t we play­ing the can­cer sur­vivor and care­giver roles the right way? How were we to know that doing for me what I could do for myself was weak­en­ing my heal­ing abil­i­ties and caus­ing harm to our rela­tion­ships? In hind­sight, it was like we were rou­tinely train­ing my mind and body to be sicker instead of health­ier. The label of breast can­cer was stick­ing and spread­ing to too many parts of my life.

Fam­ily, dishes, laun­dry, cook­ing, self-care and a busi­ness to take care of were all too much for me. Even sim­ple deci­sions were no longer sim­ple to make. So I turned every­thing over to my will­ing hus­band, daugh­ter and son. I hadn’t given up on my life, but I had given up on being able to take care of my life.

This was almost two decades ago. Lau­rie was a young mother, my son Brad was fin­ish­ing high school, and my hus­band David remained deeply devoted to our mar­riage and ever com­mit­ted to doing what­ever he could to make sure I wouldn’t die.

In that moment Lau­rie was shar­ing with me what she had learned at a Chris­t­ian retreat she had recently attended. She was aglow with energy and strength, and I was excited to hear what had touched her life so richly.

But this one sim­ple sen­tence stung with truth. Lau­rie wasn’t shar­ing her new found wis­dom to hurt me, or to tell me how to fix my life, she was just shar­ing what she had learned and how she felt deeply inspired to live and to see her care­giv­ing role dif­fer­ently as a result of learn­ing how she and her dad were actu­ally harm­ing me in my heal­ing quest.

I had no idea my fam­ily and I had fallen into such a trap, and the last thing I ever wanted in my life was to be a bur­den to any­one and to let my loved ones do for me what I really could do for myself.

This was a wake up call to do the can­cer expe­ri­ence dif­fer­ently and not repeat the unhealthy survivor/caregiver roles that I had wit­nessed of my can­cer diag­nosed rel­a­tives. As Christy James has learned — what is good for the patient should also be good for the caregiver.

The Booby Trap

Today I refer to this as a can­cer trap — think­ing and behav­ing as can­cer would want us to think and to behave, as if we are pow­er­less and stay­ing stuck in feel­ings of over­whelm and despair and let­ting bot­tled up fear drive our life. Actu­ally I call it a booby trap because too often we let a diag­no­sis of breast can­cer rob us of our self worth and too often we let our outer sil­hou­ette define our real beauty and the real strength of who we are.

This booby trap will also try to rob us of our hap­pi­ness. Yet a diag­no­sis of breast can­cer is an ulti­mate time to bring more hap­pi­ness and joy into our life. If not at this time, when?

I just wasn’t aware that I had slipped fur­ther into that can­cer vor­tex where I was actu­ally seek­ing neg­a­tiv­ity and want­ing peo­ple to com­mis­er­ate with me. If some­one had some­thing pos­i­tive to say, I didn’t want to hear it or if they tried to encour­age me to see a stronger side of myself, well that just wasn’t my cup of tea. In fact it angered me and I asked myself why don’t they under­stand my mis­ery and pain? It was almost as if I wanted to stay stuck in misery.

I now real­ize that at the core of my pain and trauma was the fear­ful belief that there was absolutely noth­ing I could do about the course of the dis­ease or the qual­ity of my life and that any thing I might do would never be enough to heal from breast can­cer. I was also afraid of mak­ing fatal deci­sions. How could my loved ones under­stand this?

As a result of just a few minor changes in my head, things began to change for the bet­ter. With prac­tice, I was able to shift my mind from all what I wasn’t and would never be again to what my very best friend in the world would want me to see about myself, all the beauty and riches already in my life that I had let the can­cer booby trap pull me away from see­ing and from enjoy­ing. What­ever time I had left, I now wanted to spend it in the least amount of mis­ery that I could. I knew on a soul level that it was impor­tant for me to begin from a new place within me.

I started a list of ways that might help me heal and that list grew longer and longer. It was like prim­ing a well, once I got the stream started, new ideas and hope kept flow­ing and flow­ing. I began to real­ize there are end­less ways to lift the spirit and to empower our minds and bod­ies. I focused on what I could do, ver­sus the over­whelmed feel­ings I had. The key for me was where I inten­tion­ally and con­sis­tently put my focus.

I could keep play­ing over and over in my head how hor­ri­ble my life had become, how my body was dying, and how I was no longer the woman I used to be. I could call friends and drawl out with them how life just wasn’t fair and how I didn’t deserve breast can­cer. I could have done these things, but I didn’t. What I did might have been more harm­ful in that I kept so much bot­tled up. But things had to change because in the blink of one moment, I finally saw my life wasn’t work­ing well and that I could do better.

When sleep­ing women wake, moun­tains move.  — Chi­nese proverb

This wake up call changed the qual­ity of my life and the rela­tion­ships with my loved ones. Some­times it takes a light­ning bolt to shake us awake and to put our lives on a bet­ter course.

5 to Thrive

Some­times we have to break things down to have a break through. By con­sciously doing five lit­tle things every day, I became stronger. Sim­ple things such as walk­ing in the grass, lis­ten­ing to my favorite music, pray­ing, snug­gling, find­ing some­thing to laugh at, call­ing a friend to see how she was, lis­ten­ing to the wind, watch­ing a sun­rise, deep breath­ing, all sim­ple free things.
By being present, really present with just five lit­tle things each day, shift hap­pens. Don’t be sur­prised if after lis­ten­ing to your favorite music one day if you aren’t actu­ally singing the song the next day, or that you are the one telling the joke. This sim­ple lit­tle con­cept helped melt my bit­ter­ness, and helped me take more respon­si­bil­ity for my life. It is very sim­ple, but very empow­er­ing. Just because we have been diag­nosed with breast can­cer, doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy our life the best we can while we can.

Thriv­ing Power

I invite you to think like a Thriver. Think­ing like a thriver doesn’t mean you wait until you reach a five or ten year mile­stone and it doesn’t mean you have to be declared no evi­dence of dis­ease. Think­ing like a thriver applies to any age, any stage of life. It sim­ply means that you shift your thoughts to a bet­ter place.

Thriv­ing thoughts are more apt to move us toward thriv­ing actions. James Allen has writ­ten a clas­sic on how our thoughts affect our life, “As a Man Thin­keth,” and of course there is the very pow­er­ful teach­ing book, the Bible: As a man thinks in his heart, so is he. [Proverbs 23:7]

I am a thriver, and so are you!

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Category: Breast Cancer Wellness, Inspire

Comments (1)

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  1. Wendy Doherty says:

    Bev­erly, this arti­cle speaks to the heart of the mat­ter. Breast can­cer can and does par­a­lyze some peo­ple. When that hap­pens, they have allowed it. Breast can­cer can also be the impe­tus for change. Beau­ti­fully written.

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