The Elephant in the Room is Cancer. Tea is the Relief Conversation Provides.

I Found My Inner Voice Again

by Katharina FriederichBreast CancerFebruary 15, 2024View more posts from Katharina Friederich

Do you occasionally look in the mirror and say to yourself, “I love you?” Honestly, I still find it difficult to say those three words to myself today. Five years ago, before I developed breast cancer, I would occasionally stop restlessly in front of the mirror. When it came up, I would nod approvingly at my appearance. I might give myself a quick pat on the back if I did something well. And when there were worry lines, I quickly put a smile on my face. But never did I say, “I love you.”

With the illness, I became aware of how often I disregarded my body, but also my negative feelings. My inner voice had fallen silent. Only when it cheered and sang was it allowed to speak up. I skillfully stifled the whispers, the quiet crying, and the helpless pleading for my own needs.

Cancer crumbled the strong stance of myself. Since then I try to meet myself with goodwill. Still the inner voice is quiet. Quite often I do not know what I want, what I need, and what my need is. It still happens automatically, dutifully taking care of others and adapting. But now I hear when my soul speaks up and wants to tell me, “This is not good for you.” And I pay attention, take time to care.

Even though the streets I walk are the same and life’s tasks have not changed, my life is not like it was before cancer. My circle of friends has shrunk and my pace has slowed. I have retired from the work world so I am no longer at the mercy of the pressures and stresses. I opened a grief café and give space to feelings and issues that have too little space in society. For a year now I have been at the turning point—to where, that is not determined. Today I stand firmly anchored in front of the mirror and look at myself with a friendly smile. Approvingly, I say to my likeness, “I like you just the way you are.”

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