Balancing the Medicine Ball
I was talking to my good friend Pat, a good friend and past Cancer patient, the other day. I was having a bit of doubt about the future and where my life was going. A kind of existential angst.
I had just returned from a trip back to visit the city I worked in for 17 years. It was my first trip back in 2 years since the cancer treatment started and my move to the countryside. During this city visit, I met up with some old work colleagues, from my HR days. I count them as friends today and they have been wonderful in their support throughout my Cancer treatment. These two women are doing so well in their careers, both are Heads of HR in great global companies. I couldn’t help but feel a comparison to my lot in life. Even though it was an unfair comparison to make.
I had been out of HR for over a decade. I struck out on a different path from them when I made the career change into Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I had built up my CBT practice, single-handedly, to be full of clients, within a year of starting out on my own. But, since my Cancer diagnosis, I have cut my workload back dramatically, so it’s now a tiny fraction of what I was achieving in work.
The problem is I have been a high achiever in everything I have set out to achieve, so much so, it has become an ingrained belief of mine to achieve. But this. This Cancer has flattened all my dreams and aspirations for myself. My aspirations pre-Cancer involved growing my therapy business and branching out, writing books, going on speaker circuits and more. This Cancer has derailed these aspirations. I now realise that my own belief in being a high achiever is dysfunctional.
I was explaining this to my very wise friend, Pat. She is an ex 'Blue Chip' Corporate Consultant and still works in Consulting but has reigned in her activity levels hugely since her own diagnosis. Then she gave me this analogy. She said, “Clare, what you have to realise is that everyone in life is walking along a balancing beam, whilst juggling. They are juggling apples, flowers, razor blades, books and more. But when you have a disease, like Cancer, suddenly you are juggling all these, plus a medicine ball. And you don’t know when that medicine ball is going to knock you off balance, and make you fall off the balancing beam and land flat on your backside. That is what having metastatic cancer is like.”
This analogy really resonated with me. Suddenly, I could see myself juggling all of this and the medicine ball, and how desperately I wanted the medicine ball to keep in the air and to keep my balance.
She made me see, in this small analogy, how I must see myself differently, now that I have metastatic cancer. I can’t compete with my friends and their achievements because they aren’t juggling the medicine ball! I couldn’t have the same aspirations I wanted to achieve, as I had pre-secondary Cancer, because I now have this heavy medicine ball to balance in life with.
I must change my aspirations to meet my new life. So, as we are quickly moving towards 2020, I am going to create a new vision for my life. One that takes care of me, whilst fulfilling me, in new ways. One that involves keeping the medicine ball in the air, for as long as I can.
I am not entirely sure what my new life will look like, but it feels good to start a new chapter and set up manageable aspirations and possibilities.