It has been about a month and a half or more since my last entry. I’m not sure how much I have to say. My health is improving. In fact, it feels almost as it did before all of this cancer stuff started almost a year ago. My body aches every morning when I get up but I had that before any surgery or chemo. I was (prior to cancer) trying to see if hormones would help alleviate this but those had to stop except for the progesterone and thyroid. I’ve been able to go back to seeing my chiropractor but I’ve put off my Naturopath mainly because I found out my medical coverage doesn’t cover the IV’s I can get from them. They are considered supplements and thus not covered. My finances are on unstable ground right now due to my pay being reduced while on short term disability so paying for the Naturopathy treatments isn’t possible right now while I work on recovering financially.
Mentally, I’m depressed. The pain I feel in my body, the stiffness and soreness is discouraging. It makes me not feel like walking and so I don’t when I probably should. I’m not good at disciplining myself in this way. Exercise for me means more pain. It isn’t a pleasurable pain so I don’t seek out ways to build it into my life and I find excuses to not do it. My daughter says I walk like a stiff legged zombie. She doesn’t realize just how close she is to how I really feel and not just on the outside. Inside, I just can’t seem to get out of this mental funk.
It doesn’t help that another of my co-workers has been diagnosed with cancer. In a group of ten people, 3 of us have cancer. Those are sickening odds. It falls into the national average that 1 in 3 will have cancer. However, while on my last visit to see my oncologist and radiologist, while sitting in the waiting room, I heard someone say those odds have changed now to 1 in every 2 people will have cancer. In my group, all of us have worked in the computer industry since we entered the job market in our early twenties. I’ll be 55 years old this year and all but one in our group are all older than me. When the third of us came up with cancer, one of the members of our group asked if working so closely with computers all our adult lives is causing this and no one could answer that because there haven’t been many studies on it. I used to work in a computer room with large mainframe computers surrounding me with cathode ray tube type monitors and the large reel to reel tapes spinning just a couple feet away from me. Then the exposure to three mile island in its aftermath, along with so many other types of exposures over the years that are too many to mention. We all think we are invulnerable to these types of things when we are young and once we are older and know the risks we still take them. Even now I think ‘what the hell’ when I consider removing any toxins from my environment. I think ‘the damage has been done, so why bother’ but then of course I think I need to do it for my daughter while she sits for hours in front of her computer playing her games and talking with her friends who are only just a mile or two down the road.
A friend of mine is also dealing with her own depression after her journey with cancer followed by a few other life changing experiences that left her no time to breathe in between them. I told her what she is experiencing is normal now that her life has given her time to breathe and take in all that has happened. I know this is true for me as well but it doesn’t make dealing with it any easier. All it does is let me know I’m not alone while in a way I am still just as alone as I was throughout the past year. My friend L is still here but she has her own worries and in truth I’ve been stepping in to help her out while I feel as though she has not been there for me except for a few times when she went with me to my treatments. She was definitely gone through the worst of my ordeal when I needed help but that isn’t her fault. It is however hard not to feel a little resentment.
Some people would say I should contact family counseling and talk to them about this but the two or three times of talking with them I felt all they did was pacify me. That is not what I want in a counselor and I don’t think they can give me what I need. In truth probably no one can. In truth, cancer and its aftermath is a solitary fight. No one can do or say anything to make it better or to help one deal with the emotional aftermath. Cancer makes you insecure. It makes you look death in the face. It makes you realize your mortality. Once you look it in the face, you will be looking at it for the rest of your life. Because once you have cancer and are treated for it, you can no longer ignore the ticking clock. On occasion your mind will visualize those little buggers swimming through your body trying to find a purchase to take hold of and start multiplying again. Other times your mind will visualize yourself completely free of those little buggers and if you are lucky you will feel the upsurge of celebration and an abundance of energy and feel like dancing the night away. Then the next morning arrives and the switch might have been thrown in the opposite direction while you slept and you wake up feeling a lack of energy, a fog of depression surrounding you and you wonder if you will ever feel free and vibrant again.
Work is a good distraction from this but at times even work cannot distract me. There are times I look at the job I’m doing and wonder ‘why bother’ and at times like that I find my mind wondering during a meeting and before I know it I realize I haven’t heard half of what was being discussed. Conversations with friends can be like this as well. It isn’t because I’m not interested, what I’ve realized is what is being discussed doesn’t have the depth or strength to pull my thoughts away from the direction they start wondering into.
I know joy is lacking in my life and so I’m trying to find ways to bring it back but I don’t know how. I can find a knitting or crochet project that interests me but not enough to go buy the yarn, or dig into the ones I still have in progress to finish so I can begin another. I have a pair of socks I only have a few more rows before they are finished and yet they sit in my bag. If I take them out I may knit one or two rounds then I put them down because something else has come to mind that I need to check on, or do or some such thing and then it is weeks before I pick them back up. Playing meaningless games has been the only thing that keeps my attention for long and after about a week of submerging myself in them, I am now finding they are loosing my attention as well. I keep wondering why I am wasting my time on them.
