I’ve never shared this photo. In fact, very few people have ever seen it. When I went through chemotherapy, I rarely exposed my bald head to the light of day because I wore a wig whilst I was out in public.
Today marks 7 years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. That day seven years ago is both a long way away and as clear as yesterday. To be able to share this image today tells me a lot about how far I have come.
I’ve been reflecting on my choice to wear wigs and scarves during my treatment. In part, it was because I am a private person. I wanted the autonomy to decide whom I would tell and when I would tell them about what I was going through.
But I’ve done a lot of inner work in those last 7 years. And I now realise that, at the heart of my decision (for my diagnosis to be “invisible”), was that I was not good at being vulnerable -
let alone showing it.
In my usual style, I went through that period with strength, calm and determination. Many people would tell you that’s what they admire about me. But in fact, these traits were my armour against feeling anything difficult – fear, pride, anxiety.
Sure, I felt all those things briefly. But did I truly allow them? No. I stuffed them down and got on with the project – that is, getting through cancer treatment and getting on with life as unscathed as possible.
But it’s not healthy to stuff emotions down. You don’t heal your wounds – physical, emotional or mental – by avoiding them. These days I am a lot better at allowing all the emotions. At facing the demons. Listening to all my parts. Sitting with vulnerability.
For those of you who have attended my classes, you will be familiar with my process for checking in with all emotions and feelings. For creating the safe space for them to be there without judgement. This isn’t just yoga teacher script I follow, this is me sharing my lived experience.
Through observing and sitting with my innermost thoughts and feelings, I have developed self compassion. I have learned to observe my triggers and reactions. I have greater understanding of my true self. I am better at being vulnerable. Dare I say it, I am more whole.
My love goes out to all those currently going through their own cancer story.
(PS Thank you to my - usually - social media-shy nephew for giving me permission to share this photo. At 12 years of age he decided to shave his head in solidarity with me. So that I didn’t have to be bald on my own… I’m not crying, you’re crying).