It has been a tough week for me. Two things really: 1) deciding what to do is hard, and 2) stages of grief is a thing.
As you might remember, C-fulness is also a thing for me. It is an outgrowth of a counseling modality I use. When a person is Self-Led the 8 Cs will be in evidence. When something other than the 8 Cs is going on, then we say that “a part of me feels ________,” or “I have a part up that ____________.” So I have had parts up this week. Parts that are less C-ful. More exhausted, fearful, avoidant, depressed. It’s my work to find out about these parts, let them have their say, and then proceed accordingly. I haven’t been doing that, because my whole internal system is a bit scared of what all that will dredge up. Probably need to get back to work.
So, 1) deciding what to do is hard: We have been listening to alternative health advocates, from Dr. Lorraine Day, and Ty Bollinger of The Truth About Cancer, and even a dvd sold to us by my primary care physician (pcp) entitled Healing Cancer from the Inside Out. Many of these resources call out chemotherapy as not being safe and/or effective, and in fact, rather, part of a big business racket that makes the whole industry suspect, frankly. What’s more these resources all offer alternatives, often off the beaten track in the U.S. or outside the U.S., that are both effective and much safer.
However, my pcp is also advocating what the gyn-onc suggested, that I do the three cycles of chemo to shrink the affected areas so they will be easier to get out surgically. I had another appointment with pcp questioning that, because I felt like I was getting two completely different stories from her. She clarified that she intends the chemo as a tool to shrink and “download the load” as she says, and not as the longer term systematic treatment for the cancer as a whole. She has many integrative tools to use once the affected organs are removed but she is concerned that right now, the load is too big, it may soon cause other mechanical problems in my abdomen, and it needs to be taken care of more aggressively first.
So I have sat with the question of “to do or not to do chemo” this week, been horrified at what I’ve learned, and yet been somewhat convinced that it is a necessary evil for the moment. I’m still not really happy about it though. Rock and hard place….
And what’s more, I’m the only one who can decide. When it all comes down to it, I have to decide what to do. No one really could nor should do it for me. So it feels like a huge responsibility, a huge weight. “Will Andrea make the right choice? Tune in next week!”
And 2) stages of grief. So, years ago Elisabeth Kübler-Ross published a theory of grief stages, mainly for the bereaved. Over the years others have tweaked it a bit, and the stages that stick in my mind currently are:
I believe, as do many others, that we all experience grief for many more losses in addition to bereavement. In my case, I’m feeling the loss of my health, and the “normal” that was existing before all this went down.
March 15 was the big Shock day, when the first gyn-onc pronounced the diagnosis for the first time.
Denial may have been a period of time when I was not really letting in the wholeness of the diagnosis.
I can’t say I’ve had much Anger at the diagnosis, as for some reason I’m far too Stoic for that. Or maybe I have a part that is excellent at being Stoic. In any case. It could also be a place I should go, this Anger, to get in touch with it, if it is buried.
Can’t say I’ve done a lot of Bargaining, which is to say something like, “God, if you heal me, I promise to be the best person from here on out.” I think maybe why I haven’t really done that is because I don’t really view this cancer as a deliberate, personal thing. Maybe, only in the sense that I do believe that all circumstances offer the option of further learning and development, and even that perhaps this was predetermined for that purpose. Maybe, maybe not. If that is true, then bargaining out of it seems kind of stupid and deliberately backwards. On an intellectual level.
However, on a more emotional level, regardless of why or why not, I have definitely felt myself slide into Depression this week. The reality of this diagnosis has really set in, the reality that my old normal is never going to return, the reality that it’s going to be a long road, and possibly a very difficult road, and I’m going to have to buck up to face it and do it, and do I really have that kind of strength right now? I remember the fury I felt when years ago I started feeling my mother’s arthritis in my own hands, the livid fury that shouted, “I WILL NOT GET THIS!” And I refused to go before conventional medicine because I had seen for years what it could not do for her or my grandmother. I would figure it out on my own, and I did. I read and read and read and tried things, and finally ended up avoiding grains per The Paleo Diet and after only three days the pain was gone from my hands, unless I ate wheat. It was predictable and definitive. And done.
My concern with me now is I don’t seem to have the same fighting energy that I did then. That was 13 years ago now. And, I’m finding, cancer is different than rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis just maims and deforms but doesn’t kill. It’s years of living with pain, but mostly it is not immediately terminal. However, with cancer, it is, and sooner than later without any treatment. I may or may not have tons of time to figure out what I’m doing, what works, what doesn’t. And there’s only so much time per day I want to spend thinking and learning and weighing options about cancer.
Sometimes I need a break. Today I took a whole day break and read a good novel, got out of my own head and story and jumped into someone else’s for a while. It was a relief.
And then I finished the book, get dumped back into my own life, and voilà I have to deal with my own life. Again. It’s still there. It’s been waiting for me.