This is all new to me and I don’t know what to do about it. I don’t know what will help put me back on track or if that track has been completely blown away, never to return to it. I feel like a boat without a rudder. The only thing that keeps me steering in any one direction is my daughter. I make sure she has the basics, clothing, food, shelter, and beyond that it is mostly left up to her to let me know what she needs if she can’t do it for herself. I feel as though I’m failing as a parent. I have no husband to fail so at least I have that going for me, except recently I had two men contact me and I’m not sure what to do about them. I can’t find any excitement over someone expressing interest in me and in the back of my mind I can’t imagine any man being willing to become involved with the physical and mental mess that I have become.
So here I sit, writing in my online journal, dumping my emotional baggage on to whoever will listen, knowing that most likely nothing will ever become of it. There is the saying “Reap what you sew.” In my case this is so true. I have spent a lifetime of pushing people away from me even when I knew I needed people in my life but because I was young and could do without, I did. Now well, you all are reading the aftermath of that life.
I used to think life was simple, either you liked something or you didn’t, either you got along with someone or you didn’t. But life isn’t like that and it has taken me a long time to understand. Coming to terms with it hasn’t been easy. Now I’m faced with what do I do? There is at least one man reaching out to me and I’m not sure I have anything to give. Do I turn away because I feel less than deserving? Do I give it a chance? If so, what if I hang on to something giving him the impression this is something I want when deep down I’m only hanging on for fear of being alone again? Or because a little support is better than no support?
Very few people see this side of me. When they meet me they get the impression that I am this well put together person who is strong and amazing because I’m able to take care of my daughter even though I’m facing a serious health issue. No one sees inside to the jumbled mess I really am. And most, when I tell them I have been diagnosed with breast cancer make a quick exit out the side door and I don’t blame them, although I do wish they had more backbone. If I make no mention of the cancer, no one asks. They see my hair only about an 1/8th to a 1/4 inch long and say nothing. This is so typical of how people do not want to know. They don’t want to know another person struggles. They don’t want to know another person may need help. Don’t get me wrong, not everyone is like this. When I have mentioned I need help, there have been a few people who at least made an effort. In most cases that effort wasn’t what I needed but that was no fault of theirs.
Cancer is a solitary disease and struggle. Some people are lucky to have others in their life who will do what they can to help out, whether that is to drive them to and from appointments, sit with them and hold them or their hands, cook meals for them, or even move them into their homes to make sure they are taken care of. But in the end, the disease is solitary. It has attacked the individual both physically and mentally. It leaves that individual feeling vulnerable and helpless to do anything. It makes them feel as though God or the Universe or the World has attacked them personally and told them they are not worthy of life. So the next time you see a cancer patient, reach out. Give them a hug, or a soft caress on the shoulder. Whisper to them that they are worthy of life and love and happiness and joy. And if possible give them something that is life affirming, water their plants for them, or something that encourages and displays life. My plants have suffered. Not because I wanted to let them die. But their health is a reflection of my health and my desire to live and they are not thriving because I have not had the energy physically or emotionally to spend upon them as I should, to take care of them as I should, and so they have suffered along with me.
Part of this is due to what they call chemo brain. I don’t remember things as I used to. I may in one moment know that my plants need water but in the next moment something distracts me and it might be a day or even a week before I realize I never watered the plants. This is the same of many other things in my life. Lists have become a necessity and yet I fail to make them or once started I don’t use them. I can’t explain all of this away to not caring. I do care. I can’t say I don’t know things need to be done. I do know. I can stand up and head to the kitchen to do something that came to mind to only find once I’m half way to the kitchen I forgot what it was I was going to do or even where it was I was going. Days of the week pass so quickly I have to look at my phone or computer to remember what day it is. It happens so quickly there have been times I’ve been afraid I will completely miss an appointment because I don’t realize what day of the week it is. I don’t forget appointments. I know when I have them scheduled. But time and days have gone passed me without me realizing it at times.
I have taken the time to write all of this, not as a complaint or to whine. I did it so hopefully others will understand the repercussions on a persons life when diagnosed with a serious illness. As much as I associate this with cancer, I suspect it is something others with other diseases have also experienced, especially the types of disease that one can think they are cured of to only have them come back again or could come back again over and over. I’m not on any medication that can be causing all of this, though I was on numerous medications during my treatment and some of this could be a side effect of some of those that maybe I will never recover from. Since I don’t hear people talking about this I can only assume many remain silent and if so it is my hope that they will begin talking about it so they will not feel alone and maybe more things will come to light which have remained in the dark if they are a result of chemo or the medications.
Things have to change. Better treatments need to be found. What chemo does and the epidemic of cancer in our society are being ignored. Pharmaceutical companies could do a whole lot more to provide healthy treatments and research into helping our bodies function properly and teaching our doctors holistic approaches to helping their patients than is being done today. And our medical insurance companies could provide better coverage for those seeking to support their health through natural means. We need to raise our voices and refuse chemicals and toxic treatments that kill and maim and undermine the natural processes of our body.