Creating Calm During Cancer Chaos


Seattle has been blessed with a few days of sunshine and warmer temps. Everyone is out walking the neighborhood, the lilacs are blooming, and Spring feels officially here. The dogs know instinctively how to take advantage of this beautiful moment. They chill on the deck, hang out the car window and soak in the warm sunshine. Cash knows how to relax and live in the moment.

Lessons From Cancer Survivors

Last week, I was honored to host the 3rd Annual Renewal Retreat by Project Pink’d.  A program near and dear to my heart, I co-created this cancer survivor experience with President, Cynthia Sturgeon. Every year, I learn valuable lessons from these women living with cancer. We laugh and cry and I get to see first-hand the transformation that occurs when these women realize they CAN choose to thrive – and that “surviving” is no longer an acceptable path to living life. In spite of their cancer diagnosis, they can challenge themselves to look beyond their fears and dare to envision a future for themselves that makes them smile.

This year I stepped into this magical weekend with my “coach hat” on. I wanted to observe how the experience creates awareness and encourages each woman to take a small step forward towards thriving.

As I took off my “coach hat” and put on my sleepy pants, I reflected on what it felt like to be enveloped in their vulnerabilities. How many of their fears, are also my fears. How many of their questions, are also my questions.

While I cannot understand what it’s like to be in their exact shoes, I can relate to many of the struggles they are experiencing as a result of a cancer diagnosis.

Moving From Victim to Thriver

One of my favorite activities during the retreat is to create a vision board – one at the start of the retreat and one on the last day.  The first board is a visual representation of what life is like currently and the second represents their future. These images and words tell an important story – their unique story. These are women that walk in anxious, curious, afraid, nervous and self-conscious. Many feel and behave like a victim. In 3 days, they leave stronger, shoulders back, feel less alone and they have new tools to help manage the bad days.  And, they have new sisters to walk beside them as they dare to thrive.  While the weekend may begin with uncertainty, it ends with a lightness that offers hope, renewal and a sense of peace.

During the second vision board activity, we noticed a theme emerging. These strong women were making a commitment to themselves to appreciate and value the present moment. They cannot change their diagnosis or that life has changed in ways they never expected (or wanted). They cannot change the past. Instead, they can choose to celebrate the present moment for what it is. For that moment, they are choosing to soak in the sunshine and feel the warmth of the sun.

Finding My Calm

I was excited to return home with a refreshed energy and sense of hope and was welcomed with big hugs and poochie kisses. I knew this week would be a tough one as Jeff had bone and CT scans to see whether cancer has spread or whether chemo treatment is slowing down the disease. When you live with someone diagnosed with metastatic cancer, each day is different as a result of pain, fatigue, etc.  There’s a certain level of chaos always present in the house.

Yet, today – in this moment of Seattle sunniness, I joined Cash and Ali, did a few belly breaths, soaked in the sunshine and felt the warmth of the sun on my face.  I gave myself the gift of calm in that moment.

How do you find calm in the middle of cancer chaos?