Where have I been?
Lots of people in the blogosphere have been asking that question, and as always, I’m deeply touched that you notice.
I’ve been struggling with the phase I’m in. Month 13 of treatment. Two months since I broke my pelvis in two places and became unable to drive. Take away the ability to drive when you live in an area where there’s no public transportation to speak of, and you really begin to feel isolated. Add to that the grip of winter, which although hasn’t been as wicked as we’ve come to expect, still isn’t weather to bask in, and those feelings multiply.
Perhaps if I dig down a little bit deeper, I find the real reasons why my heart is hurting so badly. I miss what I cannot do right now — like take Theo to school in the morning or pick him up. Go to the grocery store solo when my family needs food. Get a haircut without having to arrange for transportation (though I am so grateful to my neighbor Cathie, who took me). Even though the roof over our heads is a blessing beyond belief, it at times feels like a dungeon because I find myself staring at the same walls every day, the same piles of laundry and mail that I can’t seem to find the strength to get through at any useful rate.
If I dig down, I find that knowing that I don’t know when I will be able to return to my “regularly scheduled programming” is defeating. It is hard to flip the pages of the calendar and not know on which one I will find the square that will one day be circled in florescent marker, proclaiming Day That I Was Able to Walk and Drive Again!
On the upside, the double-doses of radiation that I received three weeks ago — though they deeply fatigued me — seem to have really helped me. I have been able to put the cane aside and other than a waddle in my step that reminds me of the late stages of my pregnancy with Theo, it’s not that noticeable. I’m still limited by distance, but am thrilled that I can get from Point A to Point B — as long as the distance in between is short.
This is not at all where I expected to be right now. While last year, my status was much more serious — cancer in the soft tissue is terrifying to patient and doctor alike as it is more difficult to treat than the bone cancer I am dealing with right now — it was also more predictable. Yes, I had to go to chemo two times a week, two weeks out of every three. And the IV treatments I received felt like a bubbling, roiling chemistry lab swishing around in my stomach afterwards.
But back then, I knew what to expect. I knew that when I came home from those treatments, I was done for the day. I knew that the next day, I’d be moving a lot slower than usual. And I knew by day three, I’d be about as close to “back to normal” as someone going through harsh chemotherapy treatments can be.
There was a rhythm. I could plan around last year’s schedule. I knew I could sketch in a happy day here and another one there, and that I’d be able to drive, walk, have the stamina to follow through on the best moments life has to offer — those with my family and friends. I could whip up a barbequed chicken, take Theo to the zoo, run barefoot through the grass, attend a Tiger game.
I guess that was the hare phase of my illness. Which can only mean that right now, I’m in the turtle phase. Slow and steady wins the race. And like the turtle, I only have one speed.
All of this has caused emotional upheaval inside of me that finally came tumbling out in the past week or two. Most everything I considered eating looked unappetizing and I’ve had seemingly endless bouts of crying. I know from my experiences during the summer of 2007 (See my blog post, The Summer of My Discontent) that it can’t go on that way. My sister Julie, a nurse, said that she was more concerned at the moment for my emotional well being than she was about my physical disease. I needed help.
So, I called Patty, the psychiatric-oncologist who brought me through to the other side that summer of ’07, and said these three words: I need help. She cleared a space in her book for 10 a.m. this morning, and, accompanied by my own personal Superhero — Don — I went to the appointment. We talked it through, all of it. And, as we were leaving, I knew it was a step — a big step — in the right direction.
As with so many things in life — from getting married to having a baby — going through cancer doesn’t come with a manual. But there are people all around, angels in disguise, with wisdom and insight to share if you’re just willing to seek them and listen. I think I’ll be spending a good deal of time doing just that in the upcoming days and weeks, as I continue on my journey back to health.
Yes, I said health. Because I intend to accept nothing less from my body than a total restoration and healing. I just have to keep practicing the patience I need to get there. And patience, well, let’s just say it’s never, ever, not for one moment, been one of my virtues. I’ll be working on that during this “Turtle” phase. God is making sure of that.
Copyright 2012, Amy Rauch Neilson