Tuesday, June 17, 2014

An e-Ticket to my Happy Place


Evidently my happy place is an almost ripe blackberry.

In the center of my upper chest, just beneath my collarbone. When I breathe in, the imaginary fruit expands giving off the aroma of freesia-roses.  And, if I were to taste this internal creation, I would be rewarded with the flavor of warm vanilla.

This is not a dream, this is the mental manifestation and metaphor for the well-being space I am in right now.
I have just finished a one-hour cancer coaching session with Shariann Tom of The Cancer Journey.

After my cancerversary experiences in the previous week, I found myself in a brilliant space on a scale of Physical, Emotional, Spiritual, Hope and Trust and somewhat reluctant to engage in a coaching session on such a glorious day. After all, coaching is supposed to elicit improvement and I was sure there was no improving on this day.

After ten minutes of easy phone conversation around what external and internal events put me in such a fantastic space, I revealed that my only immediate concern was how to maintain and/or reclaim this space as the ‘wholeness’ started to ebb.

And thus began the great blackberry adventure.



Shariann asked me to envision the space where the strong emotions I was experiencing were kept.

I immediately sensed this wholeness was carried in my chest.

Shariann then asked me to envision the shape of this wholeness.

Perhaps because I was in my backyard at the time, and picking blackberries just prior to the exercise, the first shape that popped into my head was that of an enormous, pulsating blackberry. With my eyes closed, the image was vivid. A giant blackberry centered in my chest, just below the collarbone and expanding and contracting with every inhale and exhale. The colors of the blackberry varied just as a not-quite-ripe real berry might, and to me, signified the ripeness of my thoughts and emotions.

After spending a few minutes with this image, I was asked to attribute other qualities including taste, smell and sound to the wholeness.

For long moments at a time, I was in a state of just being. Just feeling.

If we’ve ever met formally, you know that I am always more of a ‘human doing’ than a ‘human being’. Spending even just a few minutes basking in an ethereal flow tends to make me anxious to get up and ‘be productive’. 

But not this time.

With images of the blackberry in my chest, I was able to lean into the moment. I was able to let go. I was able to relax.

Following the exercise, I realized I was even more relaxed and emotionally comfortable than I had been before. I was also relieved. Relieved that, as this feeling of centeredness begins to erode with exposure to daily life, I have a multi-point and multi-sensory method to reclaim it.

For every physical impact cancer has on an individual, there is at least one complementary emotional impact. In my experience, doctors, nurses and surgeons focus primarily on overcoming the physical obstacles and healing the physical wounds. Their goals are to overcome a crisis situation and put patients back on the path of life. In the cancer world, NED is victory.

Yet, in fact, anecdotal conversation has demonstrated mental and emotional health can often plummet when treatment is complete, even if the patient has no evidence of disease. With no more appointments to attend and no more ‘battle’ for which to rally, survivors are left to move on. During that quiet period, we are blindsided with the ‘what-ifs’, the tangible losses, and the insidious fear of recurrence and/or metastasis.

We experience extreme gratitude towards those who diagnosed, treated, rebuilt or otherwise supported us. And we also experience extreme guilt for being anything less than manically thrilled at the prospect of another day of life when others don’t always get that opportunity.

Whether you find continuity of support through formal cancer coaching, a local support group, an online support community, or simply through the network of family and friends who have been there, mental and emotional release and fortification are critical.

Personally, as a more-is-often-more personality, I consistently access multiple modalities for support. While this suits me well, learning a method for achieving mental wholeness on my own is both soothing and exhilarating.

An hour of cancer coaching doesn't replace the strong network of friends, family and survivors I have around me but one hour of cancer coaching certainly earned me a perpetually valid e-ticket to my very own happy place.