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Why Asking “WHAT” Will Give You The Answers You Seek

Why Asking “WHAT” Will Give You The Answers You Seek

How to move forward in your life!

I’ve not met a single person on the planet yet who enjoys the thought of “sucking it up” or relishing the taste of a dog turd served up on a platter. That’s what a cancer diagnosis gifts you at the start of the experience.

I recognise that’s a little confrontational and button pushing, but it’s my truth. My breast cancer experience is also my reformed resilience, motivation, exposed fears, revitalised purpose and pursuit of my dreams. It’s been a gift on many levels. 

My raw has transformed into my ROAR!

A cancer diagnosis and recovery from surgery and/or treatment are significant. You find yourself asking a hell of a lot of questions, some of which are reasonable and some are fear-based. It’s very easy to quickly fall down a rabbit hole into a pity party.

After listening to Tasha Eurich’s Ted Talk “Increase your Self Awareness” I was left with two profound key points.

Why” questions trap us into continuing to look in the rearview mirror of our life.

A why question often denotes an emotional component to answer or highlight a reason or cause. In the case of cancer, why would one person be diagnosed over another? In some cases, like smoking or drinking, the why is simple and easy to identify. There is an inference that the person’s actions were the cause. 

A why question also denotes blame shame and guilt immediately to the inquisitor. It infers the action of the question asker to reflect on the reason of cause. In the case of cancer, as my oncologist states, it’s the luck of the draw.

In my experience and research, cancer is a little more than luck but still, no-fault should be drawn. Yet we self criticise, self punish and talk shit to ourselves when the going gets tough at the time of diagnosis! Other than making you feel worse and completely stuck, what is this serving you? You gain absolutely nothing.

I could talk about the involvement of epigenetics, diet and the management of chronic stress in one’s life — all of which contribute to cancer. There are likely to be the questions surrounding why me, but what if you were to consider what can I learn from this experience?

Does that one question stop you in your why tracks immediately? Did you find yourself pausing and taking a slow deep breath and calming a little?

Here’s the thing, if you’re a newly diagnosed patient none of those reasons you procured inside your head matter right now. Do they? Looking for a cause is continuing to look in the rearview mirror of your life. The diagnosis is done. It’s not in your control to go back and make changes. 

You can’t relive your life or get a do-over.

But YOU can make changes moving forward.

You’re not doing yourself any favours by mentally beating yourself up with all the analysis of the why. Excessive or ongoing thinking literally will drain your physical energy to maintain the mental stamina to power the brain and continue assessing what did or did not go right or wrong.

The answer to overcoming the stress of a cancer diagnosis (and it’s easier to implement than you think) is to ask yourself this one question. 

What is in my control right now?

Sit with that question and check in with your body. Is it still in a state of flight or fight? Or perhaps are you suddenly eager to explore new horizons? Is there a shift?

Asking the what question shifts your vision, motivation and drive for life forward. It changes the mindset into a solution-orientated field.

What to ask your medical team?

Understand your diagnosis

Understanding medical language at the best of times can get a person flummoxed. Learning about the intricacies of your cancer diagnosis takes time to digest all the various nuances associated with your personal case.

Understand what your pathology report is informing your specialist. Be sure to continue asking questions of your medical team until you are clear on what the diagnosis means, and their suggested treatment options based on your specific results. 

Understand your treatment options

Once you’ve got your head around your diagnosis, your medical team is a well-oiled machine which will likely guide you to some form of medical intervention. It’s vital to understand what various treatment options are available to you.

There will naturally be emotions associated with whatever treatment option you choose. A good practitioner provides you with advice for treatment, based on the statistical success of short and longer-term cure rates, and allow you to decide. It’s your body after all.

I was fortunate enough to have a world-class surgical team who participated in robust discussion about surgical and oncology treatment options. We discussed the pros and cons of everything in relation to my case history.

I also asked what the success rates of various procedures, tests and scans in general. I asked specifically each specialist what their individual performance statistics in relation to undertaking suggested treatment options. 

I discussed with my team the what were the potential failure rates, side effects and complications of what they suggested for my specific case. Let me very clear, I’m not a doomsayer with a negative outlook. I wanted to be proactive and understand what I could do to minimise negative outcomes that were in my control.

Understand the statistics of metastatic return

Upon my diagnosis, I learnt many things about my hormone-related cancer. I also had to think about two strategies before making any treatment decisions. These included what I needed to do to deal with cancer in the now and present, and in the medium term in order to minimise risks of metastatic return.

I found it vital that I understood what the statistical research evidence of possible recurrence of my exact cancer. I had numerous in-depth conversations with members of my medical team in relation to the little things that I could implement to manage pain, side effects, recovery, and ability to cope with everything in between.

