Season 1 Ep 37: "Bringing life's different seasons into perspective" with 2x cancer survivor, Vanessa Joy Walker


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This week on the Getting Better Podcast,

I am speaking with Vanessa Joy Walker. Vanessa is an expert at bringing life's different seasons into perspective. Vanessa has shared her story of hope, perseverance, and joy with thousands of people worldwide as a featured speaker and media contributor. Her life experience is vast and includes; seasons of abandonment, betrayal, cancer, infertility, and grief. Vanessa is such a light for the cancer community and I can't wait for you to meet her so listen to the episode above, on iTunes HERE, or read the transcription below. 

Episode Transcription:

Jessica Walker
Welcome back to The getting better podcast with another episode to encourage and empower the cancer community. I'm your host, Jessica Walker, and today I'm speaking with Vanessa Joy Walker. Vanessa is an expert at bringing life's different seasons into perspective. She's shared her story of hope, perseverance, and joy with 1000s of people worldwide as a featured speaker and media contributor. Her life is vast, it her life experiences best and it includes seasons of abandonment, betrayal, cancer, infertility, grief. But despite all of this, Vanessa is such a light for the cancer community. And I know this is going to be an absolutely amazing conversation. I've been wanting to have her on for such a long time. And I'm really, really thrilled to bring her to you this episode. So without further ado, welcome, Vanessa.

Vanessa Joy Walker
Oh, thank you for having me. The feeling is mutual. I have been following you since I'm really since you kind of started launching your cards. And just love everything that you put out there. You know, every card that I would would pop up on Instagram, I'd be like, yes exactly it. And, and also just to from the caregivers perspective, one of the things that I have noticed is that there just is not a lot of talking around how to be a good caregiver, and honestly how to be a good patient. And people don't like to talk about that. Yeah, well, you're the one that's sick. But if we're trying to make the the, the everything better for everyone, then better together, right. And just, it is it's just such You are a light. So I'm really happy. I feel like I'm a little bit of a fan. I'm a fan girl here. 

Jessica Walker
thank you so much for that. That means a lot, especially coming from from you. And I really appreciate it. So all right. There's so much that I want to speak into I would love for you to speak into your story today. There's so much to cover. But I feel like just to start if you could share with the listeners if maybe they're new to you, kind of where you were at in life when cancer entered the picture for you and just walk us through a little bit your diagnosis treatment kind of bringing us up to today? 

Vanessa Joy Walker

Sure, definitely a great question. So I was I had just turned 30. Yeah, no, I was 30 when I found a lump. And I was in a really difficult time in my life. My ex husband had just left me for the second time. I was alone in New York City. We had lived there for a while, but I had no family there. I got married when I was really young. And I was it was just it was unreal. And actually, when I found the lump, it was very strange. And people People always ask me when I tell the story, if it's really true, and I 100% I'm going to tell you the story, and it's totally true. But one night, I was laying in bed, and I really felt like I heard this voice say do it to self breast exam. And I had been neglecting my regular appointments. I was an opera singer at the time I was in the arts. And anyone who's in the arts knows that getting to doctor's appointments, figuring out health insurance is really difficult. And so I've been putting that off. And so I was like, okay, it was like one o'clock in the morning. And so I I did a self breast exam, and I felt something and I thought, well, this is weird. And I got up the next morning and I was like, Well, if it's still if it's still here, then I'll call my doctor. So I called the gynecologist went and they thought it was nothing. I mean, I was 30 years old. He's like appeals probably just like, you know, fibrous, whatever. But let's send you to a specialist just in case. I'm also adopted. So at that point, I didn't have a lot of information about my like genetic information history. So I went to see the doctor. And again, he didn't think it was anything. My mammogram came back inconclusive as did the sonogram, but the doctor said, You know, I just have a feeling that we we should do a biopsy. I don't want to just sit on this. And, you know, obviously there was cancer. And so it's very interesting time because here I was separated from My husband, I was 30 years old, I didn't have kids. And all of a sudden there was this influx of information, right? I mean, anyone who's been diagnosed with cancer, or has a friend or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, it's like, you know, getting hit in the face with 102 by fours, and then being asked to run a marathon at the same time, you know, and do it well.


