Profile of a Thrivor: Erica

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We met up with one of our friends and favorite librarians, Erica S. An avid researcher, and she shared with us her story of Thrivorship along with her favorite resources.

Check out Erica’s interview below and tell us about your resources–internal or external–that have helped you begin again.

 What is your definition of Thrivorship?

Thriving is when I live my life according to my priorities – doing each day what I care about most. Or at least, there’s a “right balance” between the things I don’t care for and the things that matter the most to me – less of the former and more of the latter. Before I was diagnosed, I spent way more of my energy on things that were not healing for me.

 How long have you been thriving and what type of cancer were you diagnosed with?

I finished Tx about three years ago. I had Stage III breast cancer and thyroid cancer.

 Describe the day you completed your last cancer treatment.

I don’t even know. It never really ends. What was the last cancer treatment? Was it today, when I had a lymphatic drainage massage? Was it the final surgery to remove the thyroid after I completed chemotherapy? Was it the final “bad” chemo? Was it when I finished Herceptin? Will it be when I stop taking Arimidex? Or on my final day of chemotherapy – other than Herceptin – I wore a t-shirt that said, “I paid my oncologist a lot of money for this hairstyle.” I have a picture of the lovely Dr. Kaplan being silly with me wearing that shirt.

What steps have you taken since that day to rebuild and resume your life?

I have reduced my hours at work. I have gone to counseling for myself and with my husband for our marriage. I spend at least an hour every day reading, meditating, contemplating. I have been writing. I became a SoulCollage facilitator because I found the process used in SoulCollage helpful for accessing inner wisdom, which I think helps me to stay healthy. I say no to almost everything – I’m so careful about my energy and not doing things that deplete me, even fun things.

 What are your favorite websites, books, and groups that have helped you rebuild your new life?

I have hundreds, maybe thousands of websites bookmarked (I’m a librarian!) as I have pursued my various interests: writing and healing, human microbiome and how it affects depression, anxiety and cancer, inflammation and cancer, food as medicine, how to rest, etc. Below are links to some of my booklists at the Seattle Public Library, which include a few of the links I’ve collected.

Writing to Save Your Life

Cancer as a Turning Point

Food is Medicine

What obstacles have you found in reentering your personal relationships?

I do not have time for being with people – I work with people all day long, and I’m an introvert, so being with people is exhausting. I’m grateful for Facebook. Most of my posse is pretty respectful of my process and energy level. I’m three years out and still so tired – the people at work who were with me during treatment understand, but the people that have come on board since then really have no clue what I’ve been through or what I’m talking about when I’m at the end of my rope.

 What has been your personal hidden toll?

I can’t even imagine how to have sex. Completely impossible. My husband and I are reestablishing ourselves as partners, working on intimacy, and as we do so, I would like to imagine that we could have a sexual relationship again – but that just seems physically improbable – we’ll see, I’m pretty resourceful.

I see everything through new lenses now. I’m much less likely to give a shit what people think of me, and I’m so tired all the time, that I get cranky easily. The two combine to offend people and has made some difficulties at work.

 What do you wish everyone knew about Thrivors?

If people could learn to live the way we’ve had to learn to live, we would probably have lower rates of cancer.

 Do you have any thriving role models? Who are they and why?

You know, I don’t really. What I want to see is someone who isn’t “putting it behind them” as if the minute that cancer isn’t ruling their lives forget about it. I don’t want to forget about it. I also do not want to be identified by cancer, but I also really value the lessons and gifts from the experience – it would truly feel like a waste if I didn’t honor the experience by remembering it. Most people seem to want to forget about it and put it behind them as fast as they can.

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 Erica Sternin has been writing since before she can remember. Shortly after her 50th birthday, she was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer and thyroid cancer. Aware of the research regarding expressive writing and healing, Erica focused on “writing to heal” alongside her conventional treatment. She has a blog, SweetSpot Truthteller, and is a trained SoulCollage ® facilitator in the Seattle area.