YA 52 | Surviving Breast Cancer

 

It takes a huge amount of courage to fight cancer and win the battle. In this episode, breast cancer survivor, Integrative Nutrition coach, Pilates instructor, and mother of four Victoria English Martin opens up about surviving breast cancer and the importance of self-exams on a regular basis. Victoria shares how, through support groups and her family, she was able to see life after cancer differently and focus on being a healthier version of herself. She also introduces her upcoming podcast called After the Crisis with Victoria, and shares inspiring insights about resilience, faith, and hope.

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After The Crisis With Victoria English Martin

Our guest is Victoria English Martin. She is an integrative nutrition coach, a Pilates instructor and a mother of four. Nutrition and fitness have been her passion for as long as she can remember. She’s from Miami and she’s lived in Denver, Colorado for the last few years. In 2018, a few months after a clear mammogram, she found a lump in her breast. Four days later, her fears were confirmed. She had stage 2B breast cancer. What followed was a grueling year of treatment along with a whole new perspective on life and how to fit into the world. Her new chapter is devoted to advocating for and raising awareness about Triple Negative Breast Cancer along with how survivors of, not just cancer, but all crises navigate through a new normal. 

She’s going to be starting her own podcast and we’ll talk a little bit about that. Her podcast will be called After The Crisis with Victoria. On her show, she’s going to be sharing stories of people who feel that they’re supposed to be fine, put on a brave face for others, but maybe struggling inside themselves. Doesn’t that sound like so many of us in the world? Additionally, she’s going to assist in empowering others and creating a healthier body, mind, and spirit. Her coaching approach looks at the whole person as that person strives for balance and wholeness each day. Victoria, it’s an honor to have you with us. Welcome to the show.

Thank you, Jennifer. I’m so happy to be here and the opportunity to be with you, learn about you and share my story.

First of all, I don’t have a lot of experience with breast cancer. I’m not clear on what Triple Negative is and how that differs from anything else. Can we jump in with a little bit explaining what that is?

I’m happy for you that you don’t have experience with breast cancer. I didn’t either until April of 2018. I had a clear mammogram. I started getting them once I turned 40 and every year was fine. No issues, I had never been called back for another imaging or anything like that. I was shocked to find the lump that I found. One day after a workout, I was in the shower and I was doing my monthly exam and I found a significant size lump and went to the doctor. Four days later, they did an ultrasound and said, “Yes, this is cancer. We see it in a couple of lymph nodes.” That was something else. What I learned a few days later, thanks to my awesome medical team who expedited the results and got me on track quickly is that I had something called Triple Negative Breast Cancer.

The majority of breast cancers that you hear about, their hormone receptor is positive. That means that they respond to different treatments using hormones and different therapies. Triple Negative does not have hormone receptive markers. That means that it’s rare. It strikes 10% to 20% of breast cancer patients. It typically strikes women under the age of 50 and is found oftentimes in women when they are pregnant, nursing, going through a lot of hormonal changes. Unfortunately, it can be easily mistaken for something during a hormone change. I was in perimenopause, a clogged milk duck if a mother is nursing. It does spread very quickly like wildfires, what my doctor said.

There are different types of breast cancer. Some of them are slow growing so they can be treated in a less aggressive manner. The Triple Negative, they race you into treatment. After my diagnosis, it was a blur of scans and all sorts of imaging to make sure that it hadn’t metastasized into my bones or organs. Thankfully, it had not but it had spread to several lymph nodes. We’re talking in a few months’ time. It had not only grown to a palpable mass that I could feel easily but had started to go up that chain of lymph nodes. It’s a scary diagnosis and there’s not a lot of awareness around. It takes more women than it should because people often think that they have the luxury of time, “Let me give it a few months, see if it goes away. Let me wait until after my cycle and see how it feels.”

I’m here to advocate and urge women, number one, to get their mammograms, to do their self-exams. If you feel something, push your doctor, push your medical team to explore and find out what that is. I’ve seen too many women who did and wait. By the time they went back, it was too late. It had metastasized. I feel that it’s my duty as a survivor. I beat the clock barely. I’m very passionate about spreading awareness about breast cancer in general but especially about Triple Negatives.

It sounds like there was a lot going on here. It’s better to be safe than sorry because so many people do put that off. 

They do, especially as women our nature often is to take care of others, “I’ve got an appointment or work ran late. My daughter has an appointment. Let me go ahead and reschedule that mammogram for a month or two from now.” I would urge anyone to put yourself first when it comes to your health. It’s okay, you’re doing your family, your friends, your workplace, everyone a favor by doing that for yourself.