I mean, they're asking you to make decisions about things that you have no idea, right? They're like, well, what would you like to do, you're like, I don't know, that's what you're the doctor tells me what to do. And so I was just beside myself. Thankfully, I did have a great surgeon, and he really helped lead the way. And it was just really helping me, empowering me to own my own, own my decisions own my choices. And, you know, we began to move forward. And we had I did chemo, I had a tumor that was about two centimeters. So it was on the border of one. It was on the borderline of being stage one, stage two, it was an aggressive form of breast cancer. And of course, because of my age, and with er PR, if for your listeners that don't know that terminology. It is hormone receptive. So basically, my cancer grew off of hormones. And so typically, when someone is in that circumstance, the the treatment plan is chemo, radiation surgery, and then some sort of edge event therapy, some sort of therapy that is every day for a period of maybe five to 10 years. So I did go with all of those things. chemo, radiation, I did AC and text here. And then radiation, and then I was on tamoxifen. And then when I was basketball were Yeah. divorced. cancer was crazy. We'll get into that later. And I met my Mr. Walker.

Vanessa Joy Walker
Yeah, we love him, Mr. Walker, Mr. Lenny Walker, and got, we had just gotten married. And I was 3635 36. And we hadn't been married for not even a year. And I was trying to get off my meds because I wanted to have a baby. And my doctors were like, well, let's hold off. And we did some genetic testing and found out that I had the bracket two mutation, and which is a genetic mutation that causes breast and ovarian cancer, as well as a couple of other cancers. And then a couple of months later, something showed up on a slide and I had cancer again. And this time it was it was breast cancer, again, it was a new primary cancer in the other breast. And so then, you know, we had to make choices, you know, you you're just laid out, you know, I always say like, there's no, I don't like to, I used to make judgments on choices, like good and bad choices. And now, I try not to have judgment around choices. I just say like choices, our choices. You know, the fact that you actually have choices is good, whether you like them or not, whether they make you happy, whether they feel good. You know, lots of things don't feel good. But the fact that you have choices means you have choices. So I we have choices, and so I chose to not do chemotherapy, I chose to do double mastectomies have my breasts removed also have my ovaries removed, and go on a new kind of adjuvant therapy, another hormone treatment plan that I was on for five years, and then I finally made it good five years. Gradually, yay. Um, yeah, it was really, you know, after I always say, my friends and peers were building their careers and starting families in their 30s. And I was keeping myself alive. And so making it to five years felt like I had, I felt like a real accomplishment because I, I had never got there. Before that. So after 10 plus years, I got there. So

Jessica Walker
it's incredible. And there's so much that I want to dive into with what you just said I was like scribbling notes.

I have part one and part two. Exactly. We'll just have to have you on several times. Um, so let me just just roll back a little bit. So you are early 30s, essentially by yourself in New York. Who do you lean on? At that point? Were you reaching out to friends and family? Did you have like connections in the cancer world that you could reach out to? Was it more like social workers and people at your hospitals? What did that look like? Were you? I guess a two part question. Who Who did you lean on? was it was it you? And two? Were you open to sharing your experience? Or was this something you really were going? Like, close to the chest? Through Lifeline? Yeah.

Vanessa Joy Walker
Yeah, it was really hard. Um, that first time I was diagnosed, I didn't know how to ask for help. And I was not in a great place emotionally because I was, you know, I, I had been so hurt emotionally by my ex husband that I really wanted him to care for me. And he was the he was the closest person in the city to me. And so. And we were still married, when I was diagnosed, we had been separated for a while. So the first thing I did was reach out to him and tell him, because we've been together many, many years, we got met, I got married when I was 21 years old. So we had history, and I knew that he cared about me. And it was really hard. I mean, I did not want to ask for help. But I needed help. So he became, I have to say, a real support, I want to give him give honor, where honor is due. And he really did support me as much as he could during that period of time. Funny story, when I got the call that I was diagnosed, I had just started a new job. So like to just to give you guys like an idea. So I was an opera singer, right, not making a ton of money. You know, going from job to job teaching here, there. My husband at the time was making the bulk of our money. And, you know, at some point, I was like, I gotta find a job. Like I'm living in New York City, my rent at that point was 17 $100, which I know is nothing nowadays, but okay, think back to 2000. And so I just started applying for all kinds of jobs, like any job that I could apply for I applied for, and I miraculously got this job. And, I mean, I had the job for maybe a couple of weeks, and I found the loan. And so here I am with this brand new job, and I find out I have cancer. And so I remember the day that I found out our office was empty, because my boss was in India, actually. And there was only one other woman there, who I barely knew. And so I asked her to come into the other room, and I said, I'm going to share something with you right now, that is probably inappropriate to share at work, but you're the only person here and I have to tell someone, and she's like, okay, and I said, I just want you to know that I have cancer.

