I’ve started reading the famous book by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, “On Death and Dying.” No, it’s not morbid of me, I swear. We all know about the five stages of grief and the theories in that book, but it takes on new meaning in the context of facing a Stage IV cancer diagosis. I don’t think I’m in denial, though I’m probably not at the acceptance phase, either. So am I angry? Sure, I suppose there is anger. Am I bargaining? Well no, who is there to bargin with? “I promise I’ll eat my vegetables every day if you make the cancer go away?” There’s no one around to make that deal with me.
So I find myself trying to accept the diagnosis and the reality of it without being negative and giving up hope. I can be positive and optimistic and hopeful without having my head stuck in the sands of denial. But it’s a tightrope act and certainly there are wavering moments of guilt for thinking about dying– when I feel like I should only be thinking about beating the cancer and being a survivor.
But I already am a survivor. The only pity-party I am going to allow myself is one over daiquiris on the beach in Hawaii. Maybe. And even then, that party will have to be a short one. Because time and energy spent on the things I can’t control is useless– and it takes away from the moments I should be spending with family and friends and pets and all the things I love about this life. I’ve been very, very lucky in life, and I’m not going to let stupid cancer change that or try to define me. Yes, I am going to be a cancer patient for the rest of my life. But that’s just one small thing about me; I am also a daughter, sister, friend, teacher, animal-lover, avid reader, and a million other things. When I look at myself and my life from that perspective, terminal cancer starts to look very insignificant in comparision. And so there’s that balance act again– between accepting this for the huge terrible thing it is and hoping that I can kick its ass for more years than anyone would ever predict!