March 22, 2015
There are a lot of things about going through cancer that are really tough. I have much respect for people going through chronic health conditions. The invisible illnesses are also that much harder to deal with both in public and with friends/ family.
“But you don’t look sick.”
“You look great though.”
“Hey young lady, why don’t you get up and give me a seat instead?”
Okay, so the last one didn’t really happen. It’s what I imagine in my head when I’m occupying a public transport seat that I think an elderly person would appreciate. I have guilty feelings because I’m supposed to be this young vibrant person. But I’m not. Anymore. Or Yet.
I’m learning to get used to my new body and recovering mind.
Physically: I’m taking short walks now. I consciously move my neck muscles, rotate my arms and bend my knees. I have had severe pain in muscles and joints since the radioactive iodine treatment and had subconsciously stopped moving them to the dismay of my doctors. They have recommended I start using a swimming pool to get my joints and limbs moving again. I miss my flexibility but I am determined to get it back. I will be having another blood test at the end of the week to see where my thyroid hormones are at. I caught another fever/flu and so am left with a lingering cough that hurts my chest. It reminds me of the horrible bronchitis episode I had about 6 months ago when I also found it difficult to breathe. I’m back on an inhaler for the time being.
Mentally: Immediately after my concussion, we were monitoring my progress on a weekly basis. Things got a little delayed with the cancer, surgery and radiation but hopefully, I can get back on track now. My concentration has improved greatly in just the last week. I was able to focus on reading/writing a paper for a good couple of hours straight. This is progress for me because I was working efficiently. That “brain fog” that has been around for months is finally beginning to lift a little bit.
Emotionally: I made my breakfast three times this week and helped my mother make a curry. I think that is a good sign. Today, I did wake up feeling really sad and it is hard to pinpoint why. Sometimes there really is no reason other than I am still going through a lot and I’m still learning to not be so hard on myself. In my last post in this series, I did mention that I just haven’t wanted to talk to people, partially because I feel so alone in my feelings which cannot be understood by people who have not experienced it. I was getting tired of having to explain what I was going through and of being constantly on guard with my emotions. So, I think the break from Facebook and from writing has been good for me. I realized that it was probably detrimental for me to constantly be on guard and not be able to just let go. Also, with recovery like this, sometimes you just need some space.
I went to a support group for 20s and 30s living with cancer. It was helpful. Because they were expressing their anger and hurt, which may come across the wrong way in ‘usual’ society but was so well-understood in that room. They didn’t know how they felt about a text 4 months after their surgery reading “How are you doing? I miss you! I would like to come see you some time.” They cursed under their breath at the healthcare system for being unable to have reasonably scheduled appointments. They shared in the elaborate and tedious ritual that accompanies personal hygiene or needing to leave the house. They compared who had been indoors the longest before that meeting. They discussed careers on hold and co-workers who mistook wigs and make-up for healthy body.
These are perhaps mere glimpses into why I feel forever changed. My partner says that I have changed so much and grown. Interesting for me to hear and something that will require more self-analysis. Apparently, I am more assertive when it comes to standing up for myself. I think it is easier for me to let the relatively little things slide. “Pfft, I have cancer. This is nothing”. As an aside, I won’t know the results of my body scan (done on February 19th) until May 6th. Yes, that is a long time to wait but you already knew that waiting times are a regular complaint.
So my stamina is tested with each day that passes, but so far, I am plodding along. With aching joints and tired smile, I keep going, keeping occupied and counting moments until I feel like me again.