Vanessa Joy Walker
And she was way. She was like, Okay. And so you all know, she's actually a very good friend of mine now. Today,

Vanessa Joy Walker
you know, she's just the best. But I had to tell someone, right? And from that moment on, it was that process of telling people, right, who do you tell? And then I feel like as you begin to tell for me, as I began to tell people, I it's almost like, no, like, when you've seen those videos on nature channels where a horse gives birth, right? May or gives birth and like, the the font comes out, or the clothes comes out, and they can't really stand, you know, their legs are all wobbly. And I feel like, that's how it feels like when you first get diagnosed with cancer. And then the more that you tell people, the more that you are able to digest the information, you know, you get a little stronger, you can walk a little bit more, with a little bit more confidence. And so, the The second thing I did was I called another friend of mine and I, I said I you know, I get I have to tell you, I have cancer and she had dinner with me that night. And um, it was, man, my mom's would be mad if I swear, but it's a little bit of a shit. It was a little bit of a show. I'm not going to lie. You know, one of the things that one of the reasons why I am so passionate about talking about my own journey, and the patient's experience and the caregivers experience As opposed to just research is because the information for getting help is not readily available. Right? So they give you all this information about your disease and about your treatment options. But they, they don't tell you, here are some people that can really help you. It's just like, they give you this packet of information. They're like, Oh, like, here's a bunch of random stuff. It's like, the last thing you want to do is read a bunch of pamphlets, right about people that want to talk to you in a group about your cancer that you don't know, right? Like, it's so overwhelming. And so I did not have the kind of support that I really wanted, and needed during that first diagnosis. The one piece of internal support I had is that I am a person of faith. And, you know, my faith was something that really intensified during that period of time I grew up in church, I grew up, you know, around the things of God. But I had not really figured out well, how does that how does that manifest itself in me as an adult, right, like, what does that mean for me, and, and so during that period of time, one of the most beautiful things that happened is I was able to create a really a faith base and a spiritual identity that has helped me throughout the rest of my life. hope that answered your question.

Jessica Walker
Yes, absolutely. And I mean, it's just like, of course, there's, there is never a good time to get cancer. But I mean, you definitely a tough time, like, that's a difficult time to get cancer, and like a gardener is no good time. But I can't imagine just the radical growth that you had to go through just as a human being in that period, just from health to relationship to your location to your career to your finance, like, I mean, just so much had to happen. So then, at the point where you're now with your Mr. Walker, and you are then navigating a second diagnosis in this, I would assume a completely different place. emotionally. I mean, everything. How is that different for you?

Vanessa Joy Walker
I mean, so there, in one sense, it was totally, it was completely different. And then in the other sense, it was totally the same, right? I mean, there there are these baseline emotions, you know, and your listeners who have experienced this now, that just bring you back, right? And you're just like, Man, I'm here again. And you are there's those those flashes of helplessness, that desire to not want to ask for help, because now you've got yourself strong again, you're right, I can do this. Now. I've got all these tools, and realizing, oh, no, I really need help. One of the, one of the beautiful things about getting diagnosed the second time with Mr. Walker, is that I was able to relinquish some of the control of my care. And I was also I was a better patient. I allowed people to help me that perhaps I didn't even want to help me because I knew he needed other people to help me too. And one thing, and it may seem small to some but often it's the smallest things that matter during these periods of time, is that working out was a really big deal for Lenny. And so in the mornings when I, I had a really bad, I don't do well with surgeries. And so it was really difficult for me. But in the mornings, he would get up and go to the gym and a friend of ours would come over while I was sleeping. And this friend of ours, I've known since college, and he's really close with me and he would help me get out of bed and go to the bathroom and and of course like listen, I didn't. I love my friend, but I didn't really want him waking me up in the morning. But I also knew how important it was for Lenny to have to be Lenny. Right? Because cancer is all consuming. All of a sudden, sudden, every single decision that you're making filters through this cancer screen, right? You're like Oh, are we gonna go on a trip? cancer? Are we gonna have a baby cancer? Are we gonna go home to see my mom who's sick cancer. Oh my gonna apply for a new job cancer, it changes everything. In addition to changing these external choices, it changes all of your internal choices because crisis changes your emotional DNA. I'm not the first person to say that there's plenty of psychology things that you can read about this, for sure, it changes your emotional DNA, it changes who you are. So every single thing that you thought you wanted prior to that day, when they say, oh, by the way, it's cancer, again, or it's cancer, or it might be cancer. Or your mom has cancer, your sister has cancer, your best friend has cancer, everything before that changed, everything is gone. and allowing myself the freedom to pivot.

