Stages of Shock

I would like to share with you a story that was told to me by a friend of mine this past week. He informed me that his aunt had been diagnosed with bowel cancer. This is a woman that has rarely had any kind of ailment her entire life, and now, at age 72, cancer has entered the fray. She was diagnosed around two months ago and my friend and his family are hearing and seeing firsthand the stages of shock.

As I have mentioned, this lady was overall healthy and disease-free most of her life. Two months ago she started having cramps in her stomach, and a little discomfort going to the bathroom. She discovered upon getting on the scales, that she had lost around 25 pounds over the course of a couple of months. Her husband and family suggested that it would be a good idea to make an appointment with her doctor. After a few tests were run, it was discovered that she had a small tumor in her bowel that was causing a slight obstruction. Surgery was scheduled and performed. After the operation the family were waiting to hear the diagnosis from the surgeon. He informed them that the cancer had spread to the liver, and that the patient had about 18 months left to live. Obviously, the family was devastated. I am sure many of you have either heard or experienced firsthand this kind of a situation. This is where the stages of shock enter the picture: 1. Shock 2. Denial 3. Anger 4. Acceptance.

My friend’s aunt was fully aware that she had cancer, before the surgery….but she was not prepared for the prognosis after. When informed, she entered the first stage…shock. Rolling around her head were all the questions…”why me?”…”why now?”…”what do I do?” This stage lasted about a day or two.
A couple of days went by, and one evening while visiting, my friend’s aunt told her family that the cancer was gone, and she was not going to die. She believed that the cancer that had spread to her liver was gone. As much as I believe in positive thinking and miracles, many times it’s important to look at the disease that has to be confronted. Once one gets past the state of shock, to deal with it they embrace denial.

My friend’s aunt was then discharged from the hospital, scheduled for chemotherapy, and was allowed to go home. After one hour of being home, she pulled out her phone book and called members of her family to blast them for things that she thought they did to her in the past. This went on for hours. She would bring up things that had happened over forty years ago, as if it had just happened yesterday. She was furious….at everyone and everything. Anger became her friend.

At this point in time she is now entering the acceptance stage. She has done a lot of thinking, and much crying. In just the past couple of days my friend told me she has said “Well, this is what I face….and I will try to beat it. If I don’t, I’m going to enjoy the time I have left with those I love.” She has also mentioned that when something like this happens, your whole perception of life changes. She told my friend, “You know, you do really think you’re going to live forever.”

What I have learned from this, personally, is that it is always important to have one’s “house in order,”…so that if, God forbid, one either suddenly passes on, or finds out like my friend’s aunt that they will be passing in the near future, one can have as much a sense of peace as possible, and not have to try to scramble to either make amends, or take care of business. As Clint Eastwood said in one of his movies, “Tomorrow is promised to no one.” Mortal life is indeed temporary….the more we accept this, the more alive we become.

Carpe Diem, (Seize the day)
love, Jennifer Avalon
© 2003 Jennifer Avalon

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