Final Words

One of the most empowering things you can gift yourself is to ask yourself what questions? Asking yourself what can I learn from this experience?” literally reprogram your conscious brain into solution-seeking actions, rather than hosting a pity party.

Migrating through a cancer experience is tough. You get thrown so many lessons to learn about yourself. Asking what questions enables you to have some little bit of control of the many small things you can implement looking forward in your life.

About Karen

Change Facilitator

Karen Humphries is a Kinesiology Practitioner, Health & Business Coach, self-confessed laughaholic, and now Breast Cancer Advocate residing in Gippsland Victoria Australia. She loves being of service to the world with her humorous and positive approach to life, encouraging people to ‘choose to change and bloom from within.’ 

Healing Emotions Hurt More Than The Physical Wounds

Healing Emotions Hurt More Than The Physical Wounds

How to come to terms with the emotions of cancer

There are several reasons that cancer is associated with strong emotions. Cancer is an evocative word, which has traditionally referenced a deadly disease. Yet this doesn’t change the fact it is much harder to heal the emotions of cancer, more often than the physical wounds.

What I know to be true, is that upon diagnosis, there is an overwhelming sense of uncertainty thrown in your face. Your mortality is slapped down in front of you. There is an immediate fear of the future, fear of the unknown and fear of losing control.

I still vividly remember the Saturday morning my breast surgeon delivered the news of my pathology results. I had been able to get myself out of my hospital bed unassisted. It physically hurt like hell, but once I got comfy in the upright chair I was able to settle. The bed was for sick people, I didn’t perceive myself sick then. I was simply recovering from mammoth surgery.

When my surgeon sat at the end of my hospital bed, her face was serious and I knew something was wrong. You know that dread you feel watching a suspense movie? You experience that sensation when you know instinctively something is coming and can’t prepare for it?

She informed me that the results were significantly scarier, from what the original scanning and biopsy had shown. That was one of several days the floor disappeared and I felt like Alice falling down the hole.

I allowed myself to sit in the vulnerable

Hysterical tears don’t even come close to describing everything I felt and experienced that day. Hot mess doesn’t either. But I did both of those things and everything in between. Panic. Terror. Overthinking. Sadness. Worry. Anxiety. I experienced all of it, smothered by it in fact.

There was little resilience left after surgery earlier that week to do anything but cry. At that moment I felt completed defeated. In those conversation moments, my physical pain didn’t even rate. But I was gutted emotionally.

I can now reflect on that horrible day, understanding the true power of the fear of the unknown. It’s crippling and leaves you feeling nothing but raw, extremely vulnerable and very isolated.

The healing I’ve done on myself since has shown me that with patience and the loving support of friends and family, I have turned that raw into MY ROAR!

Even now, as broken as you may feel, you are still so strong. There’s something to be said for how you hold yourself together and keep moving, even though you feel like shattering. Don’t stop! This is your healing. It doesn’t have to be pretty or graceful. You just have to keep going. — Unknown

It did, in fact, take the promised eight weeks to recover from that mammoth reconstructive surgery. In hindsight that was the easy part. The hardest part was dealing with the resultant PTSD emotions that arose from a traumatic biopsy experience.

I had buried myself inside the physical recovery from surgery with very little time to deal with the magnitude of why I had surgery and my diagnosis in the first place.

The subsequent emotional feels that are incorporated deeply with diagnosis, and were often expressed as feelings like dismal failure and depression. Feelings of perpetual entrapment ensued, both physically and mentally.

 

Identifying dark places

That was a dark hole, which took some intense therapy to work through. With hindsight, I can see exposing the darkness of those negative emotions with external assistance, allowed me to openly explore all the feelings as the gift it was. Healing those emotions was so much more intense and way more challenging than healing from breast cancer surgery.

The talking therapy was the trick. I didn’t avoid it, I couldn’t, for that messy bitch of emotions slapped me every day. I didn’t process having cancer at the time of diagnosis. I was too busy being shuffled between appointments, having surgery and learning to walk again.

The emotional bastard bit me as I started chemo. The feels oozed out with my energy as the magic medicine flooded into my body. This was the time that my strong facade faded. And once again I was back to feeling overwhelmed and vulnerable.

 

The talking therapist supported me to gently explore the maze within and find myself again. The talking granted permission to the floodgates to open, which had been bolted tight. Those gates had held everything inside. It was everything inside that robbed me of my energy to recover physically. 

 

As soon as I wrote in my journal or purged with my therapist the cascading avalanche of all my stuff spilled out. There was a release. It was those moments of releasing the emotional that granted permission for the physical to relax and heal.

