Forums » The Coaching Corner

Cancer Changes Everything

  • August 19, 2016 12:08 PM EDT

    When Cancer Hits, Everything Changes.

    I used to consider myself a person who could remain optimistic, gather information and make a plan based on expected outcomes - all the while staying focused on facts and logic. That is what we do in the medical field. Make treatment plans based on the diagnosis and adjust them as needed. Then my spouse learned he had cancer and everything changed. My emotions are now in charge of my life and certainty in the future has been thrown out the window. I found that gathering information was still a good thing. Asking lots of questions to the physicians was my specialty. Imagine my surprise when they could not give me definitive answers. The best answer you get is "here is the recommended treatment option and how the average person responds." That living in uncertainty has been difficult for me. I kept trying to make plans based on my idea of what needs to happen. Guess what?

    My plans are a waste of time and energy. I have had to let go of plans ... other than today. I have let go of expectations. I have learned to pay attention to the small things that you can do to make life easier.

    I discovered some ideas about holding space for others that has helped me deal with the uncertainty of this situation.

    o   Letting go of judgement

    o   Opening your heart

    o   Allowing another to have whatever experience they're having

    o   Giving your complete undivided attention to the situation / other person 

    The concept of holding space for others is simple. The practice of this requires patience and attention. Holding space means being present and not running the show. It means being supportive and not telling the other person what to do.

    Showing up for a person means this is not all about me. Why is this important?

    What is mine? My emotions and reactions are mine. The other person or client will have their own emotional journey. Another lesson learned is that when I try to manage or handle other people’s emotions or reactions, I fail miserably. You most likely have had this experience, too. It can actually be insulting to a person to hear from another how to feel or react in a crisis. I now believe it is a gift to just show up for that person without expectations. Consider your role and interactions with clients who experience grief or death. Are you trying to handle it all for them or are you willing to show up and give them space?




    • 149 posts
    September 16, 2016 12:26 PM EDT

    Thanks Gwen, as always, for your thoughtful post – and, particularly, for sharing this one from a personal perspective. I’m vibing you and your family positive, healing thoughts.

    This post resonates strongly with me. Although not the same situation, several years ago, I developed some health issues that turned out to be life-altering. I recall, all too well, the range of emotions that I experienced in the throes of – not only dealing with my symptoms and the impact they had on my ability to perform my work as an ophthalmologist - but the emotions I experienced during the long and arduous process of trying to establish an etiologic diagnosis, and the months of not knowing what, why, etc.

    I wanted answers - now. I did everything to try and get those answers – including searching out the best of the best of doctors to get those answers. After a few months, the best answer I could still get was … “we’re not sure, but …” I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder that could not be labeled by name. Intellectually, I had no problem understanding. Emotionally, on the other hand, it was frustrating, to say the least. And it took me some time and processing of it all to eventually garner a proper perspective and positive outlook. To learn to accept that life, as I knew it, was going to be lived from a new set-point. I had to accept the “new normal” and embrace it as part of my fabric.

    To this day, I maintain that these health issues – that were life-changing and that took me out of the practice seat – also had a silver lining. I am grateful for the blessings that I have realized and that have come from this situation. I have come away with a heightened awareness about care of self, about taking the time to actually see the beauty in the simple things we encounter every single day, a better understanding of others affected by chronic illness (including our patients who can’t tell us how they feel), the power in positive thinking and belief, and parting ways from toxic relationships and environments.

  • September 20, 2016 6:08 PM EDT

    Your reply hits the mark on what our options are when uncertainty is part of daily life. Knowing I need to live in the moment is one thing. Understanding that living in the moment is what brings calm and peace - in the midst of chaos - is harder. I agree that any life changing event gives us the opportunity to either get stuck as a victim, or move forward towards the new normal. Reflective action and taking small steps help me to avert the "getting stuck" option.