Even if nobody else notices, seeking outside validation is something that a lot of us tend to look for. Click To Tweet

Also emphasizing the importance of self-exams on a regular basis because this was a very short time after you had a mammogram. Who would think that you would have a mammogram and what did you say?

That was six months, something like that. The fact that it had spread to stage 2B so quickly is what blew me away. It was one of those things where when I felt it in the shower, I said, “I swore that wasn’t there the last time I took a shower,” which would have been the day before. It’s one of those moments where you said, “That feels off.” Unlucky that it was in a spot that I could feel it. We do have to look out for ourselves and advocate for ourselves.

As a trauma specialist, I am curious. April of 2018 wasn’t terribly long ago. What’s helping you get through this and what’s helping you survive this? What’s your resource? What do you turn to for strength and stability? 

When it first happened, I’m sure you can understand, especially as a trauma specialist, the stages. We buckled down, “This is war, it’s time to go into battle.” I don’t remember a lot of emotion in the beginning. It was just, “Hurry up and get this going.” We were laser-focused on doing what we needed to do. I didn’t even have time to fly back to Florida to visit my older children who were in college and my father, I had to break the news to them via FaceTime because I didn’t even have time. My doctor said, “No, there’s no time for trips. We’ve got to get into this.” It was very fast. Within two weeks of starting chemo, my hair was falling out. It was so much, so fast. I was in survival mode at that time.

How could you not be?

During treatment, I did rely a lot on my higher power, my faith. I put on a brave face a lot for people and would go into my private area in my room. Even with my family, sometimes I couldn’t let myself be vulnerable. I would go often to my room and fall on my knees and pray and ask for this terror to be taken from me because I didn’t know what to do with all of these feelings. As a mother, I was so worried about my children and their experiences as we navigated this completely foreign territory. I worked a lot on being present. I would spend quite a bit of time visualizing myself in the future, visualizing myself healthy again, visualizing my hair growing back, visualizing myself out hiking, doing things that I love with my youngest daughter who’s in middle school. I did a lot of connecting with nature. I walked a lot, observed the seasons, grounded myself, would take off my shoes and just feel the Earth, things like that.

I love that you mentioned visualization. People like Eckhart Tolle, Dr. Joe Dispenza, Dr. Greg Braden and Dr. Bruce Lipton, all of these people who talk about healing and what it truly takes to heal and to get where you want to be in life, visualization is so important. It’s not just imagining what you want for yourself, it’s imagining it as if it’s already happened. If you can bring in a feeling of gratitude or appreciation or, “What is it going to feel like when I have my hair back? What is it going to feel like whenever I have my life back or all of this other stuff?” That is so important. I love that you brought that up and I love that you mentioned that because that’s something that comes up a lot with clients on how to survive trauma.

It was really helpful. I was in the trenches of treatment during the summer of 2018. We didn’t go anywhere, couldn’t do much of anything and I would always talk to my daughter about next summer. “Next summer we’re going to be doing this. Next summer, we’ll be doing that.” It was such a beautiful thing. They went back to school. We were able to do some of those things and when we would go up to the mountains, I’m still limited in what I can do, I had enough hair that I could feel the breeze blow through it.

Being back in nature and hiking with her and being able to say to her, “Do you remember last summer when we would visualized hiking? We would talk about the pine needles crunching under our feet, the sun, the blue sky and the Aspen trees.” She’d say, “Yes, I remember.” I said, “We’re here. We’re doing it.” That was a beautiful circle of thinking about where we’ve been and where we’ve come and where we’re going because I am still limited in some of the things I can do. I’m dealing with a lot of after-effects of treatment. It is a beautiful thing to experience what you visualized for so long and during such dark times.

Is it okay if I ask about what are some of the after-effects? I don’t know what those might be. I would imagine a lot of our audience might not know what the after-effects of treatment might be.

YA 52 | Surviving Breast Cancer

Surviving Breast Cancer: After cancer, women are left traumatized because they feel they have lost their identity as women.

 

That was the catalyst, the after-effects. I knew during treatment that I was going to do something. I had no idea what I would do but I thought, with my background and my nature to help and serve others, I knew I would do something. I thought it would be more centered around actual breast cancer. What I’m learning is the real need is to talk about life after cancer, life after the crisis, hence the name of my endeavor. After cancer, you may see on Facebook sometimes women ringing the bell, “I’m done with treatment.” Everyone’s cheering, there’s the pink shirts, the family, everyone’s rooting for you. That’s beautiful. I was blessed to have a lot of love and support.

