I clearly remember the day my husband told me he had throat cancer. The news was so impossible to believe that I honestly wanted to reply, “No, Chad, you don’t, we don’t have time for cancer.” I tend to resist any emergency that I can’t package up and manage, or eliminate by a force of will.
As he stood in the kitchen, his hands resting on the sides of the sink, tears filled his eyes. I read in those tears that he had given up and accepted his medical condition, and that made me mad. We weren’t going to lay down and admit that the big scary C-word would take center stage in our lives. It wasn’t convenient–medical procedures would be scheduled when I had to work, or had other commitments to fulfill.
I couldn’t see past the treatments, the financial burden, or the fear a cancer diagnosis leaves in its wake. We had much better things to do with our time, like going to our cabin, feeding the deer, hiking. Cancer would interfere with our plans.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross developed a model for accepting the unacceptable, in her five stages of grief. 1. Denial. (I resemble that remark) 2. Anger (Oh, yeah) 3. Bargaining (Huh?) 4. Depression (Medication for that) 5. Acceptance (Huh? Never!)
I am still pissed off that cancer darkened our door, and forced me to do things I hated doing. Cancer compelled me to walk through my daily life frightened to my core. Cancer physically shaped my husband into a skeletal invalid, restrained in a hospital bed, generally incoherent, bathed by CNA’s barely out of high school, and cancer made me a slave to beeping monitors and physicians who had no reassurances.
I never passed phase two in the Kubler-Ross schematic, however, somehow I converted that raw pain into a readable narrative that restored my sanity.