3 Stages of Coping With Cancer: There Are Better Days Ahead

When I was first diagnosed with a stage 4 neuroendocrine tumor in my small intestine, I went through three stages of coping with my cancer: anger, planning and living life.

Nov. 1, 2018 was the worst day of my life, one I will never forget. I had received those three little words nobody wants to hear: “you have cancer.” My diagnosis was a stage 4 well-differentiated neuroendocrine tumor in my small intestine with metastases to my regional lymph nodes. I had an emergency surgery two days prior for a bowel obstruction that come to find out was my primary tumor.

I was shocked, but not surprised since it was always in the back of my mind for a few years. I always joked with myself that the “healthy one” in the family would be the one who got cancer. I believe when you are a patient with cancer, you go through three stages of trying to cope with a diagnosis.

The first stage was full of rage and anger. I went through the “why me” and “what did I do to deserve this” stage of things. When I was told the news that I had cancer, it was like my entire 42 years of existence on this earth went through my mind. I then switched gears into thinking of all the things I was going to miss out on when my children were adults and how were they going to cope without having a mother anymore. I worried my husband wouldn’t know what to do without me. Would he spiral into a depression and never find his way out?

The second stage I went into was planning mode. I made sure my husband knew what I wanted planned for my funeral. I made sure he knew where I kept important papers and what bills got paid automatically and which ones he would have to pay manually. I was trying to plan so that my death would not cause any more distress and somehow in my head make it easier for him when I was gone.

The third stage is where I am at now in life, and it’s the best stage. The only cure for neuroendocrine cancer is surgery and after two surgeries, it is still hanging out in some lymph nodes. Getting those lymph nodes removed and being deemed cancer-free would be like finding a needle in a haystack, so at the present time, we are watching and waiting.

Despite my cancer diagnosis, my prognosis doesn’t have to be what science says it is going to be. I decided to not let my cancer define me and I put it to the back of my mind as best as I can. I decided to live, really live. I am now doing things I never thought I could or would do.

Luckily for me, I am a runner. Right before my diagnosis, I switched to trail running and I think it couldn’t have found me at a better time. Trail running for me is a form of healing. When I am out in the woods running along, all my worries escape me, and a sense of peace and calm overtake me.

I urge anyone with cancer to go outside their box and try new things. Find what your purpose is and what makes you happy and just live your life, don’t let cancer take that away from you.

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