As we are wrapping up the intensity of the Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I look at all the women business owners and their courageous fight with breast cancer. They have weaved, unintentionally, yet very conspicuously, a pattern that has a transformational effect on each and every one of us.
Each woman has had her battles and wins learning the lessons of life and taking their inner self onto the journey that will never be done.
They say, the journey is our destination. It is in that journey that we are at the crossroads to make a choice. And each choice will lead to another, and this process of making choices will be the road we build brick-by-brick of the moments we truly live in.
Here’s one more story like that teaching us many lessons and asking to be kind to “thy self.”
Breast Cancer October Relay
Illuminate. Encourage. Shine!
Campaña de Concientización Contra el Cáncer de Mama.
Alienta. Incentiva. Brilla!
My name is Stephanie McLeod-Estevez, and I am a triple negative breast cancer survivor. When I heard the news, I had just turned 40 and my youngest child had just started kindergarten. As a self employed psychotherapist, I was initially terrified of how I was going to be able to run my private practice, continue to be an active parent to my 2 boys, and somehow deal with all of the highs and lows that going through 9 months of active treatment brings. Knowing that I was going to lose all of my hair, I knew that this was not something that I could hide from anyone, including my clients.
Even though it was intimidating at first, I was very selective in finding the right fit with my medical team. I knew that I was going to need to have full confidence in them in order to pull this off. When the nurse practitioner shared with me that many clients continue to be active and exercise, I realized that I had a lot of misconceptions of what life might be like going through treatment.
Here is a list of my HOW-TOs for being a cancer patient
and a business owner.
Be strategic with when you get chemo.
Many of them have predictable cycles of when you are going to feel your lowest in terms of energy and immunity. I chose Monday afternoons, because I could see clients in the morning, head over for the long hours of bloodwork, oncologist meeting and the chemo chair. This also allowed me to carve out predictable hours of business in which I would feel “well enough” to continue to work. I also preferred this option because I knew I would not have too many hours of the day left before bedtime.
Be honest with your clients.
As a psychotherapist, the general rule of thumb is to not make self disclosures. However, I knew I would not look the same, that I might need to eat in session to combat nausea, and most importantly I wanted to let them know that it was understandable if they needed to find a therapist who was not sick.
Ultimately, most of my clients stayed with me and many of them said that watching me cope with cancer was inspiring them to take healthy risks that they had been been reluctant to do.
Being honest with your clients shows a level of respect for their needs, as well as reinforces your integrity and gives them the opportunity to be supportive.
Be realistic with your expectations.
I was inspired by the nurse practitioner that life as I knew it would not completely come to an end, as I was going to be able to continue to do many of the things that I loved. However, it is vitally important that you are realistic with what you set out to do. This requires tuning into your body and mind on a regular basis to check in and see how you are doing.
For example, the first 3.5 months of chemo I continued to go to Zumba and Vinyasa yoga, while staying conscientious of how I was doing.
I spent a lot more time in child’s pose and my Zumba steps were much slower, yet the impact on my psyche was irreplaceable as I felt tremendous appreciation towards the resiliency of my body.
Ask for help.
As a self employed person, there was no sick time, no short term or long term disability benefits for me. Thankfully I had health insurance through my husband. And while friends and family could not do my work for me, they did support me in numerous ways- through fundraising, rides to work and treatment, premade meals, and playdates for my boys. We did our best to maintain a sense of normalcy. When you allow people to help you, it is not only a gift for you but also a gift for them, since caregivers often feel a sense of helplessness in the face of cancer.
Be good to yourself.
Going through treatment is like preparing for a 6 month through hike, not just a day trip in which you can anticipate reaching the summit and returning before dark. It is the easiest time to practice the art of living in the moment, because things can fluctuate more than normal, literally checking in to see how you are doing and then responding to your needs in the way you would for someone you loved (i.e. listen to them and take them seriously). The more you respect the tempo that your body, mind and spirit set, the more resiliency you will have to stay in the game until the finish line.
Join In Breast Cancer Awareness
— Celebrate Woman (@DiscoverSelf) October 24, 2017
Be open to how cancer can transform you personally and professionally.
As an art therapist, I have always been a creative person. Since having cancer, I have opened a new business, Creative Transformations, which has taken my creativity to a whole new level, enriching the work that I do. I now work with cancer survivors, in person and via the Internet, to help them heal emotionally from cancer and reclaim their lives. Each week I blog for #TherapyThursday, to share the insights I have gained from my experience.