What I’ve learned and how it might help
Coping with Cancer
Did you ever push aside a nagging, unrelenting gut feeling? Can you think back to a time that you listened to an “expert,” over and above your own instinct or intuition?
On 26th February 2022, I became concerned about a lump in my breast which, 10 months earlier, doctors had assured me was benign. Just under 2 weeks later, mid-March 2022, I was given the news that no one wants to hear: in a nutshell, I have breast cancer. The world as I then knew it fell apart.
Those affected by this disease, whether personally or by way of family members or friends, will already know that a diagnosis like this, catapults you into the unknown. I have felt in a world of disbelief, fear, confusion and overwhelm.
Focusing on Hope and Learnings
Most of all though, I have felt the need to keep my focus on certain, and helpful things. Hope, and having an awareness of what I am learning throughout this whole process, have been top of that particular agenda.
Resilience, Mindset and Positivity
When a mindset and resilience coach like me is unexpectedly hit with a breast cancer diagnosis like this, there is no better time to walk my own talk: I am acutely aware that now of all times, it will pay to dig deep on resilience reserves, get in the right mindset and follow my own advice on how to weather these particularly stormy seas with resolve, determination and positivity.
7 Coping Strategies
As time goes by, I intend to blog about a number of topics on this unwelcome journey, but for now at least I want to start by sharing 7 coping strategies which have as much applicability to cancer as to any other life challenge: work disappointment, dealing with rejection, overcoming obstacles to promotion etc etc…
- Resilience is all about our ability to bounce back from challenge. It may be in the midst of one, it’s very easy to feel hopeless and convince yourself that you will never overcome it. Instead of listening to these lies, ask yourself “is that fact or feeling?” Look for the evidence in your back catalogue of times you have previously overcome the trickiest of challenges, when you never believed it was possible. I’m convinced that we can sometimes be guilty of giving in to things because it feels too hard or too overwhelming to do otherwise. But in truth that’s just a limiting belief that we let shape us and the evidence points a very different and more empowering way.
- Looking upon the challenge in a different way can help too – adopt a growth not fixed mindset – to see it is an experience that presents as an opportunity to demonstrate to ourselves and others our capacity for resilience, and how in so doing, we can learn great lessons in life. As Edwin the post-op anaesthetist reminded me: “A smooth sea never made a good sailor.”
- Whilst in everyday coaching I’m big on long term goals, sometimes, particularly in the face of a cancer diagnosis, those ambitions can seem too far away or too big an ask to achieve in that moment. Seeing the challenge as a journey has been helpful to me, taking it in bite-sized chunks, with smaller, more short-term goals ticked off and celebrated as the big wins they truly are.
- Control the controllable. There is so much of life we cannot in fact control, but what is always within our gift is how we respond to life’s challenges. This is when controlling what we can control is useful and also accepting what we can’t. Acceptance here is not the same as giving up or giving in, but rather being realistic about a scenario, and knowing that whatever challenge we face, we can always face it with positivity, and dare I even say, with a smile. It’s your choice. Never lose sight of that.
- Remember that no woman is an island. For the days that you aren’t able to muster your own positivity at will, it’s perfectly ok to turn to others for that support. The support I have received from those around me, and even farther afield, has been as staggering as life-affirming – reconnecting with others who have been
- or are going, through similar;
- inspired by my posts about my journey so far to tackle their own journeys more positively; or
- made more aware of how they can become more alert to possible signs of cancer themselves;
has helped massively in navigating my own journey so far.
- Trust your instincts. Turns out my concerns about my lump were correct, and the initial diagnosing doctor’s were wrong. The lump wasn’t something to just pass off. You know your body best. Don’t take no for an answer.
- Above all, I am reminded often that “this too shall pass”. Perspective is a wonderful thing, but in the moment, it can often be difficult to maintain. Think back to all those previous, and seemingly overwhelming, challenges which you’ve already seen off and recovered/ bounced back from, for the evidence you need that in the same way, this challenge will be no different. You might even surprise, and dare I say, impress yourself with your strength and bounce-back-ability! As Tigger in Winnie the Pooh once said: “Life isn’t about how fast you run or how high you climb but how well you bounce”.
Yours in strength and service, and with plenty more to give.
Watch this space.
Nikki Alderson Biography
Nikki Alderson, specialist coach, speaker and author, and former Criminal Barrister with 19 years’ experience:
• supports organisations, law firms and barristers’ Chambers to retain talent; and
• empowers lawyers to achieve career ambitions.
Nikki specialises in 3 areas:
• Emerging leaders and leaders in transition
• Career break returners, and
• Workplace resilience, mental toughness, confidence and wellbeing.
Learn more about her services here: www.nikkialdersoncoaching.com.
Nikki is the author of Amazon No.1 Bestseller Raising the Bar: empowering female lawyers through coaching, (https://amzn.to/3fodKQX), a TEDx Speaker (https://youtu.be/MYsuUnKt9XA), nominee for the Inspirational Women Awards, Champion of the Year Category and finalist in the 2020 Women in Law Awards, Legal Services Innovator of the Year and 2019 International Coaching Awards, International Coach of the Year Category.