I also saw women who didn’t have that. That pulled at my soul because I couldn’t imagine going through something like this alone. Even though you do feel very alone going through it at times. After cancer, women are left. First of all, we’ve been traumatized because we have lost our identity as women. I lost my hair, I lost my eyelashes, my eyebrows, I lost my breasts, I lost my ovaries, my uterus. At the time you’re going through it, you’re like, “Take whatever you need, take whatever you have to take to get rid of the cancer.” I was very much about that, especially being in my 40s, I didn’t need my reproductive organs. A lot of women go through this in their 20s and 30s and they do.

I was left in a completely different body. I also struggle with hypothyroidism because of the radiation. We’re not sure yet if it’s rheumatoid arthritis or if it’s fibromyalgia. We’re not sure but I suffer with chronic pain, inflammation in my joints. In my fashion general, I deal with a lot of chronic pain which is something that is difficult to live with. I have days where I had to work on my makeup because I was crying from the pain. I had a rough night. We deal with chronic pain. We deal with depression, anxiety, flashbacks. I didn’t process what I had been through until a few months after it was over. I was thrown for a loop because I’ve always been, put on a happy face, keep going, look at the bright side and glasses half-full. I was blindsided by the emotional after effects when I was finished with the treatment.

It sounds a lot like complex post-traumatic stress.

That was mentioned in my therapist’s office.

That’s what I work with a lot. That’s been one of my biggest struggles in life is the effects of complex post-traumatic stress from developmental and intergenerational trauma. There is a lot of suffering that we go through. You talk about helping people through all crises, not just cancer, because there’s so many of us who put on a brave face. When it comes to the emotional effects and what we experience inside of ourselves. If you have a physical condition, it’s one thing. If you have a psychological, a mental or an emotional disconnect, then there’s this attitude of, “I’ll snap out of it. Or just make a choice.” It’s not that simple.

I’m part of some wonderful support pages online, virtual communities of women just like myself and thank goodness we have each other. A common thread is, “Treatment is over.” Everyone else has gone on with their life. They’re cheering for me. They’re saying, “Aren’t you so happy to be alive?” Of course, we’re happy to be alive but no one talks about life after, what it’s going to be like. At least for me, I got to the point of I was tired of talking about myself. I was tired of everyone doing the, “Are you okay?” I’m like, “Yes, I’m fine,” but I wasn’t fine at all.

I know you’re struggling. It’s like the small talk when you don’t know what to say to somebody who’s struggling. It’s like, “How are you doing? Are you fine?”

I’m just going to say I’m fine because I’m tired of talking about it. You would not understand. I have an opportunity because I walk around, I have some visible scars, you might say, but so people are walking around and no one’s wearing t-shirts for them. No one’s cheering for them. No one’s creating support pages on social media to cheer them on through their pain. People are walking around far more wounded than I even though my scars were on the outside. That’s put me in touch with a whole other sense of purpose and intention in my life that we all have our scars. We all have our stuff that we are walking around with. If you can feel like you’re being heard and you have some validation around that, that’s just the first step. You can start hopefully to begin the healing process.

You talk about coming to a new normal. Talk a little bit about your new normal. What is the new normal for Victoria? 

When you're done healing and growing, you're probably dead. Click To Tweet

It’s a lot different. I used to have endless energy. I was a mother of four children, three are older but I had my Pilates business. I was a fitness nut. People called me The Green Juice Girl because I was big on juicing before anyone even knew what juicing was. That was a great lesson to others around me because if I could get cancer, anyone could get cancer.

There’s more that goes into a diagnosis of cancer than what we eat and what we do with our physical body. There’s so much more that goes into it. 

I was The Green Juice Girl but I absolutely had stuff going on in my life that contributed and helped manifest this disease, which turns disease in my body. My new normal is a lot of focus on nutrition. I have dialed down my stress level enormously. The filter for nonsense, I don’t take on a lot that I used to take on. I don’t have to take on other people’s stuff. Someone said, “You used to manage about nine lives. Have you tried to nine lives?” I said, “Yes, I try to manage this one.” I took on everyone else’s stuff. How can I help? How can I fix? How can I rescue? All of that stuff. I’ve dialed everything down and I have a routine now of meditating in the morning. I used to tell myself my mind could never be still enough to do that. It can be. It changed my life. It changed my outlook. I focused a lot on nutrition. I don’t drink more. I don’t pay attention much very often to the news because it’s negative and argumentative. I pay attention to details now. I can find joy in the crunch of pine needles under my feet and just make my day. Little things like that. I’m not focused on how I look as much. My external armor has been taken away. I focus on what’s going on inside of me much more.