A friend shared the following quote with me during these darker days. The message was received. Be kind to self. Put self first. Do what it takes to heal. So I did.

I know you are hurting — really bad. I will not tell you to love yourself or smile, but to keep surviving, to get through this day, to eat whatever you want and not feel guilt. I will not tell you to stay in bed for a week, a month or a year if that is what your soul needs. I will remind you that you are still beautiful, even when you are dressed in all the grief. — Rune Lazuli

The emotional roller coaster of cancer is expected and very normal. It’s our human response to a stressful situation. The various things we feel are simply exaggerated because there is a societal perception that we are fighting for our lives.

 

I worked with a therapist

With the support of my therapist, I dug deeper into the abyss of the connective tissue within the wounds I now wore. Initially, those new lines caused much shame and embarrassment.

 

I openly explored my old wounds

I openly explored what my breasts had meant to me as an individual, a woman, a girl, an infant, and mother. I healed more mother wounds, and in doing so in poured an immense and deeply felt gratitude for my feminine.

 

I worked through the physical loss

I worked through what it meant to have nipples, and the grief I felt when I lost one. I was forced to process the new bumps to my milky white chest landscape.

 

I worked through the tears

I worked through months of crying every time I looked at my new chest landscape. The red scarring, the skin graft, the puckered skin and the limited range of motion made the emotions raw. It was this rawness that slowed the physical recovery. I was looking too closely at physical wounds, spending all my energy literally trying to fix them. Trying to control the uncontrollable.

From every wound, there is a scar, and every scar tells a story. A story that says “I survived” — Ft Craig Scott’’

What I’ve learnt is the depth that connective tissue stores emotional trauma. It stores a negative outlook. The tissue stores the false expectations we think we need. The stretch of the tissue holds onto the need to control and keeps you in a state of physical stuck and emotional disbelief. This equates to non-acceptance and inability to flow physically and mentally.

Now that I am embracing my role as a patient it’s getting easier to see those new landscape lines. I’ve researched tattoo designs, and the meaning of the symbol I’ve learnt that the ancient Amazon Warrior amputated her right breast in order to shoot her arrow strong and true.

The lesson learnt and accepted is that I now point true north — metaphorically, mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. 

Final words

 

If you find yourself, a friend or relative, on the cancer rollercoaster, and the likelihood is that someone in your life will be affected at some time, I offer you this. We are gifted challenges, not to endure but to experience. These challenges which arise enable us to explore more of self. These challenges gift us the chance to choose a mindset to focus on what is in our control and surrender to that which is not.

The more we can soften our emotional and mental perspective, the faster and more at peace our physical vessel will respond.

 

Karen Humphries, Change Chick, Change Facilitator, Kinesiology, Wellness Coach, Australian Bush Flower Essences, LEAP Facilitator, Trauma, Public Speaker, Cancer Ambassador, Blooming From Within, Traralgon, Victoria, Gippsland

Karen Humphries is a Kinesiology Practitioner, Health & Business Coach, self-confessed laughaholic, and now Wellness Advocate residing in Gippsland Victoria Australia. She loves being of service to the world with her humorous and positive approach to life, encouraging people to ‘choose to change and bloom from within.’ 

All You Can Ever Do Is Your Best

All You Can Ever Do Is Your Best

I was trolling through my LinkedIn newsfeed this morning and I stumbled across something that stopped me in my tracts by The Female Lead. This caption caught my eye. “Someone needs to see this today.

Talk about a slap upside the head! This resonated viscerally for me.

I’m home-schooling a hormonal monster today that has lost her homework due to a ‘saving’ issue with a word document.

There’s been a frustration tantrum, and everyone is exhausted. It’s just ticked over 9 o’clock, and frankly, I’m ready to exorcise demons from the house or go back to bed.

Today feels like I’m participating in a Tough Mudder race, but I didn’t sign up for the competition!

This article I stumbled across resonated because there is just so much societal pressure these days to get it right. To be the perfect woman or man, wife/husband, and mother/father. I am finding this is especially so during the lockdown. And like so many working parents like myself, who have added home-schooling to their already full task list, there has to be a breaking point somewhere.

Just like this post, there are times when I am happy to admit I have piled various leftovers from multiple previous meals, onto the plate and called it dinner.

Or I’ve cooked up some noodles and padded out leftovers.

Or I’ve made a gravy, mixed it with the leftover roast, dished the new invention into macaroon dishes with puff pastry on top and called it ‘pot pie’.

Tada!

There is one exception between myself and the quoted mother above. I choose not to feel guilt for the picnic or dishing up leftovers. I just don’t have the energy for that bullshit.

