Photograph by Firefly Steve Caputo, Light of Day Gallery
I’ve been thinking back on the events of these last four months of my life, how they unfolded and how I evolved to my current state of mind. With all due apologies to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, I see this journey as The Seven Stages of Hope.
• The Shock – There are no other words to describe the moment I learned of my diagnosis. “We see a malignancy.” My response was not outwardly emotional, more of an internalized, “Wait. What?” My brain took a few beats to process the information, since this outcome was not on the radar screen.
• The Terror – Maybe that term is too dramatic, but the aftershock felt as if a trap door had opened up, and I was in freefall down a bottomless shaft. “What does this mean for me?” In instances when we find ourselves facing new and extreme circumstances, human nature has us imagining worst case scenarios.
• The Fear – So much was unknown to me, including things like survivability and quality of life. What is going to happen? The impulse to want these answers combined with frustration of not having them raises anxiety and fosters fear and along with it, a darkness of thought that can be the gateway to depression.
• The Realization – Time can mitigate the shock and terror. Living with the diagnosis becomes a new way of life. Fear is a tougher stage to conquer. For me, it required prayer and meditation to form a conscious reminder NOT to allow the darkness to speak to me. Only then could I begin to build the inner strength and resolve I will need to combat this challenge.
• The Acceptance – Like the Serenity Prayer petitions, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Accepting the diagnosis meant recognizing that it was beyond anything that I could control.
• The Letting Go – As personality traits go, mine lean toward rationality. Once I accepted the diagnosis, it made no sense for me to worry about it, nor to assign any judgment regarding it. It is what it is. My energy would be much better directed to the things I can control. Things like my strength, my weight, my mental and spiritual well-being.
• The Letting In – As humans, our survival instincts drive us to take care ourselves. What may not be so instinctive is the willingness and the worthiness to accept help from others, to let them in. I have come to understand that it is not something that I need to take on by myself.
I am so grateful for support and assistance that has come from so many sources including family, friends, healthcare professionals and spiritual guides. The abundance of love and prayers from everyone who has taken the time to follow my journey have lifted me up and strengthened my resolve to meet the challenge of this disease head on, and the hope to overcome it. Thank you.
I’m taking a photo a day to help the American Cancer Society fight for a world without cancer. Like so many, I have known family and friends who’ve battled the disease, including some who continue to fight. This year, I find myself personally impacted, and it occurs to me that this platform offers a way to channel my passion for photography to help relay a personal journey that may resonate with others. Please consider making a donation because every little bit helps. Thank you for your support!