I don’t intend to just post “cancer” updates here, but I occasionally write something on my caringbridge site that I spent some time on instead of writing something for this blog and I decide to share here as well.
I am working (a little at a time) on some blog posts that are not cancer related and I hope to get some finished and posted soon!!!
So … here is something I shared on my caringbridge.org journal on November 4, 2013:
I’ve been writing this the past couple of days, knowing I wouldn’t feel like writing much today. Chemo 4 is over! It went well, but I always need to rest afterward so I’m on the couch. I’ll give a better update in a day or two.
Sorry it’s kinda long!
I get comments about what a great attitude I have and, even though I don’t always have a great attitude, it has made me think about why I have been as okay as I have been. So here are some thoughts in no particular order:
* It is much easier to be positive about cancer treatment when you feel bad to begin with and you see immediate results. Losing 16 pounds of fluid and getting your neck back in one week after your first chemo treatment tends to make you feel more positive than negative about the whole thing.
That said, I noticed after my most recent treatment that it was easy to get grumpy and down because it took me longer to recover this time and I’ve maxed out the “I feel better now than I have for months” aspect. So we’ll see if my “positive attitude” holds from here on out… And if I had suffered from nausea and vomiting during this, I seriously doubt that you would think I’m so positive.
And every time I think about the serious nausea and vomiting that patients not that long ago suffered through …. I have to turn the lights off on the pity party.
* From the very beginning, I have been treated with kindness and compassion and a “rallying around.” This began the day my doctor made a house call to deliver the news that I have cancer and sat at my kitchen table to talk about it - no phone call leaving me in a panic. Then people started coming out of the woodwork – bringing a gift, bringing dinner, sending a loving note, the love and concern expressed by my ESL students, etc. I think this all set a tone for feeling positive and that I would be helped through this time.
* I decided not to hold back on sharing the news. I told lots of people through email and phone calls and told them they could tell whomever they wanted. Why?
- I’ll take all the prayers and positive energy I can get to help me through this.
- I wanted to get the “telling” over with ASAP. It’s hard enough to do 5 times. I didn’t want to do it again and again and again. Just be done with it!
* A friend who has had several serious health crises, including breast cancer, said something to me early on about how you just do what the doctor tells you to do.
I don’t always do what the doctor tells me to do. My endocrinologist and I go around and around about osteoporosis medication. But in this case, the best policy for me has been to trust my doctor. Dr. T. is well respected as an oncologist, my own doctor knows and respects him, our first impression of him was very positive, and there was no time to waste. He reached out and squeezed my hand in an act of compassion during that first office visit – displaying a combination of medical expertise and empathy.
This doesn’t mean that I’m not paying attention and keeping up with my medical care, but I have surrendered to Trust – of my doctor and medical care team. They haven’t let me down. And I’m trying very hard to trust that it will all work out – the Big Trust.
* I decided right from the beginning that I wasn’t going to spend time looking for information on the internet and scaring myself to death. I occasionally go looking for specific information on trusted websites – but never ones with forums where people share all the terrible things that have happened to them and will certainly happen to you too.
Mostly I read the information that the doctor gave me, and did not dwell on all the negative side effects listed in detail. And I just take one bite at a time. Have I read enough about stem cell transplants? No. I had enough to deal with in the beginning. Now, though, it’s time to start educating myself as the time approaches.
* What a difference a gathering of friends can make! Getting together with friends for dinner and sharing and laughing and reminiscing and advice and scarf wrapping demonstrations was a great boost to me. I knew my friends had my back. And that kind of positive energy stays with you.
* I just don’t go “THERE”. Yes – cancer could take my life. The kind I have isn’t the best kind to have. But I just don’t go there.
When my oldest daughter was in college, I developed a kind of self-discipline to help me keep my sanity and ability to sleep at night. She was half a continent away - living by herself in the back half of a house with a flower shop in the front and some kind of Navy base across the street. She had no neighbors, kept the latest hours, usually didn’t answer her phone when I called, and sometimes didn’t call back. So I told myself I couldn’t think about her or call her after about 5:00 pm because if I called and she didn’t return my call, I would worry about her all night long.
It’s weird, I know, but it kept me sane and sleeping. So, I just don’t go there. I’m not allowed.
I’m good at this – I rarely go “there”, but I took a little trip there on my birthday. I came to the conclusion that days that mark an event or the passing of time are ripe for thoughts that “this could be my last birthday, Christmas, … whatever.” I would venture a guess that many people dealing with a health crisis are visited by these thoughts on “special” occasions and want most of all to spend time talking with or being with family and friends doing just about anything… just making a little memory.
* If I do my morning time for devotional and prayer and “How to Have a Good Day Every Day”, I have a better day. This has been very important for my attitude. I think I’ll write a separate post about it.
I like to do this outside and if I do, it is even better – because being in fresh air and listening to the birds and being a part of nature lifts my spirit and is healing in and of itself.
* I am constantly overwhelmed by gratitude for you – and many others. I have simply been in awe – and frequently brought to tears of thankfulness.
Never underestimate what a difference a little act can make – whether it is simply reading this journal and leaving a little heart (or a message or a silly poem), or sending a card, or a little surprise, or giving me a ride and sitting with me at the doctor’s office, or adding me to your church’s prayer list, or bringing food, or calling on the phone, or a little text message. Every little thing makes me feel cared for and hopeful. And never feel guilty that you aren’t doing enough. That’s the beauty of it. Every teeny tiny little thing fills a need and is added to another little thing. It’s a big, cumulative group hug.
I’ve put a lot of the little things I’ve received on a table that I can see from my spot on the couch. I’ve named it my Altar of Encouragement because it is a reminder of your collective prayers and thoughtfulness.
* I’m pretty good at adapting – it’s just the way I am. I moved a lot as a kid and had to learn to live where I was. The same can apply here. I just live where I am.
* I know it bothers some people to depend on others and accept help, but it doesn’t bother me so much. I learned to accept help when I had my first baby. It’s another form of surrender – to just accept the help you need – and even some you maybe don’t need. It frees you from trying to do too much or trying to prove that you don’t need help.
* Talking and writing helps. I know that “phone a friend” is available to me when I need it to vent or whatever. And writing this journal is really helpful to me. Processing my thoughts and feelings and making sense of them and writing them down and sharing them – it just helps. Plus the burden it relieves in keeping everyone informed in one place. So thanks for reading!
* And last, but certainly not least, my husband is the best and takes such good care of me. He has taken on so many additional chores around here as well. He frees me from worry and guilt. I can’t imagine how I would survive without him!
So those are some of the reasons that I think I have been pretty okay through this process so far. There may come a time when I’m not as okay. We’ll just have to see. And the ways that I cope may not be the best ways, but it seems to be working for now.
As I have said before, I have felt “carried” by the collective prayers and thoughts of all of you and people I don’t know who are also praying for me – and protected, perhaps, from fear and anxiety.
I felt like I hurried to publish this originally and gave my husband short shrift. I didn’t even mention that he brings home a dozen roses every Saturday when he does all the grocery shopping! What a sweetheart!
And just so you know, I had a CT scan recently that showed that chemo is working. All the bad stuff in my neck had just “melted away” the nurse said. And the others throughout my body are shrinking as well. Stem cell transplant in my future – sometime in January or February.
And you never know where you will experience a random act of kindness. The friend that went to my chemo treatment with me this week went to get us sandwiches. (By the time I get blood work done, see the doctor, and then have chemo, it takes about 5 hours, so you need nourishment!). The man who was making our sandwiches “to go” asked if she was taking to a friend. She told him, “Yes. In fact she’s in the chemo chair right now.” He told her he would make mine extra special.