Integrating milestones

milestoneFebruary 2, 2010

When an unexpected and unanticipated event is dropped right in the middle of your path and you must make a drastic transition, this event is called a “milestone.” A milestone is defined as: “a significant event or stage in the life, progress, development, or the life of a person.” We’ve all had milestones.

Talking with a therapist has allowed me to ask all the questions that have piled up and remain unanswered. If I try to answer them on my own, I find myself confused and I am hard on myself for not coming up with a clear answer.

I am surprised by all the questions that are spilling out of me as I talk. Generally, at the end of each question I ask, “why is this?” or “am I wrong?” I am looking for a type of validation, I guess.

Now I am finding myself with people or in groups of people who do not know I had cancer. They know me as healthy and “normal”. This concept might be similar to the loss of a baby or child, young widow, physical assault, any situation that is unasked for, not prepared for, a real life changing blow. You experience this event, you cycle through the necessary emotions (or you don’t), you work to accept it and take steps forward to continue living your life – a redefined life. Time passes and your new acquaintances do not know of your loss, a loss that left an indelible mark in your life, a milestone. For me, this is odd.

I heard and read from cancer survivors, even patients, they are not going to let cancer define them, change them; they appear to easily accept the “new normal”. If you lived through a milestone, were you able to pick up where you left off before the milestone happened? A traumatic life event and poof – you return to where you left off? I don’t think so.

An observer may not understand the processing of (or as I call it, sorting it out) acceptance, accepting a loss. I saw an illustration of the grief cycle and the last phase is acceptance. But before acceptance you must experience other phases. (I just found the diagram and it is called, “The Erratic Cycle of Grief.” Well, isn’t that the truth!)

Initially, there is the loss. From the loss, shock and denial knock you over and the first thought is, “This is not happening.” This is followed by the phase of anger and guilt. This could be the “why me?” and “if only.” Some people experience bargaining – I don’t think I went through that phase because my trust and hope was and is in God; depression and despair and anxiety; adjust and acceptance.

So once being an observer, I remember thinking to myself why can’t that person “just get over it.” Hmmm, now after having cancer, I find myself a bit more empathetic and patient with people who are experiencing a chronic illness or situation.

April 22, 2008, May 6, 2008, November 14 & 15, 2008, February 19, 2009 – each date a milestone, an event that made an indelible mark in my life. I am sorting it out and cycling through to adjust and accept this event that changed me.

Reality, I had cancer. Reality, I am cancer free. Reality, I was greatly affected by my cancer and my life perspective changed. With the help of Sally, my therapist, I will learn how to integrate who I was and Sally says, I still am. I am a self-motivated, goal oriented, lover of people and the outdoors; I am a multi-tasker and a wife, a mother and friend, as well as a cancer survivor.

Integrate means to bring together or incorporate (parts) into a whole.

And not only that, but Sally told me I have to integrate into my life the balance of my future. This sounds right but it sounds like a foreign language to me right now. Regardless, I am heading in the right direction.

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