Vanessa Joy Walker
And also to flail my arms a little bit was something that was really was really important for my second diagnosis, and also something that I would not have been able to do if it had not been from my first diagnosis. I also knew how to ask for what I wanted.

Jessica Walker
That's so so I'd love if you could speak into that a little bit.

Vanessa Joy Walker
Yeah, so I mean, as for what I wanted, when it came to drugs, it's gonna be honest, like, no, I'm sorry. This is the kind of painkiller I like, I don't like that painkiller. I like this painkiller. Well, we'll, I'm sorry.

Do you know my body?

I've done this a couple of times. This is the painkiller I'd like. If you can't give it to me, then please, I would love to speak with someone who can. And not you don't have to be rude, right? I feel like, like advocating for yourself. There's a sense, especially as women, that advocating for ourselves, it's like we're being rude. But there's nothing wrong with being clear. Rene Brown says it's best, Bernie Brown says it best clear is fine. And so when you are being clear, you are being kind, both with the person who you're being clear with and with yourself. And so learning to how to ask learning how to ask for what I want, learning how to just not judge my questions or my symptoms. So before I would I you know, the first cancer I'd be like, Oh, well, I'm afraid they might think I'm complaining if I say this, or like, maybe I shouldn't mention this. And I had a doctor one time say to me, Listen, Vanessa, it's not your job to diagnose. It's my job to diagnose. It's your job to write down every single thing you're feeling and me to figure out what's important.

Jessica Walker
Love that. Right? Why me? Linda said, that's so important.

Vanessa Joy Walker
Like, blow my mind. I was like, Oh, yeah, like, I don't need to edit this list. That's the doctor's job. And so when I talk to someone, I'm like, have a, it doesn't need to be fancy. It's, it's like your book, your first book, have something that you can take with you could be a notepad. And this is especially important for anyone who is not technically savvy. So it's especially important for people who are a little bit older. So if you're dealing with a mother, or, or a father, or someone who has cancer, I say, get whatever they're comfortable with. If it's a steno pad, whatever posted, have them write down every single thing, every question they ever have, doesn't matter what it is no judgement, put those in a little book, take them with a doc, take them to the doctor, and take your time. If you're gonna wait there for two hours or one hour, 45 minutes, when you get into that space, that is your space. Make room for yourself in that space. Allow yourself to be big in that space. This is your moment, you are the most important thing right now. And asking questions. Is is your superpower right? It also it also allows you an opportunity to make better choices in choices that you feel good about choices that you feel like oh, yeah, like I made that choice. So that would be one thing. Ask for Ask. Ask questions. advocate for yourself. also put people around you that will be good gatekeepers.

Jessica Walker

Oh, I love that though. One, one of the big suggestions. Most important, I think suggestions that I that I offer to people is that you have no responsibility to chat with every person that wants to chat with you and encourage you. People don't know what to do. When they find out you have cancer. And most people do want to help right No one knows how to help someone unless they have a degree and helping people with cancer. And, you know, the last thing I know, there might be some, you know, nurses or social workers, but in general there, there's no degree there. Right? There's, there's no, there's no book that they're like, you know, or, or E course that they give you, you hear the do's and don'ts. And there aren't really do's and don'ts because everyone's situation is different. And you mean, so having someone around you that can be a little bit of the bad guy. It's kind of like, you're the celebrity superstar and the gatekeepers other people that says she's not available. I love that, you know, and that, sorry. It's a little noisy here. I apologize.

