Grief and the breast cancer diagnosis

carrots

I am starting to hit acceptance with all of this. It has been a few months of struggling to accept my path and each emotion along the way has corresponded pretty closely to the stages of grief. (I touch on that a bit in this post)

This diagnosis has felt like such a loss. Loss of how I saw my life – I had imagined having kids or even having forever to figure out what I wanted to do. Loss of parts of my body – my breasts for one and several lymph nodes. But I think there was also a profound loss of self in all of this.

I was on a path, figuring out the things that made me feel connected to myself and the rest of the world. I had forged an amazing relationship to exercise and found ways to stay grounded, both physically and spiritually. I ate well, always gravitated towards self improvement and saw myself as exceptionally healthy. And then in an instant, all of that got taken away.

I could no longer work out because the bone mets hurt almost immediately. Every waking moment was spent focusing on next steps. And I wasn’t the picture of health I had envisioned. There I was: derailed, knocked off course and the tools once used to stabilize my mood or get in touch with myself were no longer available.

I still experience the emotional palette related to grief. Some days are worse than others. But I am grateful to also be experiencing acceptance and hope alongside all of that. I think this hope is coming, in part, from feeling like I have something to say about all of this. And with that, a striving for meaning, in my diagnosis, in life has begun to form.

Sometimes I don’t want to be girlfriends…or do I?

Revlon

A funny thing happened on the way to stage IV. Back in 2011, when I was dealing with a fairly contained case of the breast cancer (minus, of course, infected lymph nodes and a larger than comfortable mass), I faced that challenge as if it were a limited period of time, after which cancer would be in my rear view mirror…permanently.

The Universe had other plans though and now I am chronic. I won’t say terminal although I think about it that way sometimes (Probably best to shift that mindset eventually).

When everything started, I resisted support groups – actually I went to a couple and never went back. I turned away opportunities to talk about what was going on…when I was bald, a woman came up to me at a Starbucks, and asked about treatment. Granted it was not the most appropriate way to approach a stranger but, looking back, she was probably trying to forge sisterhood with someone who understood.

In those days, talking about cancer with people who had cancer was not uplifting. Every time I connected with someone who was going through something similar, it felt like I was connecting with the disease. And, my God, I wanted to be normal.

Now I feel less normal or, at least, like I have to shift my concept of normal. I used to forget I had cancer for long stretches of time and now it’s most of what I think about. My guess is I’m still in shock. It’s been 6 months since I found out about the recurrence and I’ve been surfing the waves of grief for all that time, hitting everything from denial, anger, bargaining, depression…so now I’m ready for a little acceptance. The hope is that writing this blog will assist in that shift.

EverythingLeadsToThis already symbolizes a significant change from the first time around…I’m writing about cancer and my experience. I’m talking about this thing I didn’t want to talk about, which means I am now open to finding a sense of community. In fact, it’s something I’d like to find. And as much as I don’t want to want that, there it is.