Dancing with Kubler-Ross

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was a Swiss-American scientist, a pioneer in near death studies who wrote the book entitled “On Death and Dying”, in which she first discussed her theory on the five stages of grief. As a person who is afflicted with a disease that is both chronic and terminal, I thought I would take this model and apply it to my current unenviable situation, and see how close all of it comes to what I’m going through. Of course, because this is Fishrocks, I’m gonna look at it through the slightly addled and askew perspective of my own brain. Also, considering the subject matter is about a terminal disease, this whole thing could get a little dark, but I’m going to try to avoid that. Thus, the Bloom County comic.

The five stages of grief, as described by the aforementioned Ms. Ross, are as follows:

1. Denial

2. Anger

3. Bargaining

4. Depression

5. Acceptance.

So let’s get started breaking these things down like Tony Romo looking over a cover 2 defense.

1. Denial

My latest bout with the docs and testing had a great big helping of denial in it. After suspending my hormone treatments last May, I kind of figured that my PSA would go up. Actually, I was pretty much resigned to the fact that it would. The last time I took a Lupron vacation, I was off it for a year and it went from undetectable to a 7.2. I thought that it might go up a little higher this time because Lupron was becoming less effective and I had to augment that treatment with Xtandi. I thought a 10 sounded about right.

I was WAY off. It came back with a “Holy Shit!” number of 43. Wait, WHAT?? THAT CANT BE RIGHT! Denial all over the place. What the hell happened? And then the realization that if the number is that high, my cancer has probably spread. So, it was a denial and a gut punch. And because I didn’t believe the number, we had another PSA test taken. 43.82. Shit. Yep, it’s real.

2. Anger

(aka Screaming at God) (aka Why Me?)

Anger and me go way back. I’m good at it. “Dan, you have a real problem expressing your anger,” no one has said to me ever. I can yell and scream and throw things with the best of ’em. With cancer the “Why me?”is the one I struggle with the most. Why me? I exercise, eat right, live a pretty clean life, never taken the tag off a mattress, why me? I get over this by asking this question. Why not you? Would I want anyone else to go through this crap? Are you making the best of it? And then I think, I’m writing again because of it. (Sigh). Ok. Why not me?

3. Bargaining

This one does not apply to me when it comes to cancer. I don’t try to make deals with God with my cancer. I’m not sure why. Maybe the inevitability of it all. But I have done some serious bargaining with God before, but it mostly involved long distance athletic events.

Bargaining story #1

Running in a marathon sucks. Now, I know that most people in the world already realize this, but for a long distance runner like me, I didn’t realize it until about 20 miles into a 26.2 mile run. In the last 6 miles of the 1997 Chicago Marathon I made a lot of deals with God to get me to the finish line. As a matter of fact, this is how the whole thing should have gone down when I got home.

(Me packing up my stuff)

Holly- What are you doing? Where are you going?

Me- I’m outta here. Joining the priesthood.

Holly- What? Why? We’re not even Catholic!

Me- We are now. Pretty much converted at mile 23. Where’s Jeff?

Holly- Why?

Me- Pledged my firstborn to the priesthood too. See ya later. C’mon Jeff.

Luckily for me, God doesn’t hold you to mile 23 promises.

Bargaining story #2

When you’re 20 miles into your third straight 70 mile day, it’s 10 am, it’s 10 miles to the next town, it’s already 90 degrees and you’re riding a bike into a headwind in the middle of Iowa and last nights beer tent is banging on the inside of your skull, RAGBRAI is a place that deals with God are made. Like the pledge of “I’ll never drink again if you get me to the next town” or “Please never let me do this stupid ride ever again. Church for the rest of my life, I promise.” And then, after getting to the next overnight town and taking a shower, the next thing you hear yourself saying is,”Hey, who’s up for the beer tent?”

4. Depression

I pretty much covered this subject in my blog The Bad, the Good, and the Ugly, Part One. Depression is a real thing for me, especially on hormone therapy. I don’t want to cover this now. Too depressing.

5. Acceptance

“Listen. The loons. Can you hear the loons?” I always loved that particular Bloom County cartoon with the Banana 6000 coming to grips with its obsolescence. I swear on my death bed if I have a chance and I still have my wits about me, I’m going to talk about the loons. Here’s what acceptance means to me. It’s incredibly freeing. It’s calming. It’s knowing that God has got this. Unfortunately, acceptance sounds to a lot of people like giving up. I’m not giving up. I will continue to use whatever I can to stay alive. But I know what is in the future for me, and I have come to grips with it. And I’ve gotten to the point where I can smile, and look back on a really good life. I’ve been incredibly blessed. Hey, I’ve run two marathons!

Maybe I will enter the priesthood after all.

No. Just kidding. Sorry God.

Thanks for reading.


4 thoughts on “Dancing with Kubler-Ross

  1. Great post, Dan. I couldn’t agree more with the “acceptance is not giving up” mindset. It really resonates with my own thoughts on the topic.

    All the best. —Dan

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dan your blogs always amaze me how your writing touches an inner core feeling every time. gosh so wish this was different but your attitude right now is so filled with God and his presence giving you that peace.. He is not done with you yet keep the strength…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dan you amaze me every time O read your posts. while this is not what was hoped for it’s amazing to see the strength God is giving you as you go through the stages. he is not done with you yet. stay strong but keep the peace.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Dan,
    I found myself at your blog after reading your open letter to Joy Behar. I’m glad I did and I pray that the rest of your journey is blessed with love, laughter and some excellent beer.

    Liked by 1 person

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