Hi, I’m Stephanie McLeod-Estevez
In my work, it’s a blessing to meet incredible women who are at a crucial crossroad in their lives. This crossroad might come from a breast cancer diagnosis, unhealthy relationship experiences, perfectionism, or deep loss that has them questioning who they are.
On the outside, the world around them sees them as capable and strong. On the inside, they’re reckoning with the emotional pain that comes from feeling like all they can do is survive, not thrive. This is exquisitely painful. And yet, deep within is an ember of belief that they are capable of feeling better and more whole.
In our work together, we untangle the emotional web that has kept my clients feeling trapped. By loosening up the internal tension, we examine the core beliefs that restrict my clients from being their authentic selves. We use art therapy to deeply listen to the stories that must be told to find relief from the pain and nurture the skills they need to feel liberated and alive.
My greatest hope is for everyone to realize that with the right kind of guidance and support, they can live more boldly than they ever thought possible. This brings forth a deep reservoir of faith that not only benefits everyone’s life, but also the lives of everyone around them.
Since 2004, I’ve honed my craft of supporting clients through times of adversity with dignity and grace. It’s a blessing to partner with clients as they courageously embrace what they’ve needed to grow. It’s an honor to have held space for the transformation that comes into their lives.
I obtained my Master of Arts in Expressive Arts Therapy and Mental Health Counseling from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. In 2016, I opened Creative Transformations, my cancer-focused emotional healing business. My work and clinical skills are informed by the diversity in the clients I’ve served. I am profoundly grateful for all that my clients have taught me and the work that we’ve done together.
This is a story of what happens when we face our deepest fears, the fear of what may happen to us and the people we love when everything falls apart. This is also a story of what happens when women join together to support one another through the darkest moments.
As you read, I invite you to reflect upon how my story resonates within you. Think about what your life will feel like when you move through the pain and find your radiant, beautiful self.
The summer I turned 40, I woke up from a dream that I had breast cancer and found a lump. I was nervous, especially because both my mom and her sister were diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 43.
The day my youngest started kindergarten, I went to my PCP. A mammogram was scheduled for the very next day. It was the mammogram, that turned into an ultrasound, that turned into a biopsy. As I headed home, I felt a great deal of apprehension. What would the biopsy find?
Soon, my worst fears were confirmed. I had breast cancer. I was terrified. Life as I knew it was totally turned upside down.
I’d seen my mom go through breast cancer twice, and I’d been at her side when she died from metastatic breast cancer. Now that I had cancer myself, I was grateful to have been one of her caregivers, for it gave me some idea of how to navigate the complex world of cancer and its treatment.
Everything snowballed from the moment I heard those words, you have cancer. Months of treatment lay ahead– chemo, surgery, and radiation followed by reconstruction and an oophorectomy thanks to the BRCA2 mutation. Thankfully my treatment was effective. I’ve been blessed to maintain my NED (No Evidence of Disease) status since 2015.
When treatment ended, I found myself grappling with– what has just happened to me?
My providers understood the profound challenges that their patients face when it comes to healing from cancer. But no one could tell me how, they just encouraged me to do what I could to lead a healthy life.
I knew the trauma of what I’d been through could hijack my life. I didn’t want to just survive, I wanted to thrive. My expertise in mental health gave me an advantage for addressing the overwhelming prospect of healing.
In so many ways, this moment felt like a twisted version of fate. It was the death of my mother that inspired me to become an art therapist. Art therapy became my key to healing after she died. Now, I trusted that art therapy would save my life once again.
What could have felt like a curse became a blessing. Through art therapy, I found reverence for my pain and discovered my glorious light.
I got right to work. I assessed the impact of cancer on my body, mind, spirit, and self. I pulled together a healing team to address the physical impact of cancer. Then, I created a method for using art therapy to address the mental, emotional, spiritual, and identity needs that I had. Art therapy became the vehicle for telling the story of what I’d been through in order to validate, understand, and find the meaning and closure I deserved.
I believe that every life experience gives us the opportunity to heal and grow. As a therapist, my breast cancer experience served to deepen the work that I do. When you blend your lived experience with your gifts, what you can offer to yourself and others becomes exponentially more powerful.
What I learned from breast cancer is that my life and health are not guaranteed. I had to work through the intense pressure that stems from facing your mortality, to release my desire for control and focus on where I could influence my health and wellness.
I’m a firm believer that when you focus on having influence in your life, you can navigate any challenge that comes your way. This means…
- you’re taking opportunities to grow and heal, so that you feel liberated rather than held hostage by painful memories and difficult or traumatic experiences.
- you examine and re-work outdated core beliefs that hold you back from embracing the beautiful person you are and the gifts you have to share with your loved ones and for the greater good of all.
- you celebrate working through, not avoiding or suppressing, painful thoughts and feelings, because on the other side of that you realize you are so much stronger and resilient than you ever realized.
This isn’t about perfection. In fact, a life well-lived is often messy and complicated, full of highs and lows. It’s a life built upon how you tell the story and how it reflects what you’ve gained from your setbacks, suffering, and personal work.
The first step towards a life well-lived? Being curious. It’s how you’ll live radiantly.
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