We have all kinds of scars that serve as a reminder of the powerful interventions our bodies are subjected to during cancer treatment. These might be the obvious surgical scars that may fade and change over time but remain, for the rest of our lives. Other physical changes such as fatigue and hair loss, appliances attached to our bodies, changes in walking, talking, or eating are also forms of scars. Related, but less obvious ‘scars’ stemming from our cancer journey are the ones that aren’t so obvious to the naked eye but are quite possibly the most debilitating. The mental and emotional impacts of cancer and its treatment may have also scarred us in more subtle ways.
Side effects that persist, new symptoms, complications, the never-ending worries and concerns about what might be around the corner can chip away at our mental strength and resolve. We can lose sight of who we once were, our sense of self, including our identity. We may not see ourselves as the competent, capable, strong, energetic person we once were, and this takes a toll on our confidence. It is not unusual to hear remarks like, “I feel broken” or “I’ll never be whole again.”
Without a doubt, cancer will leave a mark on our lives and we will never be the same person we were before…BUT consider the possibility that cancer, and all it has required, actually creates an opportunity for you to be an even better version of YOU. An opportunity to not change who you are but enhance who you are now; possibly a stronger, more compassionate, and focused you.
There is a Japanese art form called, Kintsugi: The Art of Precious Scars. This technique uses liquid gold or liquid silver to repair broken pottery and make it more beautiful that it was before it broke. Here are two excerpts from articles about Kintsugi and what we might learn from this technique as it applies to our lives.
“The kintsugi technique suggests many things. We shouldn’t throw away broken objects. When an object breaks, it doesn’t mean that it is no more useful. Its breakages can become valuable. We should try to repair things because sometimes in doing so we obtain more valuable objects. This is the essence of resilience. Each of us should look for a way to cope with traumatic events in a positive way, learn from negative experiences, take the best from them and convince ourselves that exactly these experiences make each person unique, precious.” https://www.lifegate.com/kintsugi
“One can consider how we might live a kintsugi life, finding value in the missing pieces, cracks, and chips, bringing to light the scars that have come from life experiences, finding new purpose through aging and loss, seeing the love and the beauty of ‘imperfection’ and loving ourselves, family and friends even with flaws.” https://interestingengineering.com/kintsugi-japanese-art-fixing-broken-pieces-pottery-with-gold
“Wisdom is scar tissue in disguise.” Mahatma Gandhi~
In this regular blog post with Mary Ellen Shands, RN, we dive a little deeper into some of those the emotional impacts of Living with Cancer and discuss strategies to help manage them.
Cancer Lifeline’s FREE Programs and Services for CANCER PATIENTS, SURVIVORS, and CAREGIVERS are a great way to get you started in exploring your new identity!
- Register to join Online Support Groups: Nothing can compare to the feeling of being a part of a community of people who truly understand your experience and “get it.” Support groups (all cancers & cancer specific) meet regularly and welcome new members! For dates and times go to the Cancer Lifeline website https://cancerlifeline.org/services/support-groups/
- Call the Lifeline or connect through Lifeline chat: Need someone to listen and help you sort out your feelings? Call the Lifeline at (800) 255-5505 or (206) 297-2500 ( 9 am – 5 pm PST). Lifeline Chat can be accessed through the Cancer Lifeline website org/chat or simply by clicking the green “We are here to listen” button on any page on our website.
- Access Cancer Lifeline’s Cancer Specific Psychotherapy and Family Support Programs: Contact Pamela Krueger at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-832-1271
- Access Cancer Lifeline’s Therapist Referral Program: Receive names of therapists in the local community who have experience working with people affected by cancer. Referrals and support in choosing a therapist are available for patients, survivors, family members, friends, and oncology professionals. Referrals are free. Cancer Lifeline does not arrange payment with therapists on behalf of clients or check insurance benefits, this is the client’s responsibility. For more information, please call the Lifeline at 206-297-2500 between the hours of 9 am- 5 pm or visit: https://cancerlifeline.org/counseling-services/