What defines you as a person? Who do you say that you are? These are questions that are often hard to answer because we have yet to understand or realize who we are as a person. Many times those questions are answered with a job title or a characteristic like I am a mom, a lawyer, or a caring person. But what truly defines you? Within this paper, we are going to look at Debra Jarvis’ story about how she chose to claim her experience and not allow it to define her. Debra like many women around the world has heard the dreaded “C” word, cancer, and was gripped by fear. One of the first stages of creativity is searching for the challenges. “The essence of creativity is meeting challenges in an imaginative, original, and effective way.” (Ruggiero, 2012) In Debra’s situation she did not have to search for the challenges; the problems was evident. However, not all challenges are obvious challenges they will require critical thinking to discover. Sometimes the problems and issues are so small or subtle that they are not always noticeable. (Ruggiero, 2012) The challenge for Debra was not succumbing to pressure of identifying herself as a victim of cancer.
The second stage of creativity; expressing the problem or issue, was one that was not hard for Debra. “The objective of this stage is to find the best expression of the problem or issue, the one that will yield the most helpful ideas.” Debra’s diagnosis of breast cancer was a shock to many. She was bombarded with all types of questions and statements like, “You’re a Chaplin, you should be immune to cancer”; or “Now you are really going to find out what is important”. These statements were the very catalyst that pushed Debra to embrace her concept of not allowing cancer to define her identity. “Feeling faith, finding your identity and strengths in the midst of chaos, brings one to the realization that the most important things are not things but relationships.” (Ted Talk, 2014) The third stage of creativity is investigating the problem or issue. The third stage is necessary to deal with the problem or issue effectively. “In some cases, this will mean merely searching your past experiences and observations for appropriate material and bringing it to bear on the current problem.” (Ruggiero, 2012)
During the fourth stage, we begin to produce ideas. The objective is to generate enough ideas to decide what action to take or what belief to embrace. (Ruggiero, 2012) Debra was able to choose the option to have a mastectomy and then put in a saline implant. Debra’s use of creativity allowed her to define what her experience meant, and that meaning can be quiet or introverted. What the experience means today can change years from now. Most people have a hard time adopting their imagination, not because they lack imagination, but because they fear the reaction their ideas will receive. Debra embraces her imagination by moving from victim to victor. She chose to not become trapped by the negative stigma of cancer but evolve and share with the world on how to overcome.
Debra’s choice to process her feelings instead of feeding them allows her to satisfy the curiosity of daring to be different. Instead of walking in the annual cancer walks, buying the keychain, shirts, and other cancer survivor symbolic items she processes it uniquely. Debra expresses, “that with any resurrection you must die first.” (Ted Talk, 2014) The Ted talk made several points that allow me to look at personal traumas as victorious instead of being the victim.
Debra’s story was an eye opener on how so many survivors within our society have embraced the trauma as their identity, instead of claiming the experience. Debra’s example of “the resurrection and one dying first and embracing the tomb as a place to do our deep inner work to allow ourselves healing” was a defining moment for me. We have to let the crucified self die so the truer story can evolve. The message of claiming your experience and not allowing it to claim or define you was the key message of her Ted talk. If there were no survivors, it would be an end to being trapped in our wombs.
Ruggiero, V. R. (2012). The Art of Thinking (10th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson. Ted Talk. (2014). Yes, I Survived Cancer but that doesn’t define me. Retrieved from http://ted.com/talks/debra_jarvis_yes_i_survived_cancer_but_that _doesn’t _define_me#t-253086