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Stages January 17, 2014

Posted by Judy in Musings.
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By and large, I think I’ve handled this whole “you have breast cancer” thing pretty well. It seems that I moved straight to the acceptance stage of grief and have been doing what I can to stay positive, improve my health and fitness, and improve my spiritual life. When people ask me how I was, I’d say, “I’m fine, actually.” and it would be the truth.

It has taken me two or three days to realize that no, I didn’t, in fact, skip right to acceptance. I did skip over denial, but am now firmly parked in the anger stage. The insidious seeping in of the anger has taken me by surprise. Not only was it insidious, it also masqueraded as impatience, tiredness and general grouchiness. At first, I attributed it to the Sudafed, which I took for 4 days to help dry up the milk. Sudafed totally knocked me out, but with four young children, there was no time to take a nap. Impatience and grouchiness brought on by tiredness secondary to the Sudafed, that’s totally plausible, right?

My Sudafed regimen ended, but the masquerading anger still hung on. I’d snap at the babes over increasingly inconsequential things. That which formerly caused minor annoyance elicited excessive frustration. It was as if an invisible cloud of doom followed me wherever I went.

This camouflaged anger was so insidious, that even my family didn’t notice. At least they didn’t say anything if they did notice. I told DH a few nights ago that I just felt “weird”. I struggled to find the words to describe exactly what I meant. I struggled because I didn’t really know. As I was trying to figure it out, the idea of the five stages of grief flashed through my mind. It gave me pause. It made me wonder if maybe, just maybe, this “weird” feeling was actually anger.

Once the camouflage was removed, and I was able to see the anger for what it was, I instantly started trying to figure out the source, nature and extent of the anger. I knew one thing, my anger wasn’t such that I wanted to shake my fist at the sky and shout “Curse you, breast cancer! Why me?!?!” This was confusing, though. I knew I wasn’t mad AT breast cancer nor was I mad at the fact that I have breast cancer. Neither of these jived with the fact that the anger wasn’t present prior to being diagnosed with breast cancer.

I’ve spent the past two days trying to sort everything out in my brain and with the help of DH, the tangled web of confusion has been cleared away. The main thing contributing to the anger is uncertainty. At this point, there is still so much that is up in the air. Is my surgery going to be a lumpectomy or a double mastectomy? Do I have to do several cycles of chemo or will radiation be sufficient? Do I have a BRCA mutation or don’t I? The waiting for answers and the uncertainty is frustrating and annoying. When you don’t have any clear answers, it easy to let your mind go to the worst possible scenario and before you know it, you start to believe that said scenario is reality.

While the lack of answers has brought about a big dose of uncertainty, the harder pill to swallow has been realizing that uncertainty is now going to be a way of life. My prognosis looks pretty good and I tell people, “It’s okay. I’m not going to die from it . . . . this time.” Breast cancer is not completely curable. There is always the chance that a few cells escape unnoticed and will return in the same breast or go to the other side or wander off to a more remote site like my lungs or brain or bones. So from now until the end, I’ll always be wondering “What does this pain mean? Why do I have so many mouth sores? What’s that deal with this lump.” I have this big, giant horse pill of uncertainty to swallow, and I don’t like it. I’m not angry about it, I just don’t like it.

The lack of clear answers also means that treatment hasn’t started. So here I am, going through my days, interacting with friends, acquaintances and strangers as if all was normal, and thinking “That person has no idea what I’m going through.” or “They probably don’t want to talk about this because really, who wants to be confronted with their own mortality. CHUMPS!” Poof . . . there’s the anger.

I still don’t think that I’m angry at or because of the breast cancer. I like how the hubs put it, the breast cancer has made any anger that generally dwelt below the surface easily accessible. Part of me thinks that had I had more faith or a better prayer life or had I been more positive the anger wouldn’t have been able to seep in. A larger part of me realizes that this is just part of the process of dealing with having cancer and I can’t beat myself up over it. So I’ll pray that this stage will blow over quickly and that my sweet family will be patient with me and come through unscathed.

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