I’ll admit, our family has pretended we are at a fancy restaurant and had little dishes of what is left in the fridge. We all got a taste but it wasn’t enough for a meal. So what do you do? You pad it out with whatever else you have! You make do. You have to otherwise food goes to waste or you end up purchasing takeout which does you no real favours.

In my household, we are also known for using the picnic tray a lot. We grab little serving dishes (picked just for the occasion) and organise slithers of this and slices of that with some GF crackers and call it a meal. This is actually a favourite lazy Sunday afternoon when it’s raining outside and we come together to watch a movie.

At the end of the day, I am ok with this. Everyone gets fed. End of story.

This incessant pressure applied through our evolved society sets a false expectation that you have to be the perfect parent and dish up cordon bleu every time. This is utter bollicks and I call BS on it all.

On a good week, when I have scheduled the time, I tend to meal plan out the future week. I also do the majority of cooking and food prep then. This system works.

But there are times it doesn’t for whatever reason, and those weeks are stressful and hurried at mealtime. So you do the best you can. I place the priority on food in mouths rather than not eating.

Given I tend to only purchase healthy food options, my family members can get as creative as they want on those days that I have run out of steam. I have learnt, and I’m getting better at the implementation of waving the white flag of surrender to the mother role and telling my family — today I’m not 100%.

Those are the days that I shelf the guilt and exile myself to the couch to rest. This is probably one of the best things which have happened to me during breast cancer treatment and lockdown — voicing externally to those around me that my batteries are in need of a recharge. I give myself permission to stop.

I no longer see this pause as a failure, or that I’m not good enough. I no longer perceive the act of stopping as not meeting the position description of ‘mother’. I now choose to see this as a gift to self.

Don’t ever think you have to compete with the external image of the ‘perfect plate’ for every single meal – it’s just not real and never will be. It is simply a marketing illusion designed to make you feel bad unless you’re purchasing a certain product.

Just do your best.

And when those picnic moments come along to enjoy your kids’ faces who think they are getting a treat and pat yourself on the back that you got them fed.

Its time to slow down and get out of our heads — you know that space where we overthink and over analyse. Give yourself a treat and step into our heart space where all the feels are. Kick back and charge the battery up.

You can only do your best today and continue to strive to stretch your best tomorrow (if you have the energy to do so)!

Dine In Your Sunshine

Dine In Your Sunshine

The other day I left the house at dawn for my usual wake up walk. Immersion into nature for me is the best way to ground and illuminate my senses and activate my intuition. It’s my way to get ready for the day and how I set my intention for happiness.

With each footstep forward, my inner voice was calling me for something very specific. I had a need which was not met during the lockdown. I was craving connection and not just electronic! I needed to see, touch and listen to friends in person (rather than online). I needed a mate date.

I have fantastic friends, and spending time with them is like sunshine therapy. I always leave their presence as a full vessel.

So the very minute restrictions were lifted for social distancing this week, we began the appointment tennis match of when we were all available. Sometimes this can drag as we wade through diary clashes. This time it merely amped the excitement of our imminent gathering.

Excitement is really an injustice, and the word divine comes to mind as we all gathered at a friend’s house. We had previously agreed to walk and take advantage of the current glorious autumn weather, and grab a bite to eat from a local cafe.

We love supporting our favourite local businesses. Being biz owners ourselves, it’s vital to honour and respect the effort that your locals are making to continue providing you with a beautiful heartfelt service during these unprecedented times.

Making note of the constant jibber-jabber and snoopy singers (because we were in public and raucous laughter always attract undue attention), we collected our food order and found a nearby picnic table. And this is where the magic happened.

We were bathed in sunshine as we sat and ate a simple meal.

We had beautiful fresh food in front of us, and yet it felt like a meal fit for royalty.

The smell of perfectly brewed beans combined with fresh air and freedom. And instead of rushing into conversation bursts, we all collectively sighed with smiles on our faces.

Together at last. The gathering had formed, and the reconnection had been made. Sometimes words are not required, and the pause is just as enjoyable as the noise.

It was almost post-orgasmic in pleasure, just sitting in the same physical space as my girls, bathed in sunbeams from above, and love beams amongst us.

Bliss is the word that comes to mind. How is it that a simple picnic can uplift one’s spirits so greatly? It wasn’t the chew or the brew, but it was definitely the crew I was with!

And then the usual round the table routine commenced, taking it in turns to update the others began. Love was shared with words. Loved was shared with heartfelt eye contact. Love was shared with smiles and raucous laughter, and more snoopy sniggers when the conversation turned to something naughty.

It could have been pouring rain outside that day, but the love shared amongst friends, in simple connection over a takeaway sandwich and coffee was better than watching a sunrise. That day we made our own sunshine and for that I am grateful.