I love to that you say all of this stuff because as a trauma specialist, I talk with my clients about the importance of paying attention to what you consume. When I say what you consume, that is so much bigger than what you put in your mouth. It’s what you put on what’s going in all of your senses. What are you seeing every day? What are you listening to? What is in your environment? You’re right, the news is toxic. The group of friends that can’t let go of the gossip, they let go of the binge drinking, they can’t let go of, “I have to wear the stilettos and the makeup. I can’t go out of the house.” I walk out of the house all the time with no makeup on or I don’t care. Superficial things no longer matter. It takes us to a deeper level of what matters. The other side of what you’re saying, whenever it comes to self-care, it is so much more and so much deeper than massages and manicures. It’s one of my little triggers. I go get a manicure for self-care and I’m like, “No, the mani-pedi is not self-care.” The mani-pedi might feel good because it’s not good for you.

I’m not allowed to because when you’re going through treatment and even after because my accounts are still not where they should be as far as fighting infection. We’re not allowed to get manicures and pedicures.

That’s self-care when we’re truly taking care of ourselves. It’s because we love our self enough to take care of what’s in here. It’s not about that surface superficial. Sometimes life does that. Brené Brown says, “It grabs you by the shoulders and shakes you and says, ‘I’m not kidding.’”

When I look back at my life before diagnosis, the universe was giving me a little tap, a little shake and finally, it bumps me upside the head.

What were the little signals that you recognize that you ignored? That would be helpful for people to know that. 

There was a lot. I focused so much on the people that I love and the people I cared about. It was probably a control issue. I was trying to help. I was trying to spare my children from making some mistakes that I could see heading their way. I was trying to spare them from heartbreak. I was trying to spare them from any trauma or agony, but I was trying to control and fix and rescue them.

I call help the sunny side of control when you go into the Helpy Helperton. 

YA 52 | Surviving Breast Cancer

Surviving Breast Cancer: We’re all walking around with external and internal scars.

 

My son said something that opened my eyes from his observation. He’s a very old soul and a wise young man. He said, “Mom, you were trying so hard to fix us all and save us all but you made yourself sick.” I was sick emotionally, spiritually before I was physically sick with cancer. I was a little disconnected. I felt like the universe was trying to tell me something big but I had wax in my ears. I was more centered on my will, my way of doing things the way that I thought things should be and I tried to force that. It was met with resistance from others and within myself.

The world in general, it wasn’t yielding to my will. I spent a lot of time feeling frustrated and useless. That changed, zoning out, wanting to numb feelings that I was uncomfortable with. I was part of the Mommy Wine Culture. It’s 5:00 somewhere, mommy juice, mommy wine time. It was using that to push down feelings that I had a low tolerance for that. I didn’t want to feel realities that I didn’t want to face situations in which I could not find a solution or my solution wasn’t working. I didn’t want to think about it. That was a part of it. It’s feeling generally unwell in a lot of areas but on the outside, smiling and looking like everything was okay.

I love these realizations that you’re coming to because many of them are things that I talk about with my clients. You have to realize what your own motivations are. Every time you pop that cork, you have to know what your motivations are every time you are trying to butt into your kids’ lives. Tell them what to do or tell them what they need to do for themselves. We take so much of their power away from them when we bulldoze and try to clear the path so it’s easy.

What I realized is what message I was sending to them by trying to help or fix was, you’re not capable of doing this so I need to do this for you. I need to guide you through this because you don’t know what you’re doing. This won’t go well if you navigate it on your own. Is that the message we want to send to the people we love? Of course not. We want them to find their way. I would say that from my actions I said something very different. That’s been a big revelation. When I was going through treatment, I thought, “How are my kids going to do?” They did great. They did amazing. They dug down and they found their strength.

They found their resources because all of a sudden, I wasn’t as available as I used to be. I was sick and we came out on the other side and I’m like, “Look at you. You guys did great. You’re strong. You are warriors just like your mom.” It was a beautiful thing. It brought me so much closer to them and I have so much respect for them. I trust them and I trust myself now to create some healthy boundaries. The ironic thing is now, they come to me for more advice than ever because I’m not forcing it. I’m here to listen and guide when asked.

The reality of the world is the average person doesn’t learn from history and doesn’t learn from other people’s mistakes. It is my hope that the audience of this episode are reading what you say and that they are going to change that paradigm. I’m not saying other people’s mistakes but other people’s a-ha moments and other people’s realizations because these are universal.

