Finding Your Way Back
Psychologists and sociologists instruct us that human beings have a strong natural desire for acceptance and belonging. Albeit challenging, the personal work of teens during adolescence is to figure out who they are and who they want to be.
Human behavior 101
Young adulthood comes along and a new focus emerges. Most people long for relationships while formulating aspirations for work and ways to contribute to the human race. The most successful among us diligently accept the significance of communication in its many forms. Being able to write and verbalize thoughts and feelings allows us to be honest and upfront as we express our needs and wants. Perhaps most valuable is the ability to listen and take in what others have to offer.
I offer you all this as a foundation for human life. Yet, I am not alone. Gail Sheehy, the author of the book Passages, shared all adults proceed through somewhat predictable life events. In effect, she examined the crises of adult life and how to use them as opportunities for creative change. But, how do we account for all the other unplanned crises faced by millions like you and me?
Preparation for resilience
To this point, anyone reading this article is already aware that life is full of potential that can threaten a person's ability to cope. No matter how hard we try, how good we are, stuff happens. While we can't always get out of our own way, we can develop skills to respond.
Resilient individuals use skills to reframe their condition while finding meaning that energizes them to go on. Surviving many personal losses dating back to my teens, I learned to maintain an instinct to cope. When life was at its lowest I reminded myself of the courage my ancestors exhibited in crossing the Atlantic ocean to start a new and better life. Their skills and mine prepare me to raise my head high and deal with just about anything.
The game changer
Forever, we planned and followed the rules. We worked until the respectable age and embarked on our retirement. Stars filled our eyes as we engaged in a happy dance imagining all the places we would travel to and the people we would see. We worked hard all of our life together, raised children, paid off our home, and we were ready to enjoy every moment of the American dream. Then trouble, like none of us have seen, came knocking on my door. Metastatic cancer stage 3C was an unwanted intruder.
Hence, we instantly hit the books, our typical way to understand and cope. We recognized through staging that cancer grew beyond the ovaries into other structures in my abdominal cavity. Understanding this disease's progress creates a certain vigilance to new signs of evidence in the colon and any spread to the lymph nodes.
I'll admit we broke a family rule. Don't count your chickens until they are hatched. Years ago we realized that our ability to cope rested on a proverb that protected us from disappointment. My husband frequently reminds me that good things happen to those who wait patiently. I have never been patient and especially not now.
Here comes the self talk
Getting through two surgeries, several rounds of chemotherapy, and an unending experience with immunotherapy, I recognize the importance of reframing this experience. Neuropathy initiated by chemo reminds me every day and all day that I am not the same woman I was before this diagnosis. On the days of peace, I recognize the loss of energy, the need for naps, the caution around sitting in one spot too long, and blah, blah, blah...
With all the energy floating around me, I turn my back on too much of this negativity and replace it with something incredibly positive. I have a roof over my head, a husband, and children who love me, even when not very lovable. I acknowledge fears and no longer worry about pain and suffering. Unfortunately still stuck in the fear of loss, I am working on it.
Please come on a journey
It is the road to resilience, not paved in gold, but a way to release some tension. The poet Maya Angelou asked us to refocus. She stated, "Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."
What are these moments for you? What do you feel now and what did you feel then? Write these moments down. I hope with all my best that you run out of space on your page.
Have you shared your ovarian cancer story with us?