This week I accompanied my mother to an evening event at our local Jewish Community Center called "The Angelina Jolie Effect", which featured a panel of experts specializing in (but not limited to) women's cancers; breast, uterine, ovarian, etc.
As I am rapidly approaching (gulp) 50, my mother insisted that I attend this event, and not only face what will be a growing risk as we age, but also learn about how best to prevent and respond to a diagnosis, should it happen. As October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, it is my pleasure to support as many opportunities for education and research as I can.
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While listening to testimonials of women battling these cancers, and the amazing experts take on these cancers' effects on not only the diagnosed women, but their friends and families who love them, I was struck by an interesting thought: there are some real similarities between breast cancer and divorce. Before I share my thoughts, please understand that in no way do I mean to compare the severity of battling cancer to divorce, but there are lessons to be gleaned from every experience. I found the lessons learned at this event to be inspiring, and I think you will too.
Information is your greatest asset.
The most stressed point the panel of doctors and researchers made was that having information at every stage of the process (prevention, symptomology, diagnosis and treatment) is the key to managing the experience in the best way possible.
The same is true of divorce. The best time to begin gathering information is before the decision of divorce is ever made. I know this is not always possible if you aren't the one who initiated it, but when you first learn that divorce may be in your future, that is the time to educate yourself on what this transition will look and feel like. Experts on the legal, financial and emotional levels of the divorce process are a wonderful place to start so you are not managing a process for which you are completely unprepared.
Know your options before taking action.
Understanding all of the options for your unique and personal situation is just as important so you can create a plan for taking informed, empowered and intentional action.
While attending the breast cancer event, I was educated on just how many options we have as women to prevent, manage early detection and choose treatment for ourselves. Again, I was struck by just how similar this is to divorce. There are so many options available to you for moving through and forward after divorce. All you need do is take the time to learn and understand what they are. Just as in managing the journey through a battle with cancer, every woman is different — and not all options are right for each unique situation.
You need a great support system to move through the process in the best possible way.
With every significant life transition, it is critical to surround yourself with a team of experts and circle of support that will honor you, your uniqueness and your power of choice. There may be individuals in your life that no longer serve you and who will not be able to support you in the way that you need while managing such a challenging transition; adjust accordingly.
The panel stressed the importance of getting a team together of doctors, genetic counselors, emotional support and other experts that can guide and advise you as you manage the many aspects of a cancer diagnosis and treatment. The same is true when you face divorce. You will save time, energy, emotional overwhelm and money when you create a team of experts to support you through the transition from married couple to a divorced lifestyle.
It may be an end to what was, but it is just the beginning of what will be.
Facing cancer and getting divorced are both experiences we never imagined would happen to us. They are also experiences that, in a moment, will put an end to what was and what we always thought would be.
However, they are not a straightforward ending point. Yes, cancer can be terminal and lethal — but not always. Divorce, while not terminal, can and will be a new beginning for you, should you choose to see it that way. Both will give you new perspective on your life and the world around you. Both will allow you to see your future through a new lens. And in both situations, how you frame the experience and what meaning you place on it will determine just how the journey will look.
It is your journey; not the experts'.
Your life is yours. Even with a diagnosis of cancer, what happens next is up to you. There is no doctor or surgeon that should be telling you what to do; their role is to give you information, options and facts through which you make the decisions that you choose. That is why it is so important to create a trusted team of experts should you be facing this experience.
Divorce is no different. The decisions will affect you and your future — not your lawyer's, accountant's or therapist's. The role of these experts is to provide you with the information, tools, resources and options that you can use as you make decisions about what comes next. Trust yourself to make good choices because you are trustworthy.
I am grateful for my mother's insistence that I accompany her to this fabulous event, which, by the way, was hosted by two amazing women in my community who are battling cancer themselves. They have harnessed their energy, talent and experience to bring awareness to as many women as they can, which undoubtedly gives their own journey new meaning.
Take time this month to learn all you can about cancer prevention, detection and possible treatments; I wish us all a safer, healthier and happier future as women!
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