We’re all going through it on some level.

They feed into so many different diagnoses and so many different maladies. It’s not always a physical manifestation diagnosis. A lot of times, it’s a mental health diagnosis and there’s a lot of suffering inside of ourselves that can lead to addictions, suicide, overwhelming depression, treatment-resistant depression and treatment-resistant PTSD. That might not necessarily be physical but it’s a disease of our emotional body.

That goes to speak to what I mentioned about the external versus internal wounds and scars. We’re all walking around with them. There’s healing available but it does require some looking in the mirror and being vulnerable and being okay with that.

Sometimes you have to get honest with yourself and be like, “I’m so sick of myself, I can’t do this anymore.” Those are never easy conversations because you have to realize those times when you’re the ass. We all have them.

As long as there's breath, there's hope. Click To Tweet

I had to face some of those harsh cold realities. I used to call myself, “I looked like a Q-Tip.” I was this pale, skinny thing with a head with no real face. You have to face some real truths about yourself while you look like that. It’s like, “Things are getting real now.” This is all vulnerability. I reached out, I did get some help around some of the issues I was battling after treatment. On the other side of all of that suffering and harsh looks in the mirror, it has been a beautiful awakening. Some beautiful truths about myself, about the people I love, about people in general. I know people talk about the gifts but there have been some gifts and I’m very grateful, even with the struggles that I have, the pain management. I’m still dealing with some emotional fallout and trauma, a whole new sense of gratitude.

It sounds to me like whenever the waves of trauma and the waves of emotion hits you, it sounds like you’re not trying to stuff it from hearing what you’re saying and how you’re talking about it. That is so important to honor that because there is a part of us. There’s a technique called internal family systems and it works. It is talking to the different parts and pieces that live within us because we all have them. We all have the inner judge, the inner critic, that inner child, and all these different parts and pieces. When we dishonor the inner judge or the inner critic, the one that beats us up all the time, it gets louder and it screams even louder. It’s so important to learn to have a relationship with that and find out what does it want? What is it trying to do? Somewhere deep down, it believes it’s trying to help us. As painful as those messages are, sometimes you have to marinate them and stew in the discomfort of those messages. Honor them, accept them and then they’ll start to go away.

I love what you said. I’m starting to get a little emotional, which is okay. I’m comfortable with that now. I don’t apologize for crying anymore. I don’t apologize for welling up and feeling overwhelmed with emotion at times. When those things come back to me, the trauma, the flashbacks, I learned an interesting technique of asking, “You’re back. What are you here to teach me?” I’m having these feelings. I’m revisiting the situation. What am I supposed to learn? Why am I back in this space? When you approach it that way, it’s like, “This isn’t supposed to be happening and I shouldn’t be feeling this way. Let me do something to divert my feelings. Let me get on social media. Let me buy something, let me drink something.” You sit with it and observe it. You can say, “I was supposed to learn from this. I didn’t learn everything I was supposed to learn yet. That’s why it’s coming back.” It’s not as scary that way. It feels safer and enlightening. I do come out on the other side of it saying, “That wasn’t an uncomfortable thing but I’m still here.” I learned something from it so it’s okay.

All those voices, all those emotions, all of those uncomfortable emotions, uncomfortable sensations, I loathe when people call them negative and positive or good and bad. It’s all information, it’s all feedback, it’s all messages meant for us. Anger, for example, it’s not meant to be projected out. It’s a message for you.

This is a great dialogue because I completely understand that now. If you had said that to me years ago, I would have thought I understood. I may have even pretended to understand but I wouldn’t have really understood because I pushed away those feelings. I was uncomfortable with those feelings. They would come out and when they did come out, they came out in an unhealthy way. All of those negative emotions, grief, anger and resentment. Instead of learning from it, I’d stuff it down and then it would come out and be ugly and no good would come of it. I understand what you’re saying and there’s a lot of beauty in the negative emotions because you realize that we’re all just students. If we could sit down and listen, the universe does teach us and we have the capacity to teach ourselves and help ourselves.

We are both students and teachers within. 

Cancer was the first time where I practiced any compassion with myself. That’s something thankfully that I’m coming back to post-treatment. For a little while, I lost that and it put me in that dark place, but now I have compassion with myself. If one of my friends was having a day like this, what would I do? Would I tell her go get mani and pedi? Would I tell her drink some wine or watch some Netflix? No. I tell her what looks like self-care for you. I ask myself that. Sometimes it’s a cup of tea. Sometimes it’s curling up with my favorite blankets. Sometimes it’s my dogs, time with my family. That’s self-care. That’s healing from me.

