Grab a Hold and Yank Yourself Up by Those Bootstraps

7 06 2011

Photo by Amy Rauch Neilson.

Yesterday was bittersweet. I feel like — know I should — be so happy and grateful. I had an extensive appointment with my oncologist and she confirmed what Don and I already suspected — the tumor in my breast is much smaller and softer. The chemo, she says, is working. What better news could a Stage 4 breast cancer patient hope to hear?

And yet, there was more. First of all, my oncologist was surprised to find that I already knew about the deal between Clovis and Pfizer (See Could the Future Be Now?) to manufacture an oral version of a PARP inhibitor. She herself had just heard the news at an oncology conference over the weekend. At that same conference, she learned of the upcoming Second Generation of PARP Inhibitors, among many other promising breast cancer treatments and therapies, that she is very excited about. Second Generation PARP Inhibitors already on the move when the First Generation has barely been introduced. So much hope for my future, for the future of other breast cancer patients.

I am grateful and happy. I’m ecstatic, actually.


But my counts were down — my platelets low. This postpones chemo for a week. No chemo this week; we’ll try again next week.

Why does that feel so frustrating, in light of the other, very good news I heard?

I’ve been contemplating that and what I’ve come up with is this: It’s challenging to feel out of control in your life, no matter how little or how much control you actually have. I have already been feeling so out of control since my Jan. 12, 2011 diagnosis. I go where I have to go, do what I have to do where and when I have to do it. My whole life, as well as my family’s life, revolves around it. So, it makes sense that the little control I do have — such as when I’ll be having my chemo treatments — is something I tend to cling to.

My “very little control” comes in the form of getting myself mentally ready to start a new round of chemo. It also comes in the organization of my calendar of chemo drivers and getting my son’s Summer Camp schedule nailed down. I’ve already submitted two calendars to his summer camp, and now with this new pothole in the road, I’m going to have to sit down and figure it all out again, submit #3 with the hopes that it truly will be his schedule for the summer — and that the camp owners aren’t going to get frustrated at my constant change of plans.

Yesterday, I felt frustrated at my body. Nothing I do will make it happen — my platelets rise — any faster. It takes time. I have to wait. I’m not very good at waiting. I never have been. Oh, the lessons God must be trying to teach me on this path and the frustrations He must have, dealing with a blockhead like me.

So, even if the very little control I seem to have these days comes in the form of a rock-solid chemo schedule — two weeks on, one week off, repeat — at least it’s some sort of control. Even if it comes in the form of getting my chemo driver and summer day camp schedule down in ink, at least it’s something I can be sure of. Or so I thought.

All of this reminded me of those times when we find ourselves in those unsavory parts of our lives, circumstances we don’t want to be in, for whatever reason, but circumstances that we are in due to choices we’ve made. What causes us to sink into those valleys — and stay — for extended periods?

Comfort, I think. The known — even when it’s miserable — somehow can be so much more comfortable and reassuring than venturing out into the unknown, even when we’ve got a pretty good shot at making our circumstances and our lives better. I think we’ve all been there. I know I have. There are times when you really have to yank on those bootstraps to pull yourself up and over.

So, even in these difficult times of a long-term chemotherapy regimen and limited choices, there is a small dose of comfort in the routine, that there is a routine, and that though there may be 50,212 other things I’d rather be doing than going through yet another infusion, at least it’s a known, something that feels like a bit of control at a time when my life feels like a planet spinning off its axis.

But the reality is, things are not static. They are constantly in flux.

I guess that’s just something I’m going to keep on having to try to get used to.

I need to go find those boots.

Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson



5 responses

7 06 2011

The “new” normal, as you have referred to it previously, appears to be a moving target of sorts. And that makes it hard to organize one’s mind/body/emotions, let alone schedules, activities, etc. Dealing with life-in-flux must be extremely challenging – constant schedule changes for you and the family make it difficult to even plan “downtime” that is needed for mental, emotional, and physical harmony. You are handling this challenge better than anyone else would – despite your love of control (like your dear friend here) you have always had a wonderful carefree, spontaneous, lets-see-where-this-takes-us personality…this gift will help you through the difficult times. Just think ahead…one day you will have kicked the cancer in the butt and will go back to a very boring and routine life (smile). Well, at least we know the first part of that will be true……

7 06 2011

How about you take a break and I’ll pull those boots up for you today. You can have them back in the morning.

7 06 2011
Rita P

I admire you so much, Amy. Like you, I had cancer several yrs back. Because of other medical issues I chose to NOT see myself as “fighting cancer”. I simply couldn’t handle another “battle”. As I saw it, cancer existed in some parts of my body, and not in others. Thus, I was not battling anything. I was simply choosing to love myself so much, in so many ways, AND to allow others to love me deeply —that the cancer did not feel welcome in me. That philosophy worked for me. It was not about me vs. it. It was about me and LOVE. Period.
Deep love and peace to you in however you choose to see things!

7 06 2011
Dorothy Moore

Dr. Robert Peterson in Novi helped a friend of mine (John Potter) during his chemo. He is a chiropractor and a specialist in natural meds and he helped John build up his blood during John’s chemo so he didn’t miss treatments. He has helped me avoid gall bladder surgery for over 10 years. Just a thought.

8 06 2011

Congrats on the shrinkage and softening (men would never be happy about these two items – teehee). Had to throw some humor in here!!! :0)
I know God in working inside you right now to strenghten your blood!!

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