When I received my Triple Negative Breast Cancer diagnosis on November 8, 2022 I was in the midst of scrambling through the diagnostic gymnastics of disease, feeling the urgency and pressure of time slipping away; I was advocating to move imaging tests up, building my team of doctors, learning the insurance rules of a cancer diagnosis, and trying to keep my son’s homeschool life and routines solid and flexible.
Breathe (self-coach approaches).
Presently I feel the tension of that time paradigm, of the phase of my disease nearly complete (still waiting on genetic results), revisits my body, mind, and spirit.
Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know am breathing out.
My TNBC diagnosis triggered a short google search jag trying (and failing) to make sense of 5-year survival rates for my disease. It was how I imagine a defibrillator working in an ER, sending a jolt that alters the course of your life, hopefully, from flatlining to regular heart beats. Reading the survival rates was the jolt and reeling feeling of flatlining. The return of my heartbeat (metaphorically) came when my husband shared a more nuanced reading of the data I was reviewing. Regardless, the flatline questions wrote themselves across my heart.
Is this what gets me? Is this the end of my story?
These questions brought me to a clash of time paradigms. If it was my end of days, my unrelenting self-driving pace (recently downshifted to include a chill quotient–CHI-Q, self-coined); I’ve seen CQ on “the google”–with come concerted work, commitment to buddhist practice, and leaving my full-time job over the summer of 2022) would drive me right over the cancer precipice. I was starting to accept that I was going to need to adopt radical self-empathy and let go of my executive mode all together to thrive during my treatment. In fact, during my diagnosis, I put my leadership team on notice that I had to use 100% of my executive skills to figure out my own health diagnosis and treatment plan. All things told, that was really a transference from professional to personal domains not the time paradigm shift.
For that, I needed more time in the paradox.
To add context to what my time paradox feels like, I offer a story from a friend who shared disorienting wisdom offered by a professional coach (I paraphrase below).
Coach: It sounds like you’re feeling pressed for time. You may need to reprioritize. You don’t need more time in your day; you need to spend time on the right things.
Cancer has been my life coach. My disease gave me the same wisdom as my friend’s coach. I could melt off the precipice in executive mode, or I could leap off and find a new time distortion letting my numbers invert and fly freely. Faced with cancer’s precipice of death, I chose life. I can thank cancer for that gift, among others. A free float into a new time paradigm, shifting through time’s paradox into a new reality that gave me all the time I need as I chose to spend my time on the “right things” rather than trying to whittle down time allotments from professional pursuits to self-care.
My CHI-Q drives my time perceptions.
I know my treatment schedule will be a road that is unknown, and I’m settling into a relationship to time where everything is properly ordered so that I have all the time I need. Thursdays are my treatment days, and I expect nothing from myself through Sunday. Monday-Wednesday, I’m an executive and home school Czar. The CHI-Q is centered, and time is limitless.
Dear Sarah, Joe and Sol,
Love you all
Mary, Jim and Jon