Sometimes the word “denial” gets a bad rap. True, it’s not a good thing when you cower inside denial like it is a fortress, and don’t allow reason to penetrate. But denial can also be a wonderful healing mechanism that allows us to filter bad news at a pace and time that is right for us. I like to think of denial in this way as a gate that you can slam shut for protection when you need it. You can open it when you are ready to face what is on the other side, either by nudging it inch by inch or flinging it wide.
A few years ago, one of my daughters signed up for the national bone marrow donor list following a college campus recruiting campaign. Fast forward to earlier this year, when she was contacted to say she was a potential match for someone who needed her cells. Further testing confirmed the compatibility, and her medical records were sent on to the treating physician for final processing and scheduling. She settled in to wait for the news that it was time to complete the procedure.
During these past months of waiting, we have experienced a range of emotions, from disbelief and excitement to anxiety and trepidation. The idea of helping save someone’s life seemed overwhelming at times, but also exhilarating. Along the way, she received regular email updates, but nothing prepared her for today’s communication: “The patient is not currently ready to receive a transplant.” Those words were devastating, a crushing blow to the hope and anticipation of the last months. I knew we both had a horrible feeling that this meant things weren’t going well for the patient. Even as I was sending her a lame text that said something like, “maybe this means some other treatment is working,“ I couldn’t shake off my concern.
I’m think I’m going to call on my friend denial for a little while. Then I just might sign up for the registry myself.