How Coaching Supported Me During Cancer

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Issue 01 Victoria Maricle

The day was March 18th 2021, and I had just woken up from my first ever colonoscopy procedure. It also happened to be my birthday; my 51st to be exact. I was still drowsy from the anaesthesia and I remember the nurse asking me how far we lived from the hospital. The doctor was wondering how long it would take my husband to arrive at the hospital so that he could join us in the recovery room. They had called him a whi[1]le ago and he should have been here by now, but he was not. At first, I did not think much about the urgency of my hus[1]band’s arrival. But when I asked the nurse about the results of the procedure, and he replied that the doctor was planning to share the information with the two of us, alarm bells star[1]ted to ring in my head. My intuition activated, and viscerally, quite literally, I already knew that something was quite wrong with the results. A few minutes later the doctor was standing in front of me at the end of my bed. She had no more time to wait for my husband’s arrival. Her voice was compassionate and kind when she said: “I found a surprise and I wish it were not so but there is a tumour in your colon. I am certain it is can[1]cer”. I distinctly remember absorbing the news from a bird’s eye view, as if sitting from a branch sitting high up in the room and looking down on us. Only seconds passed when my hus[1]band finally arrived. The doctor repeated the news to him, and she proceeded to say that colon cancer had a high survival rate. She would send me the best surgeon she knew. In hindsight, experiencing the news from the meta-view perspective of a bird offered me needed distance from myself and the situa[1]tion. There was a space of calmness and observation where I could take in the situation for what it was without being over[1]come by an outburst of feelings. In that calm space I was very aware that I had a choice of how to approach this life altering situation.

In coaching we know, perspectives give tremendous possi[1]bilities on how to approach a situation with a broader mind es[1]chewing limiting belief. Throughout my journey, healing from cancer, I believe that due to my coaching background that I was very much aware of my power of choice. At times it felt easy, at others not so, in particular during moments of great physical exhaustion and pain. In those moments, I learned to practice forgiveness and compassion towards myself. I was incredibly grateful to my coaching peers who reminded me of the impor[1]tance of exercising compassion towards myself. By doing so, and letting go of expectations I felt elevated, lighter. I learned to accept where and who I was in those low moments while trusting the flow of life.

Throughout my journey I also felt immensely grateful to my body for what it was enduring, undergoing surgery, che[1]motherapy, and recovery. I was immensely thankful to all the people around me who encouraged me with their love and support. I appreciated my coaching background, as it equipped me with the tools to navigate this challenging situation. I realize that embracing my vulnerability was key to navigating diffi[1]cult, low moments of physical pain and exhaustion. I learned that by allowing myself to articulate my thoughts and emo[1]tions clearly and truthfully, I was empowered to advocate for myself. In coaching, embracing vulnerability creates possibi[1]lities for learning and discovery, for acceptance and honou[1]ring oneself by abandoning expectations of who one should be. Vulnerability turned out to be tremendously healing for me and my family. It brought us closer than ever before.

While undergoing chemotherapy I learned to expect the unexpected with regard to side effects and I made a point in clearly expressing to the medical staff how my body was rea[1]cting to treatment. In turn they adjusted the treatment accor[1]dingly and personalized it to my body’s needs

The day we learned I had cancer, my husband and I went home and shared the news with our 13-year-old son. Many te[1]ars were shed but we were also grateful to have each other and that we would go through this together. And so, a year-long he[1]aling journey began, where we learned to navigate through the difficulties as individuals, as a couple and as a family. I became a cancer patient, and my family became supporters of a family member with cancer. At times, the journey felt to me as if it were my very own battle but actually it was very much a colle[1]ctive engagement. Every person around me contributed to my healing, from the smile of a stranger on the street to the hug of the closest friend. Throughout it all, my coaching toolbox was always at hand, and boy, did I make use of it. Listening to my intuition, seeing challenging situations from different pers[1]pectives, exercising compassion with myself, trusting that life has its own flow, honouring my vulnerability while advocating for myself were my superpowers.

People have asked me if I feel resentment or bitterness for what I went through. My clear answer is “no”. Was it one of the most difficult moments in my life? Yes. But I have grown tremendously from this experience in so many ways. I learned so much about resilience and patience. I have become more intentional with my actions and of speaking my truth with clarity and love. My experience with cancer transformed my life. It is another chapter in my life, but it does not define me. When I am reminded that I am Cancer survivor I tell them “I am that, and so much more”. My journey with cancer taught me how resilient, resourceful, and whole we humans are; and that with the right attitude we can navigate the most difficult situations in life. I always have the choice to bring out the best version of myself.

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