Last updated: December 2022
I usually have so much to say to bring a sense of hope to others, but I suddenly feel angry and distraught about even the little things. There are no words of comfort to offer myself or others as the disappointment I feel about life today is overwhelming. Like many of you, I had dreams. My carefully planned life offered so many opportunities for joy and satisfaction that I am hardly ready for all that to end.
There I said it
I worked at my profession beyond the time many felt a need. Treasuring almost every moment, I believe that work provided a forum to demonstrate love. I had the privilege of using my creativity to contribute to worthy outcomes. My goals were complex and always included the desire to meet my organization's or my patients' goals while challenging those around me to fulfill their dreams and be their best. Ultimately, I knew my purpose and meaning and set forth daily to do God's good work. Today I write to those of you prepared to change course with me to find a better outcome.
There is great reward in being honest about our thoughts and feelings. But, in truth, having cancer is an unexpected turning point. It marks a time in my life's place on earth. Instead of sending out and giving to others, I am suddenly a receiver of care and services.
Am I in crisis?
I ask myself frequently, "Am I in crisis?" Taken from the Greek words "krisis" and "krino, or the Chinese interpretation, a crisis can be seen as a turning point, a time for danger or opportunity.
The term crisis describes a situation that affects an individual(s) in various ways due to life, environmental, and psychological stressors. Human behavior prompts a response to unexpected and uncontrolled life events that can be so horrifying they lack comprehension.
Once again, the leading cause of a crisis is the perception on the part of an individual of an intensely stressful, traumatic, or hazardous event. What is critical for me may not be the case for others.
In addition, two other conditions are also necessary:
- The individual's perception of the event as the cause of considerable upset and disruption; and
- The individual's inability to resolve the disturbance by previously used coping mechanisms.
As life happens...
During the last week of September 2022, two significant events occurred within my family. First, I faced coming to terms with ending chemotherapy. At the same time, my sister faced the devastation of Hurricane Ian.
Trying to take back some control and look at my experience honestly, I asked my oncologist to carefully evaluate my response to chemotherapy. Unfortunately, we had reached a point where our goals did not match. I faced a loss of quality of life and devastation to my body, mind, and spirit. Despite his obvious disappointment, he agreed to end the weeks of future scheduled chemotherapy and bring a renewed discussion of immunotherapy to the forefront.
Always the practical woman, I had to honor the data demonstrating the failure of bodily function followed by a sense of depletion and lethargy. Suddenly I couldn't find myself and felt as though death had already reached our doorstep. And yes, I began to enter a stage of crisis proportion.
Whether related to the next major issue or recapturing my resilience, I chose to see this crisis as a wake-up call. I needed to alert my treatment team that whatever we were doing was not working.
Facing Hurricane Ian
Within hours of making this decision known, Hurricane Ian raged through the Caribbean and onto Florida's gulf coast. This unplanned and frightening event reminds us how fragile life can be.
In effect, Ian left my sweet sister without access to her home on Sanibel Island. The causeway leading to her home violently succumbed to the hurricane winds and ocean surge. To this moment in time, my sister is uncertain that her house still stands. In the meantime, she lives safely while waiting for further news.
The choices we make in crisis
When faced with any crisis, we always have a choice. Unfortunately, some find the best action is to bury their head. In each case, we try our best to meet the impact of the problem by using experience and judgment to solve the problem, always hoping for the best outcome. However, if strategies fail during this Impact phase, many people feel helplessness, anxiety, frustration, inadequacy, or even depression.
The Coping phase includes all new attempts to alleviate tension. The person generally considers alternatives with a new willingness to seek help. Lastly, a Withdrawal phase follows when none of the coping attempts relieve stress. The person may resist or withdraw and cease attempts to problem-solve.
Important decision making
While much has been written about conflict and conflict resolution, this is undoubtedly a time that tests a person's ability to cope and willingness to change.
- Allow for an Honest and Open Reflection of What Occurred: This step encourages a careful view of the situation. Ask yourself to identify losses and look for opportunities. Be prepared to grieve.
- Find Your Resilience: Now is the time to muster up your efforts to claim a better experience.
- Support Your Inner Child: Complete any gaps in trust that prevent you from moving on. Find healthy ways to comfort yourself until the sense of crisis resolves.
- Cultivate a Wiser Self: Let all parts of you speak. Honor your opinion. Study the responses you consider.
- Engage in Communication and Let Your Needs be Known: Express gratitude to all who stand by you.
I wish to express my gratitude to the Social Health Network, which allows me to continue to write and reach an audience that is open to change.
Do you have things that helped you cope through your ovarian cancer journey?