You haven’t said this outright but what I’m noticing from what you’re saying is it sounds like you’ve gone from this shift, from noticing that your values came from everything in the world around you to noticing your values come from within. Extrinsic versus intrinsic. That’s huge whenever we start to tap into our intrinsic values.

I did an exercise with my therapist about values. It was a sheet and you would mark things from 1 to 5 how you value different things and qualities. In my top values were spirituality, health and family. I want to be healthy. Health is not just being able to run five miles or fit into your jeans from when you were 25. Health, whole health, spirituality, my connection with the universe, with the higher power, God, whatever you call it, my family, that extends to my best friends, the people who know me best, the people that really love me, that’s what matters. When I live in alignment with that, I know that I’m being completely authentic.

I’m being the person I’m supposed to be. I don’t have to figure out what my big purpose is or what I’m meant to be or do to be content. I am living a full life in alignment with my values, the things that mattered most to me. When I’m in alignment with that, everything else falls into place. It leaves a lot of free space in my mind and in my heart to be receptive to all of the wonderful things that I’m now attracting. We stumbled across one another. It’s beautiful when you’re open to it and how it happens. It doesn’t have to be forced, it’s not that hard.

YA 52 | Surviving Breast Cancer

Surviving Breast Cancer: The more you exercise it, the faster you recover, the stronger you get, and the easier it is to regulate and integrate what you’re doing with the rest of your life.

 

I love how we met.

Isn’t it great?

It’s great. I learned my lesson on that too.

There are always lessons in every day too. There’s no finish line and everything’s beautiful.

One thing I like to emphasize because I work with emotional dysregulation with people. I put a post on my Facebook page because I found myself angrier than I’ve been in a long time to the point that I lost my self with somebody. I wasn’t proud of what I said or how I acted. We all have our stuff that comes up. It’s not that we’ll never get triggered. It’s not that we’ll never get angry. It’s not that I’m going to be peace and love and OMing the rest of my life. We still have all of the same emotions everybody else has. Some days we still lose ourselves. We still have our struggles. The important thing for me is looking at, “This didn’t knock me out for two weeks. I didn’t beat myself up for two weeks like I might have done a decade or two decades ago.” Mauling over it and dwelling over it and going, “I can’t believe you said that. I can’t believe you did that.” Realizing that there are different parts. That Internal Family System, that IFS work Richard Schwartz.

There are different parts of me and one of the parts of me wants to stand up and advocate for myself. The other part of me wants to do it in a healthy way. That anger came up and that part of me that wants to advocate for myself take over my words for a few minutes. At the same time, that critic doesn’t have to beat me up. When they’re not in alignment, we create this battle in this war within ourselves. When we’re out of alignment with ourself, there’s a lot of internal suffering that goes on. It’s not easy. Most of us understand from high school biology homeostasis. The body tries to keep itself in balance. Every day, every moment, it’s back and forth. This is pendulum swings. Sometimes we’re more out of balance than others. When that homeostatic balance goes far beyond the physical body, that applies to our spiritual body, our mental body, our emotional body and the alignment of all four of those as well. There are layers to the homeostatic balance. My emotions were a little bit out of balance but they came back into alignment much quicker than they used to.

I can relate to that. We’re human. We’re walking through the world with a lot of stuff coming at us. We have our moods. We get angry. We get frustrated. I’m still me. I’m from Miami so I can curse and drive like a maniac with the best of the world. I had to slow my role when I moved to Colorado because I thought, “People here stop at red lights and middle fingers are not encouraged.” I had to dial it down a little bit. I totally get what you mean. We all lose it sometimes. All of this is I can relate to things in fitness terms but it’s like exercising a muscle. The more you exercise it, the faster you recover, the stronger you get, the easier it is to regulate and integrate what you’re doing with the rest of your life. That’s how I look at the growth that I’m going through. It is like exercising a muscle. Sometimes it gets fatigued and I need to take a little time to regroup, heal, rest and then I go back out and I find that I can do things just a little bit differently. I can handle things a little better than I used to. It’s a process.

Those were so important to notice. It doesn’t matter if anybody else in the world notices your progress. If you notice it from within yourself, that is so important because you’re like, “This is a little victory.” Maybe I lost my self but that’s the first time I’ve spoken to somebody like that in a long time. In and of itself is progress and then bringing myself back into balance within minutes. That’s another huge step. Other people can call it a failure. They can say I’m not good as a trauma specialist. Don’t call me, don’t work with me. That’s fine. Go work with somebody that resonates with you. For me, those are huge things to notice and celebrate those little victories whenever you notice them.

