"We must all exceed our own expectations." (Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela in Invictus)
"I only have so much blood to suck out!" (my oncologist, relating what his best friend would say at wits' end)
After two weeks of sitting around the house, thinking "there's more to life than this", and after today's oncology appointment (where I was charged a co-pay increased by 50%!!!), it's time for a reboot. It's been a long time coming–the new year just coincided with it.
For the first time in three years, I actually had an emotional session with my oncologist. I casually mentioned the "blow-out" I had with the hubby, who accused me of not scuba diving with him because I "hold (myself) back". As I related the details, I was suddenly overwhelmed again—by the fact that I've tried so hard to maintain as "normal" a life as I could (and the appearance of one), and in one fell swoop, all the effort was undermined by his reminder that I would never have a normal life, ever again. The hubby struck right at the heart of who I was by reminding me that I couldn't enjoy extreme sports any longer—that my days of spontaneous travel and adventure were over, and that the lifestyle that identified who I was is gone.
Had he forgotten that I have cancer and have a fairly slim chance of living beyond 5 years? I tried to shake it off, tried to explain one of the many horrible things that could happen if I dove—pulmonary embolism—>have to ascend to surface—>have to do 3-minute safety stop—>have to reach shore—>have to call 911 once out of the water—>could be dead by then due to loss of crucial minutes—>etc…Need I say more? I went on to say that the effects of greater atmospheric pressure (from diving) on lung neoplasms (or any neoplasms) haven't been adequately studied, probably due to the insufficient number of advanced stage (lung) cancer patients who continue cardiovascular-intensive sports!
It's so clear how little his understanding is of being involuntarily disabled from doing something he takes for granted. I don't imagine he's given a thought to being blinded, becoming deaf, losing some sort of function, or having any kind of disability, inspite of the fact that I have clearly become disabled!
Anger as an expression of fear, frustration, and futility was definitely at work, but sorrow always takes the upper hand and instead of flashing any sort of temper, I wind up crying. This wasn't always so, but it seems to happen quite a bit these days. So I actually popped a tear or two and blew my nose while sitting at the edge of the examination table, and I don't think the Doc was quite ready for that. I apologized for burdening him with this, but he gave me some gentle advice, promised to ask the oncology counselor to help me. "You're going to live a long time, so you need to take action…" He feels it's definitely time for professional counseling. The hubby, of course, is vehemently resistant to the idea. He denies the possibility of my further decline. "Coping mechanism—men use work to hide from things."
The Doc feels I need to devote at least 10% of my time, at all times, to doing something just for myself. I'm supposed to remind the hubby that yes, he is working and providing, but he needs to understand that I am also working and providing—I am working on my cancer, I take good care of him and all sorts of other things…we don't have hired help, I still drive myself to all my appointments and do all the chores and errands, I travel with him (for his comfort, not for sightseeing, 90% of the time)…he has attended less than 10 appointments with me in the past 3.5 years…
I went to Whole Paycheck after my appointment, partially to vent, and stocked up on expensive vegetables (reminds me that the extra effort to hit the farmer's market, inspite of the weather, is well worth it). I need to start juicing again and stop the fat-a-thon I've indulged over the holidays. I definitely abused consumption of those last Chunkochino cookies I baked…
I need acupuncture, or at least get a massage. I've also slacked on the daily walks since the weather's turned, clearly to my detriment. My knees, hips, back, and bones in general, all hurt. I'm wheezy. I'm worried. I'm getting a PET scan. Sigh.
I know three people out there who are sweating bullets…facing new treatment, new struggles, but always, I feel my stuff is small potatoes compared to some others. This fight to go on, to survive through time—it reminds me of the Holocaust—even if whipped to within an inch of death, if one could just hang on long enough for the Liberation, one could be pulled back from the edge. One would be scarred, but could choose to continue living. Maybe that's not a great analogy. Sometimes I wonder to what lengths I would go to survive…
Well, time for the brave face to come out of the cupboard. We're all given some weapon to fight with, whether it's a sense of humor, a gift for expression, or just a short attention span and a stoic attitude. Lock and load, people. We're going back to the front lines.