Vanessa Joy Walker

Oh, good. Yeah. That I think is super important. One of the things that Lenny did when I was in the hospital, and people wanted to visit is he just said, No, he said, um, you know, she's in a really bad place right now. And visiting her would not be helpful. If you would like to do something, I'm happy to send you a list of things that would be helpful. And the people that really want to help, will say, Please send that list. And the people that can't or don't want, and again, not one of the other things is is not feeling badly about that. Not everyone is equipped and skilled to help you and that's okay. You know what? Everyone has got their own journeys, you don't know what's coming up for them. You don't know what, why it is that they're not a good helper, right. But letting that go. And when you let that go, you make room in your life for the people that actually do want to help. Um, when I was at home, Lenny, was very, he did not want to put a lot of people come to the house. Yeah, people wanted to stop by Nope. Or if they did, they'd be like, Hey, stop by but Vanessa's sleeping. And I would go in the other room, and I would lay down and they would come by, and I would not go out. That's one and you want to bring something you want to make something great. Don't text her. You know, and so just having those gatekeepers, because it is exhausting, right? It's exhausting. Telling people over and over and over again that you have cancer.

And I love all the tools that are out there now. And everyone has a way of utilizing them that fits their, their personality and their lifestyle, whether it's updating a Facebook bit page or, you know, group tags, or whatever. But allowing people to be a part of your journey is really important. Because people, it's good to know that people support you. But doing it in a way that actually helps you and doesn't hurt you is also really important.

Jessica Walker
You just I feel like you just I mean so many great recommendations. I feel like you just brought words to so many thoughts that I've been having, like over the past year, I was just like, yes, yes, that's what I Oh, my gosh. 

Jessica Walker

But yeah, I mean, definitely going back to the taking up space in your appointment. That is something that Tommy and I have really had a hard time with, we both are very accommodating, we really tried to like, not be burdens. And that is something that we've really had to focus on having a list of questions when you walk in such a group recommendation, because I mean, you get into an appointment, you have all these things in your head, but then they drop a bomb of news or something and then all that goes out the window. So having it written down so smart. And then the gatekeeper concept I love I actually like I really I do utilize that, like I have my sister in place for a lot of things like that. And definitely don't have Tommy and group messages. Like I do stuff like that, where you can leave things at the door as just, but I've never thought of it in that way that it's just to create that boundary to create that healing space for them to thrive in and feel supported, but not like have any energy leaks. And I just think I got such a good I love that you said that. Yeah. And I just wanted to highlight something you said about the burden. And you know, when you said you know, we feel like burdens and one of the ways I reframe that is by saying cancer is a burden, but I am not a lover.

Vanessa Joy Walker
So crisis is a burden for me, and the people that love me, but I am not a burden. Oh my gosh. And like I get chills just saying it I because it's taken me years of therapy and prayer counseling and psychiatry and anti anxiety meds actually get to the place where I can say that out loud and actually mean it and there are still days where I don't believe it, right? Like, there are still some days where I actually have to say that to myself today. And I'm considered sure right. And I have to say to myself, I am going, I am not going to apologize for my disease today. Today, I am not going to apologize for my disease. And there are times that I have actually verbally said that to people, bosses, loved ones, friends. I love you, I am not going to apologize for my disease or the effects of it. And just like just such a, an important reframe right and important concept. I just wanted to highlight the highlight, you said that, and then the idea of gatekeeper part of the reason why I'd like to add kind of these concepts to the actions, the things that are helpful, is because because having a vocabulary around this stuff is helpful when you're talking to other people, it actually helps people feel like they're a part of the process, right? So if you can actually say to someone, oh, hey, like, my sister is the gatekeeper for us. And you guys don't generally gatekeeper, if you would ask them that question, oh, it's just kind of term. And you could use a funny anecdote. And this is the reason we have that in place, we really want to keep you informed. But this is this is so that we can keep things organized. Everyone's getting the best information. And we saw we saw appreciate you wanting to be informed. So here's your information, please reach out to her. And so then it gives you the vocabulary to kind of explain to everyone what the deal is. And it also empowers them because it It educates them, it gives them the information. Right? And if they're curious, then they're going to learn more about it. And if they're not curious. Yeah, yeah.

Jessica Walker
I love that. I feel like you just spoke something that, like so many so many listeners needed to hear I needed to hear. I mean, even as a caregiver that I mean, let's say one more time, it was like, trauma is a burden.

Vanessa Joy Walker
I am not. Yeah, so like, I love caregiver powerful caregiving. caregiving is a burden. I am not a burden.

