18 Months after treatments ended
and 3 years from diagnosis
The other morning my mother
happened to call and I said, " I am so glad you called. I want
you to know how happy I am, this morning, to be alive!" She
anxiously replied, "What happened…what's wrong?" It
never occurred to me that she would take it that way. "Ma, most
mornings I wake up aware that I am just thrilled to be here, you
know, alive. You just happened to call as I needed to tell
The truth of the matter is I don't
take things like wakening up to a sunny day, or a rainy day or any
day for granted anymore. It may sound a little "Pollyanna-ish"
but life has become a most excellent adventure. I take most
everything in stride and the things that used to cause stress in my
life either amuse me or challenge me in a much more productive way.
I didn't realize until recently
that even when I thought my brain had checked out completely there
was a lot of growth going on. I was too weary to concentrate on
reading all of the greatest novels ever written and I had no
patience for lying on the couch watching TV (an excellent option for
some but not for me). I spent what I could of my few waking hours
while I was not working helping friends as they renovated their
homes and decorated their offices. I even helped a friend design an
event for an episode of DESIGNERS CHALLENGE on HGTV and we won. It
was just nice to be able to feel creative and I could come and go,
as I wanted with no tiresome responsibility. I learned a lot while
watching renovations go down to the studs and I had the time to be
on the site when things like cabinetry, countertops and flooring
where getting installed. I didn't realize it at the time but I was
also amassing a team of talented craftsmen and contractors whose
work I could trust.
I had thought that because I was
self-employed I couldn't get disability of any kind. When I became
absolutely incapable of staying awake long enough to drive and
couldn't retain any information my chemo doctor suggested that I
apply for SSD (Social Security Disability). It was not enough to
live on but it was enough to let me rest. The remainder of our
financial existence, beyond my hubby's salary (and all the overtime
he could get) was taken from savings and eventually charged. By the
end of the three years we had a lot of catching up to do. After a
brush with my own mortality I was not going to let money concerns
keep me up at night, as I would have in the past. I let it go, I
trusted we would find our way.
It was challenging at first because
I still needed a lot of sleep and I was afraid to trust my memory. I
still carried an alarm clock with me in the car so that I could
sleep in between appointments and I sometimes needed to sleep for an
hour before I headed back home. I kept my "chemo brain"
pad with me at all times and I tried to place orders as quickly as I
could and kept better records (than I used to) of all transactions.
I am enjoying everything more and I
can't help believing that it is contagious to both the other
professionals I am working with as well as my clients. I always
exuded confidence but now I actually feel the confidence I project.
I have a much more instinctual sense of the creative decision-making
process than ever before and I have a greater understanding of the
value of team building with the people I am working with. I no
longer need to be right or have all the answers. I am much more open
to learning from the ideas and experience of others.
Several weeks ago I realized that I
did not need to nap much during the week anymore and best of all I
trusted my brain again. I can honestly say that my mental faculties
have completely returned.
Life post cancer is not without
some challenges as well. I have some huge residual fears that cause
interesting results. Posttraumatic stress disorder is not unusual
for cancer survivors. Do I live each day as if it could be my last
or do I allow myself to plan ahead, you know, for the future? I had
a period of many months where I was working 7 days a week, almost
manic because I don't know what tomorrow will bring. I feel pressure
to fit a lifetime of goals and dreams into every day, month and
I have had to concentrate on the
fastest possible way to catch up financially and trust that I will
have the time in my life, my future, to accomplish all of the things
that I want to. Chemochicks.com has been another great lesson in the
benefits of trusting others. My team here at chemochicks is keeping
us alive and growing, filling your orders and planning far ahead. I
am just beginning to create the time that I need to do my part.
Hearing from all of our chicks and caregivers has been a constant
source of inspiration for all of us.
Some days I am self-indulgent, I
nap because I want to and I almost miss the days of no
responsibility. Later, I regret having "wasted time." Do I
assert self-discipline and get up early to exercise so that I will
become as healthy as possible or roll back over and hug the nearest
kitty because it feels good at the moment. Do I watch everything I
eat so I will lose weight and gain health or do I have another
cookie because it tastes good, now?
I somehow expected to instinctually
keep the good habits I tried to create while I was recuperating. For
example, I know that walking every day was tantamount to my strength
both mentally and physically. Why is it so hard to schedule in, now?
I need to learn to create balance;
I need to learn how to trust that I will have a future and that is
worth planning for by making the best choices that I can, now.
My new motto (watch for the T
WORK HARD… PLAY
HARD… TAKE NAPS!