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  • Writer's pictureSurviving Breast Cancer

The Alternative To Feeling Like A Victim

By Kristen Carter

It’s so easy when we have breast cancer and when we experience awful side effects to think of ourselves as victims of our circumstances.

While it absolutely sucks to get cancer and its side effects, it’s how we think about it – and the actions we take – that can make the difference between feeling like helpless victims or empowered participants in the treatment process. (It’s even true that we choose to be treated; technically this is up to us.)

There’s a construct in psychology called the drama (or victim) triangle that describes the victim situation perfectly. Fortunately, there’s also a positive alternative, which I’ll get to in a moment. First, here’s a little more information about the victim triangle:

First, there’s the victim, us, to whom breast cancer happens.

Next, there’s the persecutor – the thing or person that causes us to feel victimized - in this case the breast cancer itself.

Finally, there’s a rescuer, who swoops in to help us – in our case, doctors and treatment.

You can see how disempowering this scenario is; it removes virtually all sense of personal agency from us.

If you ever feel a bit victim-y, here is a new way to think about things. It’s called The Empowerment Dynamic, or TED for short. Developed by consultant and author David Emerald, TED offers us the opportunity to choose our responses to life, regardless of the circumstances. In it:

The victim becomes a creator who is aware they have the capacity to create outcomes and choose how to react to life’s challenges.

The challenger, as the antidote to the persecutor, is simply a fact or circumstance that offers the opportunity to respond to and learn from all of life’s experiences.

The coach takes over for the rescuer and offers the ability to learn from asking powerful questions without swooping in to fix things for us. The coach can be a friend, an actual coach, or even yourself, using the TED book or workbook.

At the heart of the empowerment dynamic is learning to shift from reacting to choosing our response to what happens to us.

I first discovered TED in 2018, the year of my metastatic breast cancer diagnosis. It resonated deeply with me because of my cancer, but also because it turned out I’d learned some victim-y behavior from my family. As a result, I made 2019 my ‘year of creativity’ and made something – and posted it to Facebook – every day that year. Sometimes it was as simple as sharing a photo I took of a wildflower, but I did it.

It was life changing. My mindset shifted and I thought, felt, and behaved differently.

I went from occasionally feeling powerless and sorry for myself to feeling more focused on what I wanted to create, that I was dedicated to my continued growth as a person despite my diagnosis, and that I had the choice of how to think about and interpret what happened to me.

Instead of giving up and having little energy for positive action, I started taking more responsibility for making choices and then taking steps toward what I wanted to bring about in my life and in the world.

After my year of creativity, I even started a weekly newsletter and blog called “So now what?” to share what I’d learned with other people going through challenging circumstances. In 2022, I started writing for Surviving Breast Cancer as well.

The result has been more connection with awesome people, a sense of meaning and purpose, and a feeling of accomplishment.

I truly wish for you a minimum of feeling helpless in the face of your cancer and all that goes with it, and empowerment within your life. If you have any questions about evolving from a victim to a creator, please email me at I’d be happy to help.

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Meditation Mondays:

Chakra Chanting with Gloria

Mondays at 10:00 a.m. ET 


Thursday Night Thrivers:

All Stages Support Group

Thursdays at 7:00 p.m. ET



Thursday Night Thrivers:

Metastatic Breast Cancer Support Group

First and third Thursdays

of the month at 7:00 p.m. ET



Thursday Night Thrivers:

Inflammatory Breast Cancer Support Group

Second Thursday

of the month at 7:00 p.m. ET


Tuesday Night Thrivers

Después de un Diagnóstico:

Grupo de Apoyo en Español

2do y Cuarto Martes de cada mes 

7:00 p.m. ET


Encourage and Empower

For Newly Diagnosed

September 10, 11:00 a.m. ET


Breast Cancer Book Club

The first Sunday of the month


Restorative Yoga:

Unearthing Opportunities

May 20 ,  5:30 p.m. ET


In Body Breathwork

May 21 ,  6:00 p.m. ET


Brain Spotting

May 27,  6:00 p.m. ET


Qi Gong

May 28,  11:30 a.m. ET


Art Therapy

June 3, 6:00 p.m. ET


Forest Bathing

Jun 4,  6:00 p.m. ET


Reflect & Recharge

Expressive Writing

June 10,  6:00 p.m. ET


Yoga Fitness with Chair Assist

June 11, 11:30 a.m. ET


Yoga Stretching for DIEP flap

June 11,  6:00 p.m. ET


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Upcoming Events


Surviving Breast Cancer provides breast cancer support, events, and webinars at no cost to you! Whether you are looking to gain more knowledge on a particular topic or meet up with other breast cancer survivors, we have something for everyone. 


Our standing appointment on Thursdays is for all stages. We also host specific breakout groups once a month for specific stages and subtypes such as Metastatic breast cancer, and Inflammatory Breast Cancer, etc. 


The Book Club meets the first Sunday of every month at 11 am ET. You are welcome to join each month or pick and choose your month based on your availability and the book we are reading. 


Through art, writing, and other creative modalities, we hold the power to manage our stress, make sense of our now, and relax into moments of stillness. 


Free, monthly, online classes in restorative yoga, yoga for breast cancer, and Zumba. 


Después de un Diagnóstico

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