Jessica Walker
I literally I'm not getting emotional. I this is something I just like, absolutely needed to hear. And I just I know, so many people needed to hear this as well, I thank you so much for sharing that. Um, I would love to shift over it. Because I feel like I mean, you've shared so many mindset tips and perspective shift tips. And I know that like, obviously, that the physical part of going through cancer is a trauma in itself. But to get through that the mindset has to be sharp, the perspective shifts have to be in place to serve you and not be a burden to you. So I know that that sounds like something that these tools that you have used throughout your diagnosis and and survivorship. So I mean, you've overcome hurdle after hurdle in your life. So I'd love to talk about what positivity looks like for you and how you navigate it. Does that word resonate? What does it feel like for you? And do you have any tools or advice for someone who's struggling to find that, quote, positivity or to pull themselves forward?

Vanessa Joy Walker
Yeah, what I mean, what a great, just what a great question. I mean, we get we could have an entire series on Oh, for sure. Question, right? Oh, man, being positive, is it's like I have a love hate relationship with it, because I understand the value of it. And I talk a lot about choosing hope. And I talk a lot about not basing your decisions on feelings. Because our feelings are not always rooted in truth, right? Our feelings are real, and they're truthful, but they're not always rooted in the truth. And so the first thing you know, I and I talked about it in my book, make room for joy. I say the first thing to making room for joy is actually getting real with suffering. And so don't many of us want to skip that step. And we want to move right to the like, let's be hopeful, let's be positive. And part of that reason is that's what's modeled for us, right? So like in on social media, which is really valuable, but also, it's helpful. It can also be hurtful. On within news media, you see people have had cancer and you see these, these truncated storylines, right, where there's like a disease and then an overcoming and either they're working and they're strong, and you it's very hard to see yourself in that. So instead of being encouraged by that, you often feel worse, right? Because you're Like, oh, I'm not doing as well as bam. So then how do you access these positive vibes? When you feel like crap, right, and your whole life is just crumbled around you. And so I always say like, we're like a, we're like a big cup, right? We're like a bowl or a cup with this vessel. And cancer basically puts a hole in the bottom, and everything good that you had seats at the bottom. And then it fills you up with all of this crap, right? Like fear and pain and uncertainty and all this stuff. And so then what happens is, is you go on social media, or you go to a support group, or you talk to someone who wants to encourage you, or you read a quote on online, and you add this positive note to the top of that vessel, right? And so you feel good for a second, you're like, Oh, yeah, I feel good. What happens is, is that there's no room for that to stay, because you're filled up with all this other stuff. So at some point, just gonna fall out. And you're just left with all the crap. So you have to start by getting real with all of the stuff that's in the vessel, you have to excavate, you have to say, What am I feeling? Why am I feeling this? Why I'm angry, and allow yourself the opportunity to say these things out loud without judgment. You know, one of the other things I say, on my boat at the bat, at the end of every chapter, I always say like, make it personable, without judgment, do this for yourself, right? Just get real with that. Because once we start excavating that stuff, then what can happen is we can begin to fill ourselves up with with happiness, joy, connection, those are the things that create a positive vibe, a positive vibe is a result of a bunch of other actions of things that you're doing in your life, right? It's not the positive vibe isn't the thing you do. That's what happens because of a bunch of other things you

And so figuring out what are the things that I need to do today, not tomorrow, today, to take a little bit of the pain out, so that I can add in a little bit of something that's going to result in a more positive feeling.


And so I have kind of coined this my, I call it the self care equation, because I feel like self care is not prescriptive. It is something that is ever changing. And so it's that idea of saying to yourself every day, where am I? What am I feeling? Why am I feeling that way? What is it today that I that could help me care for myself? And again, this could be talking with a friend, having a glass of wine, cutting my toenails, like whatever? Yeah, you know, taking taking some extra laxatives.

I don't care.