What you just said, even if nobody else notices seeking outside validation, that’s something that a lot of us tend to look for. I’ve noticed I don’t do that like I used to. I don’t ask others, “How do you think I’m doing? Am I good enough? Do I look okay? Am I acting okay? Am I being okay?” I can check with myself because I trust myself because I am authentic. I know who I am. Instead of looking externally, “Do you think I’m doing okay? Am I doing this right?” I can ask myself those questions and trust myself to give an honest answer and to not beat myself up if I don’t like the answer, which is observant and say, “I could work on that.”

Many of us, before we have our awakenings, dark night of the soul, crises or whatever you want to call it, so much of our behavior, our action and so much of what we do in life is not because it’s what we want. It’s not because it’s what other people want. It’s because it’s what we think other people want from us. We’re projecting into other people like, “I think this is what they want for me. I’ve got to live up to what I think they want.” It becomes this crazy feedback loop.

You’re not being selfish by carving out time for yourself. Click To Tweet

It does and it’s not what they want. I told my kids, “I used to think that worrying about you made me a better mother.” Somehow, I had to devote a certain amount of time each day to worry about my children. That didn’t do anything except create fear, anxiety, the need for control, lack of communication between my children and myself. It wasn’t doing anyone any good. If I had asked, “What do you need from me?” They would’ve said, “Don’t freak out when I don’t call you back within five minutes. I’m not in a ditch. You don’t need to fret so much. Trust me a little more that you did a pretty good job, mom. You know what you’re doing. You taught us right from wrong. We’re going to be okay.” They knew I was there. I didn’t need to push so hard.

Forgiving ourselves because we didn’t make that up. We learned it. That was instilled in us from the time we were little. It’s part of our culture. It’s not just your family, it’s not just my family, it’s Western culture. That’s the mom stereotype and I like to talk about archetypes. I’m a big fan of studying archetypes. There’s a huge difference between the mom stereotype and the mom archetype. I would encourage people to read up on archetypes and step into the archetypal patterns rather than the stereotypical patterns. There’s a huge difference. Where is the best place for the audience to look you up, to find you, to follow you, if anybody is interested?

A lot of what I’m doing is still in the works. I don’t have a grandmaster plan. I’m trusting the universe and it’s beautiful how everything is unfolding. I am launching my podcast, After The Crisis. I’ll be interviewing some wonderful people, mental health experts, wellness experts, spirituality people. I’d like to interview you, trauma specialist. I hope you’ll be on my show. I’ve started a Facebook community and it’s called After the Crisis with Victoria. It’s a free community. We’re getting very real. We’re talking about how we perceive ourselves.

We’re talking about the circle of life which is part of one of the coaching tools I use that talks about primary and secondary food. What we eat and drink is one small part of what makes up the whole person and true wellness being a complete person. I also share some exercise tips and recipes because that’s been my passion since I was very young. Taking it to a whole new level, talking about getting vulnerable, being real with one another. I love the conversations that are happening already. I’ve had people come in and they’re sharing some vulnerable stuff and getting support from some other group members. There are some bonding happening in there.

People are participating in the challenges, the exercises that I give them as far as if you can’t give yourself an appreciation, give one to a stranger and share that with me. Tell me what that’s like, how that affected your day. I’m enjoying that so much and I’m so excited to share what I’m doing. My coaching, my story. My podcast is going to be a place to let people share their stories. What they’ve been through, what it’s like now, how they’re navigating life after their crisis. I’ll also be using my coaching skills to help them find some hope and some healing. You talked about some of the unhealthy things that we do during or after trauma. Taking a look at some of our habits that we’ve developed of eating, getting social media addiction, sugar addiction and trying to fill in those dark spaces with some light, some healthier choices, healthier ways of going through your day.

I’m in the process of taking myself out of a bunch of Facebook groups. I got myself into, “You’re my friend, I’ll follow your group. I’ll support you.” I get all these notifications. I’m sorry, I don’t care about so many of them. It doesn’t align with who I am. This one I sound interested in.

I would love to have you as a part of it and have you participate. I’d love your insight and feedback. I’m the same way. Groups were new and I joined a bunch and all of a sudden I’m like, “I become a part of 95 groups, maybe I need to dial this down.”

A lot of them, I was trying to be supportive and many of them I’m just like, “What am I doing?”

They can get a little toxic at times too.

