Nadia Booysen, an oncology counsellor, explains how learning new hobbies can recreate your wheel of life.
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The wheel of life is often used in very different contexts as a metaphor or expression to predict, explore and explain certain aspects of life or events during life. This is true for oncology too, especially when it comes to creating new hobbies.
The secret to your identity
Every person finds their identity in various aspects of their lives; this might be your profession, relationships (being a parent, spouse, friend), your hobbies or cultural and religious traditions. But during a cancer diagnosis, it’s often very difficult to continue performing all these roles. You may feel like you can’t be a good parent anymore because you aren’t able to do everything you were used to doing. You aren’t able to do daily activities, like going to the gym, and may discontinue hobbies. Or you might be boarded from work temporarily or work from home. Unfortunately, all these changes and losses lead to a loss of identity. With the ultimate question being asked: will things ever be normal again?
Cancer and the wheel of life
If you look at a bicycle wheel, it consists of a number of spokes. Metaphorically speaking, these spokes represent different aspects and activities of your life that forms part of your identity and fills your days. When diagnosed with cancer, you might not be able to continue with everything and some of these spokes fall away. At the end of the day, you might have a wheel that has various empty gaps where the spokes used to be, which might lead to feelings of emptiness and inadequacy. Continuing on this cycle often leads to a questioning of identity. During this period of the cancer journey, questions about value and being a burden are often contemplated.
The key to regaining your identity can easily be found in ways to fill the empty spokes. There is a risk in leaving your wheel half empty and unfortunately the most predominant thing in your life at that time will automatically fill your wheel whether you want it to or not. Cancer enters your life and your thoughts; it can be extremely overwhelming and traumatic (for some more than others) and one day you will realise that so many parts of your wheel consist of cancer. It’s normal that it will form a big part of your life and thoughts initially, but at some stage it’s important to re-adjust and take back the spaces cancer managed to creep in.
How to recreate your wheel of life
Start at the beginning: pre-cancer, what did your wheel look like? What were the things that filled your wheel? If you used to run and are unable to during treatment, try walking.
If you used to work long days and now have more time on your hands, try gardening or baking. The key is to fill the gaps. Take note of the spokes that fell away when diagnosed, even if only temporarily. What can you now fill them with? Yoga, art, walking in nature. Sometimes in looking objectively at the things you used to spend time on, you might want to change things and learn a different way of doing life, learn new hobbies and recreating your wheel.
The value of new hobbies
Hindside is always 20/20. You will realise the value of a new hobby as you have less time to focus on cancer and your thoughts and conversations don’t constantly wander to the same places. You will be too occupied with creativity or distracted by the smell of nature. Lonely moments are turned into loving conversations when you spend time with a loved one. A new hobby looks different for every person, and that is okay.
A new normal, a new hobby and an identity filled with confidence
Life changes with a cancer diagnosis. Different doesn’t mean less, most often it’s so much more. Embrace the journey to teach you new things, learn new ways of living better, and please create space for new hobbies, they will prove to be crucial to build a new identity, a new you and a new future. Beautiful things are often created in the darkest spaces.
MEET THE EXPERT – Nadia Booysen
Nadia Booysen is a cancer survivor and an oncology counsellor (BSW Hons (Social Work) (UP), BA Hons (Psychology) (Unisa), PGDip (PallMed) (UCT)). She consults at the DMO practices: Sandton Oncology and the West Rand Oncology Centres. Serving in oncology is not a profession to her, but rather a way of life. Nadia has a keen interest in mental health and believes that it’s an underestimated and stigmatised topic.
Header image by Freepik