Throughout of our lives, we make choices.
We choose how we are going to respond to situations. We decide when we are comfortable enough to allow ourselves to be open and vulnerable with those around us. Having confidence in ourselves, along with a healthy level of self-esteem is what gives us the courage to step into the light. We learn to show up, speak our minds, and defend our honor.
That is what vulnerability is all about. According to Dr. Brené Brown, vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage. And God knows we need courage through cancer.
I have always been very independent and self-sufficient, and I when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was surprised at how quickly my self-esteem and confidence were demolished. I never expected to be as anxious and fearful as I was then. And I never expected it to last so long.
The psychological cost of a cancer diagnosis has shown to significantly increase anxiety and depression, psychological distress, post-traumatic stress, and impair overall quality of life. According to statistics, nearly 60% of patients with a breast cancer diagnosis still suffer from post-traumatic stress symptoms at one-year post diagnosis. Fear of recurrence, anxieties regarding mortality, altered body image following surgery, changes in sexuality and fears regarding the impact of diagnoses on immediate families can impact our well-being.
For me, the emotional challenges lingered for months. I was so disappointed. Why didn’t the doctors tell me what to expect? Why did I have to find out on my own that this emotional healing was so difficult?
No wonder we shut down. No wonder we close ourselves off to others. It’s too scary.
But we know from research that one key to physical health is being able to access and express our sincere emotions rather than masking them. We must allow ourselves to be vulnerable and authentic so that we can ask for help from others and not stay too private with our journey.
Now is not the time to be Wonder Woman!
We need let ourselves be vulnerable. We need to feel safe asking for help from others. We need to feel accepted (i.e. not judged) as we heal our bodies from the ravages of cancer.
Ask for help with whatever you need for however long you need it. Be your own best friend and be gentle with yourself. Be honest with how you are feeling and don’t hold things inside. Take one baby step forward each day, or stand still if you must, but just know that the emotional healing takes time. You can do this! I know you can.