Thank you for checking out The Cancer Couch. Until September 3, 2015, I was minding my own business, working in private practice as a Neuropsychologist (hence the couch/sofa references), and trying to be an at-least-mediocre wife and mother (of two kids and one furry friend, Skye). I was living a truly blessed life in Fairfield County, CT. I love to travel (anywhere and everywhere), spend time with family and friends, hike, eat good food, tell and listen to great stories, and do beach yoga. I have an innate and very strong sense of how to love and enjoy life, and I truly try to make the most out of every minute I’ve been given. Finding fun, joy, love, adventure, and gratitude wherever possible has been a huge part of doing this.
However, that was all well and good, and fairly easy to do when my life was going the way I “planned.” Not that I haven’t had my share of hurdles and losses -everyone does, and I’ve worked very hard for my accomplishments. But I was blessed to meet, and have the good sense to marry, the right man, have a wonderful family, the very best of friends from all corners and stages of my life, and awesome kids (a girl and a boy). I was also one of the lucky ones who knew my calling as a psychologist from an early age. I was able to steer a clear path toward my goal of a Ph.D. in this field and ultimately found a wonderful colleague and partner to join with in private practice which we have grown into a 7 person sanctuary of amazing and supportive mental health care 13 years later. http://www.neuropsychologyct.com/staff/rebecca-m-timlin-scalera-ph-d/
Well, my seemingly perfect world was “rocked” by a fairly advanced, and unexpected, breast cancer diagnosis. I have no family history and no obvious risk factors. I drink green juices, exercise, see the doctor regularly, get annual mammograms and ultrasounds, and generally live a pretty healthy, low-stress life style. So to say I was shocked by this revelation is a bit of an understatement. In fact, I woke up everyday for weeks grieving, crying, thinking and praying that it was all a bad dream. Sadly, it’s not. It’s real, and I have had to figure out a way to deal with it.
That’s where this blog comes in. After I had cried every tear I had in me, and truly grieved the loss of my life as I knew it. Once I had, at least partially, accepted that I had unwillingly, and without warning, migrated to the “un-well” side of life – a world of needles, IVs, scans, surgeries, hospitals, and toxic meds. I began to notice the world in a different way looking at it through the eyes of a cancer patient. I started seeing small moments as so painfully precious they brought me to tears at the thought of not having them anymore. I became briefly physically limited by some surgeries and complications which left me longing just to be able to do things like make breakfast for the kids, take a shower, or have a pain free moment. I went to a pretty dark place during this time. Between the pain, being stripped of any existential denial I had been blissfully and tightly holding onto, and having my body permanently changed, (quite frankly, mutilated) it was all too much. However, although I saw no rhyme and certainly no reason in it, I did know, from my experience as a psychologist, that I had the tools – that my brain held the power – to cope, to get through this, and maybe even thrive through it, transform. Yes, this could be an opportunity, not a sentence. I could use this crap-fest of a situation for truly life-altering growth. This could be the proverbial “holy grail” (for any fellow monty python fans out there) that we all seek. Could I possibly even discover the real “meaning of life,” and in the process make my life significantly more meaningful? Maybe. Just maybe.
Having always been one to be “on the go” and “do things big,” I was not only slowed down enough by this disease to start noticing how amazing small, ordinary moments could be, but also to see the love and humor in almost every situation. It was always and had always been right there, all around me, all the time. You just have to tilt your head so to speak, the way you look at things, the tiniest bit and you can see it so clearly. Love, light, humor and gratitude everywhere. Well, cancer gave me my head tilt. I am hoping to give you yours. I started writing from this perspective and got so much feedback about how this has changed people’s lives, the way they parent, friend, and appreciate everyday, that it encouraged me to write more and make it official. So here we are. Welcome to the cancer couch. Sit down, read, laugh, share, and enjoy. Stay with me as I go through this scary, but necessary, journey to not only defeat my own cancer, but to continue the work and awareness that needs to be done to help others have an easier battle, or eventually none at all. I’m just getting started.