Health Concerns & Diseases

Experiencing Grief

The text below is from a very good friend who is also my prayer partner for many years. She was diagnosed with lung cancer just this year. With her permission, I am publishing this emailed update she sent me. I thought this would be very helpful to readers who are also facing the disease as well as their loved ones.

Cancer is a disease that has to be fought on every level – by the body, the mind, the emotions and the spirit.

One time, I was lashed out by sudden sadness and loneliness. Quite ironic because I never felt more alone after I received scores of miracles and got settled that I am on my way to recovery and healing. I couldn’t think why I was feeling like this until I realized that the immediate crisis is over and that everyone else is slowly getting back to normal including me.

I told this feeling to a friend and she reminded me about DABDA, the grief cycle. DABDA is an acronym for Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. I knew about this before but I didn’t think too much about it. It never made more sense and more meaning to me now that I am on this complex journey.

Yes, I was going through the grief process. I lost something and life will not be the same – loss of health, control, independence, normal lifestyle, and routine even the financial impact of the diagnosis brought so much grief. I need to grieve what I lost and accept that life will not be the same.

Here’s what I went through:

I felt numb and later on was in a state of shock when I knew about my diagnosis. It was too overwhelming to deal with all at once. I remember there were 3 consecutive days that I received dreadful news. First day, I was told I had lung cancer. Second day I was told it was stage 4 and third day, my MRI result showed it already metastasized to cervical and lumbar spine. I was not affected. I just shrugged my shoulders off and said “let the Lord’s will be done”.  I was in great denial.

Later on I understood my cancer diagnosis and already sinking in. I got very upset and angry that it has happened to me – I hated cancer, catheter, excruciating pain, radiotherapy and its side effects especially what it has done to my difficult ingestion of food and my memory – I cried for hours, not just a few tears but rageful tears. I was even outrage with God. Talking transparently with family and friends and other people who have survived cancer helped deal with my burst of anger.  Writing journal also helped express my indignation.

While reading books and “googling” articles on the life of what cancer patients go through -questioning God, asking “Why me?” and “What did I do to deserve this?” I realized are common questions for those going through the difficult ordeal. It is normal for the person with cancer to make bargains with  God in hopes that bargaining will make the cancer diagnosis go away. Guilt is a primary emotion during this stage. Searching for something that I personally did, which could have contributed to the cancer, I also noticed, was all part of bargaining.  I even remember in one of my prayer times I told God of my promise to start doing something I have not done in exchange for my recovery.

Depression and sadness 
Resigned to the situation that cancer can no longer be denied, I felt a profound sense of sadness. I had trouble sleeping, I didn’t have the appetite to eat, I had memory lapses, and feeling of constant fear that someone else in the family will be diagnosed with cancer. It really helped when I was able to talk about my depression with some close friends to help me cope with my feelings.

This time I have already accepted my lot and am at a point where cancer is incorporated as part of my life. I have already made adjustments to my illness. Physical pain seems more bearable now. I am better able to manage my life overall especially my emotion. I feel closer to God and trying hard to strengthen my faith knowing that He is in control of my life. I feel grateful too for friends and family who stood by me in the journey especially during the crisis.

I fully understand now that what God permits, He permits for a reason. There may be ‘shadows of death’ (Psalm 23:4) that come upon me: the pains, losses, threats, disappointment, evils. But I am now assured that our Father works a most kind good through my most grievous losses: sometimes healing and restoring the body like mine (temporarily, until the resurrection of the dead to eternal life), sustaining and teaching me that I might know and love Him more simply.

Thank you for your faithful prayers! Please continue to claim my complete healing and victory!  My desire is to be able to go out, encourage and pray for others especially those going through the same ordeal with me believing James 5:16 that says “Pray for one another that you may be healed.” 

UPDATE: My good friend passed away February 6, 2014. Her family and all of us who have known her and have been blessed by her dedication to serve others and serve the Lord, miss her. 

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