If I’m not interested, I get it. The groups that a lot of my friends are doing, if I’m not interested in the content, I’m taking up space. How supportive is that if I’m not participating and if I’m another number? I would rather have a smaller intimate group that is engaged rather than this big umbrella number.

What I love about this chapter that is beginning to unfold is I know that I am spiritually aligned, that everything I’m doing is from such a guided place. I don’t have expectations attached to the outcome. I am doing this day by day and it’s beautiful. I don’t care if I have five group members or 5,000, it doesn’t matter. I’m here to listen, to serve, to help and let people know that what they’ve been through matters, where they’re going matters. I use the term a period at the end of the sentence that we don’t have to put a period at the end of every sentence. It can keep going and keep flowing.

YA 52 | Surviving Breast Cancer

Surviving Breast Cancer: Don’t be afraid to take the time for yourself to take care of your wellbeing and your health.

 

Was it Hemingway that was famous for writing paragraphs that were all one long sentence?

It was, I don’t remember where I heard that put a period at the end of the sentence. I love that because I feel like with people’s crises, it’s like, “Yes, she went through a divorce. She went through it.” We don’t know if she’s through it, “She lost her mother.” Where is she with all of that? Is there a period at the end of that sentence or is she still struggling? We don’t know. I’m here to listen, let people talk, share their stories, share their struggles and share their victories, joy and hopefully, help them along the way. As I heal myself, this is part of my healing as well.

We’re never done with our healing. If you’re done, you’re probably dead. There are always more work to do. I don’t know if you’ve heard but our conscious mind is about 5% of who we are. The rest of it is the unconscious mind. I split the unconscious mind into the subconscious in the implicit. The subconscious is I call it our visionary. It sees the world through images and visions. It’s our dreams. It’s our daydreams. It’s our goals, where do you see yourself? The mind’s eye, the implicit mind, experiences the world, experiences life through the language of sensation and emotion. Both of them are nonverbal and those nonverbal parts are 95% of who we are. It’s our hidden control panel. It’s what drives our behaviors. It’s what drives our thoughts. It’s what causes our emotions to surface. We think that this little thinking mind is in control and driving the bus but it isn’t.

When you’re done healing and growing, whatever you want to call it, you’re probably dead. There are different versions of dead. I do observe people who are not in any growth trajectory or healing path, they had a pulse but I don’t see a lot of life in there. The other one is as long as there’s breath, there’s hope.

Victoria, this has been absolutely a pleasure to have you on the show. You have come through this with so much wisdom. 

Thank you for having me. It’s been an honor and I’ve learned so much from you. I’m excited to learn more from you and what you’re doing. It’s fascinating stuff.

I’m so glad that we’ve made this connection. This is fantastic. Victoria, do you have any final tips or bits of wisdom for our audiences?

Do yourself breast exams. If you feel something, push your medical team. Don’t take no for an answer. Do not be afraid to advocate for yourself. Don’t be afraid to take the time for yourself, to take care of your wellbeing, your health. You’re not being selfish, especially to the ladies out there. We’re not being selfish by doing this, by carving out time for ourselves. We’re doing everyone around us a favor.

Thank you so much, Victoria. It’s been a pleasure to have you with us.

It’s been a pleasure to be here. I’m very grateful. Thank you.

If you’re interested in learning more about me or the Yes And podcast, you can visit my website at JenniferWhitacre.com.

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About Victoria English Martin

YA 52 | Surviving Breast CancerVictoria English Martin is an Integrative Nutrition Coach, a Pilates instructor, and a mother of four. Nutrition and fitness have been her passion for as long as she can remember. Victoria is from Miami, and she’s moved to Denver Colorado 3 years ago. In 2018, just a few months after a clear mammogram, she found a lump in her breast. Four days later, her fears were confirmed: Victoria had stage 2B breast cancer. What followed was a grueling year of treatment, along with a whole new perspective on life and how she fits into the world.

Victoria’s new chapter is devoted to advocating for and raising awareness about Triple Negative Breast Cancer, along with how survivors of not just cancer, but ALL crises, navigate through a “new normal.” Victoria is here to share the stories of people who feel that they are supposed to be “fine”, put on a brave face for others, but may be struggling. Additionally, she will assist in empowering others in creating a healthier body, mind and spirit. Victoria’s coaching approach looks at the whole person as we strive for balance and wholeness each day.

Victoria’s website and podcast, After The Crisis with Victoria, are coming soon! She’s recording with experts in mental health, wellness, spirituality, and remarkable individuals with stories that you’ll want to hear!

Please join Victoria’s free Facebook community, After The Crisis with Victoria