First the Hare, then the Turtle

8 02 2012

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



16 responses

8 02 2012
Julie Sturgeon

I’m glad you didn’t let it go so long, Amy, that you couldn’t utter the words “I need help.”

8 02 2012
kerri daugherty

Angel I am always here if u need to talk or cry. Glad u finally opened up. Love u

8 02 2012
Deb Peters

I do so admire you by the way that you continually know just when you need to take the next step in your recovery. It takes a very big person to admit that there are times that ” we need help.” Let the turtle phase go its course, because we all know who finally wins the race.

8 02 2012
Bob Adams

Turtles move slowly but they move–and forward. That’s what you’re doin’, moving forward.

8 02 2012
Jennifer Wolf

I will never, ever know a person as strong as you are. I adore you for your faith, your courage, and your willingness and ability to use yourself to teach us truths about ourselves. I love you, Amy-girl. I am always here if you need me, and we don’t even have to run through a habitrail together.

8 02 2012
Lynn CollardLynn

H. E. L. P. = Having Educational Lessons Please 🙂 Stay Strong! Big Cats For A Cure in Garden City Michigan, Lynn Collard, and Lindsay Kalter Orehek, thinking of you!

8 02 2012
Michelle Dougherty

Hi Amy,

Rick and I thought you were in Florida. I’ve missed your posts and feel badly that you were so down. Althought it’s totally understandable. You are an amazing person. I love the fact that you reached out help and feel encouraged again. I pray daily for a speedy recovery and I know that will happen. Keep the faith! Love, Shelly:)

8 02 2012

Being a turtle is okay. They have hard shells and make it thru some tough situations! Glad you are no longer walking like Festus! Love you a bit!

9 02 2012

Slow and steady . . . S-L-O-W and steady . . . A certain wise 13 year-old tells me that’s the key. You are remarkable!

9 02 2012
Sarah E. Ludwig

I’m so glad you got help, Amy. I hope regaining your emotional and mental strength will help you physically as well. It’s a long battle, to be sure, but you have a lot of people praying for you!

Love and hugs and prayers,


9 02 2012
Kimberly Brown

Amy, I have a desert tortoise named Socrates. He is a hoot! Yes, slow and steady will really win the race. I also have 3 chihuahua’s. When Socrates is in the yard, they run around barking like crazy about the walking rock. Little hares they are. Socrates just plods along….tucking in when he is annoyed, and stretching his neck out and moving pretty well, at his own pace, when he wants to get somewhere. He is just coming out of hibernation right now….spends his winters in a cooler, sleeping away the chill of winter. Soon he will be cleaning out his burrow in his pen in the yard, and it is amazing to watch. I have a saguaro skeleton in there….(the bones of the giant cactus). As much as I work to ready his place for him….putting sandstone slabs in place for the walls of his burrow, putting his food dish in a good place, making his watering hole clean…..he gets in there and lifts the entire cactus skeleton and moves it to where HE wants it….muddies up the watering hole, moves his food dish…..and tolerates the sandstone walls. He is the most determined and stubborn animal friend I have ever had.
I hope this story will amuse you. I would be happy to send you a picture of Socrates….he is quite a guy. And you my dear, are an amazing woman. One step at a time, one day at a time…. think of the progress you have made in the last few weeks…not as fast as you would like, but improving.
Blessed Be little sister….
Kim B

9 02 2012
brian Murphy

Amy, you really are wonderful . . . and your friends are wonderful . . . and I feel honored to be part of this cirtcle—–Brian

9 02 2012
Maija Kibens

And have you heard just how very very long turtles live?!!

11 02 2012

I think about you every single day, and send out all the healing energy I can muster. I’m sorry I don’t tell you that more. Asking for help is such a huge, scary, and very important first step… a step which is, I know, pointing you in the right direction. So much love.


13 02 2012
trena winans bagnall

I’m so glad you sought some help! Patience is such a challenging virtue! My healing thoughts are with you!

10 03 2012
Rita O'Connor

Hi Amy…its Mom Reet checking in with you. I avidly read all your blogs and hang on to all the information. You sure do “ride the ferris wheel”….up and down. You have such a tremendous team of supporters and cheerleaders!
We could never all get together unless we rent a stadium! “Team Amy” is always there for you, but you know that. And tell Don and Theo they are included in our prayers. Hang in darlin’. You can do it. Hear us all hollering “‘RAY AMYYYYYY!” Love always….

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