You’re Not Crazy –Other People Feel This Way Too

How do you heal from the traumatic experience of cancer? It’s important not to split off your  emotional trauma from the physical as it creates a fractured experience that deprives you of real healing. Integrative care of distress addresses the whole person. When you approach trauma from a holistic perspective there is no real separation of body and mind. By not breaking yourself into jagged pieces, you can heal more fully.

When someone deeply listens to you speak about what are going through, where you have been, and where you are now, you are given the chance to let go and move one. Healing happens by being open to yourself as you are, not attempting to categorize, minimize, or dramatize. Jeffrey Jay, PhD, trauma specialist, has written, “In the books about PTSD the enormity of the victim’s pain and horror is usually understated to make plausible the programs of recovery.” This relates to what can be a “dumbing  down” of the dissemination of information to cancer patients. While this is understandable due to cultural fears of death and dying as well as a misguided assumption that people are not intelligent enough to process on a  more sophisticated level, it is condescending to the person who is facing life-threatening illness.  Indeed, I believe it to be unethical to deprive a human being of the right to know, as best as possible, what may happen to them when they receive a medical diagnosis such as cancer. Informed choices are the right of each of us. After all, it is your odyssey.

Consider the healing of your trauma from cancer as a hero’s journey. These sagas, by their very nature, are tales woven of dark and light threads. They speak of hazardous adventures where the good guy doesn’t always win, love may not conquer all, and being good doesn’t guarantee getting what you want.  There are no short cuts on this trail, but instead many loops and cut backs, peaks, and valleys. The dangers that arise test the hopes of the hero as he faces monumental roadblocks that question trust to its essential core. Most often the hero is reluctant and, given the option, wouldn’t make the choice to take the trip, preferring instead to stay comfortably in the hut, or in front of the television. The call to adventure of your story happens with the diagnosis of cancer.  It is at this moment that you find yourself on the precipice of a hazardous turn in the road. Looking forward the choices you face, many of which lack clarity, will tangle together and crash into each other.  In the confusion and fear of these early days the unknown path before you is daunting.  You may find yourself in a state of disbelief. Surely they’ve got the wrong chart …  who wants to travel this road?

Most of us aren’t rich and famous when we get cancer. While it would be amazing to step away into a beautiful restful place, many of us need to adjust our lives to this new reality of combating illness. We’re just trying to get though each day, pay our rent or mortgage, make sure the kids don’t go off the rails. Ordinary lives plummet into extraordinary circumstances. I remember lying flat on the table in a dark radiology room, looking at the screen the radiologist had just turned so that I could see the mass in my breast, and saying, “Oh, I’ve got something to deal with.”

She replied, “Yes, I think you do.”   Life was never the same …

How have you healed your trauma from your experience with cancer?