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If a breast cancer diagnosis is like falling off a cliff, then grappling with this new reality is like going through the stages of grief. The concept of the five stages of grief was introduced by Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in 1969. The stages represent difficult feelings experienced during hardships and traumatic events, such as the death of a loved one, a breakup, or confronting an addiction. Grief is experienced by women with breast cancer, too.
Stages of Grief
The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The stages rarely happen in order, and many women revisit some or all of the stages over and over after diagnosis and during treatment.
Anger sets in when we acknowledge what we’ve lost – suddenly there are new realities because of breast cancer: missing work for treatment, being too sick for family dinners, worrying about pill schedules, running to endless doctor’s appointments, losing friends because they don’t understand, and constantly worrying about the next scan. Some days begin with bargaining and trying to live perfectly in hopes that it will go away. The frustration and disappointment can lead to depression and sadness.
Relief (The New Normal)
An official diagnosis can be the catalyst we need to move us past denial. Relief slowly begins to creep in when this new normal is shared with others. Social support, from friends and family and from fellow members on myBCTeam, helps you slowly climb the staircase of grief into a more predictable plateau – the “new normal.” Forging social support from others with breast cancer can bring perspective and validation. Any predictability is a relief. Walking through life with breast cancer isn’t easy or what any of us asked for, but it makes all the difference to walk this new path with others who understand. Have you found your new normal?