“Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.”
You hear these five words often when people talk about the five stages of grief. I’m going to talk to you today in this article about those five stages, but not in regards to a death, or someone I love being sick. I’m going to talk to you about the five stages of grief in regards to my own terminal illness.
When I found in May of 2016 that I had stage three glioblastoma, so many thoughts ran through my head. So many feelings. My first reaction though was denial. I left the doctor’s office in pure denial .I pretended for weeks that it wasn’t happening. I pretended that they were wrong. I told myself that there was no way that this was happening to me, it couldn’t be. I was twenty three, I was too young. So I tried going on with my life, ignored the calls from my doctor, and went on living my life. Until I couldn’t anymore. I couldn’t handle the fact that something like this had actually happened to me. I couldn’t handle that something so serious, something so tragic had become my life. All the plans, all my dreams, what would that mean for them if I let it in?
I remember going through the motion of all the feelings that had become so overwhelming and just immediately needing to latch on to one thing. One emotion, and for me that became anger. Anger was my thing for weeks. Some days, even now, I still feel it deep inside, only not as intense. I couldn’t understand why or how this happened to me. I’ve always taken care of myself. I’ve always eaten healthy. I’ve always exercised. I never got sick to even where I ever needed to go to the doctor. So, when I got the news and everything about my life started to change. I was so angry. I was angry at the world. I was angry at myself. At my doctor. I was angry at my family for not being there, but mostly, I felt angry at God. The God I had always believed in. The God I had prayed to for my entire life. The God I had chosen to believe in, even when the bad things happened because that’s what I was taught at a young age. I was angry at everything. It tore me apart.
I had so many regrets through this entire process. You see, I’ve suffered from server migraines my whole life. I was diagnosed with them when I was ten years old, so I grew up having them on a daily basis. When they started getting slightly worse, and I started to feel sicker while having them, I didn’t tend to think anything of it because of the fact that I’ve always had them. I just thought it was stress. I let it go, and chose to believe that it was stress. I kept thinking, if only had gone to the doctor sooner. If only I had started treatment sooner. If only I had listened to my doctor more than maybe it wouldn’t have progressed to stage three the way that it had. Maybe I could’ve had a better chance a living a longer life.
Depression became my best friend. Though, I didn’t get depressed until I was told I was going to die in less than a year. I stayed positive. I stayed optimistic until the doctors ran out of options for me. The tumor was too invasive to operate on. The chemo and radiation weren’t working, it was only making me sick. The clinical trial would only buy me time. Cyber knife worked until the tumor just grew again. Option after option and all I ended up with was this disappointing feeling that nothing would ever feel okay again. They told me to go live my life and so that’s what I did, and as proud as I’ll always be for taking that step, that’s when my depression really started to kick in. I wanted to sleep all the time. Crying became a usual for me every single night. I couldn’t see past the cancer. I couldn’t see past the cloud that now lived above my head. It was exhausting. It was overwhelming, and it took control over my life. I was scared and worried that I was going to die, that eventually I forgot to live what could be the last moments of it. Even now, I get these moments of constant worry that everything is just going to fall apart. The depression can get bad, and it’s terrifying in this position, but I’ve also learned that I can’t stop living my life because I’m scared I’m doing to die. I have to make the most of whatever time that I do have left. Whether that’s a year, five years, or sixty years, I want to be able to reach the end and say I lived.
Even though I was diagnosed with cancer almost a year ago, I didn’t reach acceptance until about one week ago. I had finally hit where I believe to be rock bottom was. I had finally fallen apart to the point where I was all alone, mostly from my own doings, but even so, it was terrifying. I looked around at my life and I just seen it unraveling. It was scary, and I looked back on my life and asked myself is this it? Is this all there is? Is this really how my story is going to end? So I took a deep breath, and for the first time since I was diagnosed, I allowed myself to grieve for it. I allowed myself to be the girl who had cancer. I allowed myself to show all the emotion I’d been hiding away for so long and just accepted it. I have cancer. It was in that moment that I realized that I know had two options. I could either sit there or continue to be depressed. I could live out what could be my final days being alone, being sad, and having no one there to tell me that everything would be okay, or I could get up. I could try better. I could start the day trying to be positive because eventually if I started there, I’d make it there for real. For the first time in two hundred and ninety nine days I had just got over all my fears, all my depression, all the sadness, all the disappointments, and for the first time I just sat there and accepted it. I accepted it because I couldn’t change it. No matter what I did, no matter how hard I tried I wasn’t going to get rid of the cancer, so I chose in that moment to embrace it. I chose to embrace my life because if I didn’t I wasn’t ever going to live life to the fullest, and in the end that’s all I really want to do. I want to say I lived. So that’s my plan.