Like a Snoopy cartoon, the teacher is speaking to you, but it sounds like white noise as your mind comes to grips with–the diagnosis.
The diagnosis becomes a turning point.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief from her 1969 book, On Death and Dying, explains the stages which apply to any life changing event, including the diagnosis of cancer. The stages are not simply about death, but reflect the loss of life as you know it.
1. Denial–refusal, either conscious or unconcious to accept the facts
2. Anger–at self or others
3. Bargaining–compromising with others or a faith system
4. Depression–a period of sadness, fear and regret
5. Acceptance–dealing with the facts
The important thing is not how you move through the stages, but that you continue forward momentum. That momentum is individual, bringing you to a place of coping and to a place of re-evaluation.
Walking out into the sunshine after the defining moment you may be struck with amazement that the world goes on. The clouds continue to aimlessly float by and the birds are still chirping in the trees. Nothing has changed, and yet every single thing has forever changed and will never be the same again.
While diagnosis is a defining moment, only you can decide if and how it will define you.
I have observed a unique phenomenon over the years–patients diagnosed with cancer who make a very personal decision to hide the diagnosis from anyone outside a very select circle of perhaps only one or two people. They generally only reveal the information if it becomes necessary.
I was on the support team of a mail carrier who came to our facility for in-patient treatment. He tooks large chunks of accumulated vacation time for each cycle of his chemo and recovery. This continued for several rounds of chemo, and in the course of my interaction with him he shared that no one at his place of employment knew of his cancer diagnosis. He had not only accepted his diagnosis but he was determined his diagnosis would not define him.
I’ve thought about this often.
Does diagnosis define you? Are you your diagnosis?
Does the world treat you different once they know you have cancer? Do those you once interacted with change as they become unable to cope with your reality? Is it fear of loss or confrontation with their own mortality? Perhaps it is both.
Once the point of acceptance is reached it is your choice how you will deal with the diagnosis. As a caregiver, friend, loved one or family member, I believe it is merely our responsibility to respect that decision.
A final thought. Do you treat you differently? Have your priorities shifted outside of the diagnosis? Once you reached that moment of acceptance how did you begin to see the world around you? Defining moments tend to be the sifters and sorters of life. People and events trickle throught the sieve and everything is re-evaluated.