We all love to talk about poop after cancer. And it's like, I mean, honestly, it's all I talk about poop. It's the these couple things. So then you have this plus this, plus this equal self care for today. The result of that is a more positive feeling. And the reason why it's a more positive feeling is because now you're caring for yourself. Now you're honoring yourself. Now you're actually putting into practice the concept of cancer is a burden that I am not carrier, you're giving me the burden, but I am not. Because if you see yourself as a burden, it's hard to care for yourself. Because you already feel like you're taking you're taking up too much space. So how can you tell someone that feels like they're taking up too much space to Oh, take up more space? Yeah, yeah. But that is actually that's the path towards this more positive feeling. And also, the understanding that the joy of today is not going to be the joy of tomorrow. The joy that you experience in the middle of the most devastating times of your crisis is not the joy that you're going to experience when you're, you met a five year mark or you've got a good test result. They're totally different. And it's totally okay. I mean, when you guys ended up in the hospital a handful of months ago, right? The joy is that you were able to latch on to during those uncertain moments are different than the joys that you're able to latch on to today. The joys of those moments might have just been the pocket of peace you found down near, you know, the coffee machine in a moment to breathe, right and say, Man, I never realized how good this hospital coffee was when you're exhausted, right. And there's was a sense of gratitude. But I feel like positivity is, again, it's something that you get to own, you get to define it for yourself. And it can change whenever you need it to. And so if someone says to you, you need to be more positive, I say, Don't judge my positivity, you do not know my definition of positive, maybe my definite definition of positive is giving me giving myself the space to lay in the bed for three hours and feel a little bit lonely, and setting an alarm clock and say, okay, after three hours, I'm going to get up and do this, this or this. And actually giving yourself space to allow yourself to feel and live. Feels good. Because you feel empowered. And having cancer. It strips you of, of like, man, for someone who's so worried, sometimes it's hard to come up with the word, you know, it's like, it's stripped you of your confidence in, in life in choices, it is like the opposite of empowerment. And so when you can find ways to own who you are, where you are, and why are there that is, that is huge. And so also articulating that the caregiver, so if you're a caregiver, giving the opportunity to the person you're caring for, to make those choices, and also make mistakes, right? Sometimes when you're sick, you're gonna say things that are mean, right? And so be like, Okay, this happened. And I can either react in the moment, or I can give them a little space to work through this. And then I can ask questions, and it's okay to push that. I mean, listen, my husband will say to me, you know, Honey, you're a little mean, when you get stressed out about these things. You can't tell me I mean, I'm going through this. He's like, Well, no, I can't tell you, you're me. Because you're being me. And being mean, makes sense. But it's not necessarily helpful. So let's talk about why you're being me, right? Now, okay, well, fine, right. And I don't like it. But again, it gives us opportunity to kind of get into the muck, get into the mess, going all the way back to this idea of the vessel, so that we can take everything out, and then begin to fill it up with other things. Fill it up with caring for ourselves, fill it up with connecting with people, connecting with people that actually make you feel good, right? connecting with people that have common interests, connecting with the world. Part of the reason why I love travel so much. Part of the reason I love exploring whether it's my neighborhood or another country, is because when you are able to connect with something that is outside of your severe of grief, you are able to breathe in air that has not been saturated with the pain of every day. And a lot of people will say, Well, I you know, I can't go on, I can't go to Mexico or I can't go to the Bahamas or whatever. But you don't have to, you can go to the farmers market. And for 30 minutes, you can walk around with a basket and look at vegetables and have the sun on your face and connect with the people and connect with the world. You can go to a another side of town, you can go on a drive, whatever. Allow yourself the opportunity to connect with yourself with the world and with people on your terms. Again, you are not a burden.

Jessica Walker
You're so much wisdom. I mean, honestly, I'm already thinking about our next episode because I 30 questions. But just for the sake of wrapping this like with I mean, that was just a perfect place to end I think. And I mean you have created so many resources, these just mental tools. You're talking about your book, make room for joy and you your life after code, crisis coaching, there are so many things that you are offering this community and this space and we're definitely going to have to have a part two to dive into those specifically, but for anyone who is interested in just connecting with you learning more about what you have To offer and and just learn more about you, where do you recommend they go?

Vanessa Joy Walker
Yeah, so you go to my website, it's Vanessa Joy Walker calm, and I'm on Instagram, I'm on the other social platforms. That's kind of where I'm most present these days. Vanessa Joy Walker really easy to find me. I'm in the process of she right now working on going through some ideas of trying to create maybe a group coaching program that could either be for cancer survivors or caregivers. I'm not quite sure yet. Maybe I'll have to talk about that. But so I'm I'm noodling around, I'm in a new mastermind group that we're that I'm really trying to, now that the book is out, focus now a little bit more on tools that people can actually take with them, and put into practice every day. So I just love to connect with people. And if you're, you know, what I've said resonated with you, please let me know and stay in contact so that as I begin to create more of these physical tools, you know, I can get them in your hands.

Jessica Walker
Amazing. Thank you so much for speaking with us today. Vanessa, this has been awesome. And I know that so much of what you said resonated and I just can't thank you enough.

Vanessa Joy Walker
You I can't wait till the next time. Yes.


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