Stages and the Strategy of Survival
James “Rhio” O’Conner suffered from mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a rare malignant cancer usually caused by exposure to asbestos. Mr. O’Conner fought diligently for his life and even in is death, his fight still continues.
Receiving the news of a poor medical prognosis is a devastating life altering event. If I were in such a situation, I would seek out every means to survive as long as I could. While this is easily said, the truth of the matter is that the psychological effects of poor health and fear and preparation for death can be overwhelming. From a psychological prospective, contemplating death takes the prospector through a series of stages. Successful management of mental, physical, and spiritual health through the course of these stages can brighten one’s prospective and even prolong their life.
I believe a person contemplating death would first enter a stage of denial. They would alienate themselves from their prognosis, doctors, and even their family. Denial is a natural response to emotional trauma. I believe it serves to protect the sufferer but it also prolongs the inevitable. Denial would be followed by a period of anger or rage. During this time, a person will seek out the cause of their injustice. They will try to lay blame on their physicians or themselves and question God or their perspective higher power if they are religious. They may lash out and sabotage the relationships with their supporters. After this stage, a “dark hour” stagnates the person’s life. They become reclusive and fall into a deep depression. They may even experience suicidal ideation. This is a critical point. Those who are able to withstand this stage without relinquishing their sanity will eventually learn to accept their prognosis. Acceptance is the final stage. In this stage, the person would come to terms with their condition and fears. This marks another critical point. I believe it is at this point that a person realizes they have the authority to negotiate their future. They begin to question the validity of their prognosis and seek methods of survival. They want to live and usually develop a greater appreciation and zest for life.
If It Were Me
As a Christian, my spiritual health is of most importance. Upon learning that my life would end abruptly, I would first seek comfort in God. I would go to my church to receive council from my Pastor and fellow members. Talking about my situation with others would help to shorten my stage of denial. Religion would play a crucial role for me during the second stage. I would have other options to outlet my frustrations such as prayer and meditation. I would have to draw deeply upon my religious beliefs to make it through the “dark hour” stage of my crisis. My depression could only be combated by my conviction that life is not about my own but about others. But I wouldn’t need religion alone. Family support would be a critical component during this time. I would be in the company of someone at all times. I would feel free to cry and express my sadness. I would also try to develop an inner awareness in order to know when I am exhibiting dangerous behavior. Often times, a person doesn’t realize what they are doing, so observation by friends and family are an important part of surviving depression.
Once I get to the stage where I feel enlightened about my situation, I will have the mind to fight for my life. This is when I would map a plan for my survival. I would go to my university’s medical research departments to get assistance with finding information. Universities are great places to start because they are often at the forefront of research on various topics. I would also contact city and federal health agencies to learn about the latest facts and statistics about my illness. I would join a support group and volunteer at agencies promoting awareness. I would also seek alternative medical advice from both traditional and alternative medical practitioners.
I would do everything in my power to conserve my remaining days but I would also make good use of those days. I would do things I have always wanted to do. I would make amends to those relationships that needed amendment, and I would help my family prepare for my passing. My fight for survival would be holistic, encompassing, and embracing life.