A woman hunches over in denial, covering her ears

Facing Reality

It is well known that working women juggle both work and family. How does this work?

As life has it

By setting a standard, a woman copes with conflicting demands for time and attention by prioritizing and compartmentalizing. When at work, the focus is on work. When at home, the roles change. This process then creates an illusion that all tasks to manage a growing family and responsibilities at work are met.

Great plan! Any concerns you notice? We don't dare to leave anything out. Truth being, there is hardly any space left for the individual. There is no time for mental health days or spa days. Work stops when a person is too ill to step up to a laptop.

There is no urgency

With an overactive sense of responsibility and accountability, the bulge in my abdomen created a health crisis. Simple as that, a medical issue did not fit into my busy schedule. Overwhelmed by the possibilities I questioned, "What is this?" "To whom could I turn for help?" "Why me and why now?"

My primary care provider confirmed a hernia. His statement, "There is no urgency." He then demonstrated to his nurse the common physical findings for an abdominal hernia.

It is all good

Leaving the doctor's office, I felt a sense of relief. The lump would not slow me down, or interfere with work. With ease, I happily slipped back into an all too familiar place of denial. There was no need to worry for now. I headed back to work and family.

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The elephant in the room...denial and avoidance

Truthfully, denial replaced reality. This is the job of coping.  All at the same time, the "Elephant in the Room" bellowed out commands. "Get back to a doctor. You need to be sure."

I began to play ostrich. With my head firmly in the sand, I stopped listening. I felt a temporary sense of peace. Work and family came first.

The elephant persisted

To be honest, the use of the coping measures denial and avoidance, represent a failure to face reality. It may be hard to hear this but it is time to face the elephant.

I know coping measures protect us during traumatic or unfamiliar experiences. While guarding the full emotional impact of the event, we gain time to collect thoughts and search for a solution. After all, they do serve a purpose. Yet even those of us with a commitment to honesty and openness, fall short and get stuck in denial. We may even fail to take necessary action which can delay treatment.

Facing reality

On September 6, 2018, I entered the hospital to repair an abdominal hernia. The post-op surgeon visit was right out of a TV series. He added, "I am so sorry to tell you this is not a hernia. We opened and closed. I would like to return with another surgeon, a GYN oncologist, and remove what appears to be cancer."

Everything I learned came back in a flash. "Where is Dr. Elizabeth Kubler Ross when I need her?" I tried to imagine I didn't hear Dr. G. correctly and quickly thought I could deny or bargain my way out. However, I looked around the room to see my sweet husband and my surgeon with tears running down their faces.

The next surgery revealed a tumor encompassing my left ovary and securely wrapped by the omentum, the protective membrane covering abdominal organs. In this sac, my ovary migrated to the umbilical area, leaving cancer cells along the way. What was thought to be a hernia was metastatic ovarian cancer stage 3c.

A crisis of knowledge

You may know the rest of the story as my story could easily be yours. In learning I have cancer, I cried. I had a deep sense of grief. It is called anticipatory grieving when you feel the feelings of loss before the loss. My fear rested with not being able to complete life, and for the loss of a future with my beautiful family.

Almost instantly, I needed answers. It seemed important to understand how cancer may change me as a person and my relationship with others. I can recall wondering to myself, "So this is what psychologists mean by a "crisis of knowledge." I needed to know more.

Resilience

Accepting the reality of a cancer diagnosis, albeit painful, can add to the ability to cope. I learned firsthand the power of Resilience, a trait we all have within us. In effect, we manage from one resolved conflict to another, creating a  store of resilience that can help through even the worst times. Every bump and bruise from childhood offers proof that we learn to make good use of past experiences.

Today I ask you to be proud of yourself and your willingness to expand your knowledge to learn to cope. For all of you reading this passage, consider this quote from Dr. Kubler Ross.

"The most beautiful people we have known are those who have experienced defeat, known suffering, known loss and have found their way out of the depths...Beautiful people do not just happen."

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The AdvancedOvarianCancer.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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