I’ve been thinking this week about emotions and how predictable we are as human beings. I’m sure you’ve heard of the five stages of grief and loss and how we move through these stages, not necessarily in any particular order or at any particular rate, but we do move through them.
Interestingly enough I started with bargaining. When I first found my cancer, I knew it was cancer but I didn’t want it to be, so I found myself bargaining with God, with a higher power, with myself, with mother earth, whoever would listen really. Mo has always said that there are no atheists in foxholes. My bargaining was simple, if this is just a cyst I’ll turn my life around, I’ll never have another negative thought, I’ll be a better person, I’ll be more motivated. I kind of oscillated between this type of bargaining and sadness, or depression if you like.
Once my fears were confirmed and I had cancer, denial and isolation were my friends. Not denial that I had cancer, I knew that, but about how serious my condition was, and is. I think in some ways I’m still moving through denial and battling depression, particularly on the eve of my 40th birthday. It’s hard to accept that you have a life threatening illness and that rather than celebrating 40 years on the planet, you’re contemplating the fact that you might not have another 40 years on the planet.
Then I find my way to anger, one emotion I’ve always found difficult to reconcile. Anger isn’t something I find productive and is always a cover for a deeper emotion that I’m not willing to explore at that time. Initially I didn’t ask the question, why me, but now I find myself considering this question and more. While rationally I know there isn’t an answer, again I’m hardwired to want to know. I ponder my lifestyle leading up to this diagnosis, didn’t I look after myself, I ate well, I exercised, I didn’t smoke, I haven’t drank alcohol in years, I’m healthy so why me and why now. Life isn’t fair.
I don’t think I’ll ever really have my answers, but I am working on moving toward acceptance. Sometimes I’m there, feeling good, positive and energised, knowing that I’m doing this and I’m going to get through it. I do however think that I’ll have to do a few more rounds with anger, depression, bargaining, and my personal favourite denial and isolation, before I get to breath in the comfort of acceptance again.
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What has stuck with me though, is what a good friend said to me earlier this year before all of this bunkum, that if we open ourselves up to the universe then we’d find we’re at the right place at the right time. If that ain’t acceptance then I don’t know what is.
Karen OBH here. When I read this blog from my dear friend Roz, I asked if I could share it with you; with her usual generosity she agreed.
Roz has triple negative breast cancer. When I met her, she was the Volunteer Coordinator at the Mater Cancer Care Centre in Brisbane, leaving there to manage the volunteers at the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney.
Recently on Starts at Sixty, we discussed what not to say to someone with cancer; in her own words Roz shares a little about her journey.