There is light at the end of the tunnel . . .

25 Jul
Crowded summertime beach in Avalon, Santa Cata...

Avalon

It is funny how sometimes when you are forced (or force yourself) to do something difficult, it becomes easier.

I have to study for an upcoming professional exam. I don’t mind studying, I actually have always enjoyed it. But, since cancer my body is not the same. Things that were once quite easy can sometimes be very difficult. One of those things is sitting in the same position for a long time . . . something you kind of need to be able to do to study (at least I need to do it that way). Well, I started studying in short time frames and built up to longer time frames and now, while I can’t say I am back to my normal study stamina, I am definitely in a far better position than I was even just a few weeks ago.

So, I have been forcing myself to sit and study for as long as I can without taking a break. Then, when I absolutely have to, I take a break and return to it. My body hurts, my legs and arms go numb and it is uncomfortable and irritating. But, it is what it is. AND, I am quite happy to report that what I can do today is vastly more than what I could accomplish even just a few weeks ago. It really has in its own way (my studying) been a type of physical therapy.

I can only imagine how much better I will be after a few more weeks and then a few more weeks and so on.

The most challenging thing for me post cancer has been the feeling of losing my old self. I don’t mean losing my breasts and having my old breasts replaced with scarred up “reconstructed” breasts. Nope. I chose a bilateral mastectomy. I had cancer in one breast and chose to have both breasts removed. That choice made me feel empowered, not depressed, strong, not weak . . . and in some small way in control.

My point is that I am not so bothered by the scars on my body. It is the physical limitations (pain, exhaustion, lack of energy) that bother me the most. And it is those things that make me feel less like myself. (And, a little pissed).

Nowadays, post cancer, I often find myself having to choose which things to do in a given day, a given week, etc. simply because I don’t have enough energy or pain free time to do what I normally would do. And, I have found that very frustrating.

For example, recently I spent the day with friends on Catalina Island. It was a wonderful day. The weather was perfect and the company even better. But, knowing that I had this day trip planned meant to me that I had to figure out how much I could or could not do the preceding day and week because if I did too much, I would then be too tired for Catalina. It is like having a bank account without enough funds to meet your expenditures. I am in the red physically.

So it goes . . . my post cancer existence. And just so I am clear – I don’t mean not partying until 2:00 am the night before (that isn’t really my thing anyway). I mean not “over-extending myself” the day before – which can simply mean – letting the laundry go another day, and simply taking it really easy. On this occasion, it meant turning down a last minute dinner invitation. I couldn’t just say, “hey, I would love to come, but, I have a big day tomorrow and doing both will be too much for me” . . . or . . . could I? Instead I said, “I would love to, but, I already have plans” (yeah, plans to lie in bed for the rest of the night . . . argh).

It is a balancing act and I am getting better at it . . . better at knowing my limits and better at pushing my limits too.

This studying has been a wonderful thing because it has definitely improved my physical stamina for concentrated work (something that makes me very, very happy).

Prior to cancer I was working on a new book. I had to drop work on it during chemo because my brain was, well, fried. And looking back now on some of the blog posts I wrote during those days, I am certain that it was a wise choice to postpone finishing the book (chemobrain is real, at least it was for me).

But, after the past several weeks of studying, I know that now I could sit down and write for hours in a day. And that, my friends, is a huge, huge deal because it means that I am that much closer to getting my life back.

I know I will still have to make choices between which things I can do in a given day or week. But, the feeling I have had of being sidetracked by this disease is beginning to fade. I am dismissing it every day that I force myself to sit through the discomfort and study. It is a good feeling. Oh, and a day trip to Catalina Island with great friends is a pretty good way to leave some of the leftover pains from cancer behind me too.

4 Responses to “There is light at the end of the tunnel . . .”

  1. Sally July 26, 2011 at 5:53 PM #

    Big congrats, Lisa, not just for your poem, but mostly on how you are dealing with the health limitations and finding that you are improving.

    • cancerfree2b July 26, 2011 at 8:17 PM #

      Dear Aunt Sally,

      Thank you so much. I am doing better. And, I am so glad that I won a little money for an organization that helped me when I needed it!

      Much love to you!
      Lisa

  2. nancyspoint July 28, 2011 at 4:53 AM #

    This post is absolutely brilliant. You got it exactly right. I feel like this as well. Life post cancer is a balancing act for sure. I totally agree that one of the most challenging things is losing part of my former self and I’m not talking about lost breasts or hair either. I was working on a book too, and had to put it on hold. I’m finally starting to contemplate getting back to it. Thanks for helping me realize this is progress too! I’m so glad you are finding it easier to study. Who would have thought studying was an exercise for the body as well as the mind? Great post and good luck on that exam!

    • cancerfree2b July 31, 2011 at 11:19 PM #

      Dear Nancy,

      Thank you very much for your comment, I am very flattered.

      It is sometimes hard to see progress when we compare ourselves (our post cancer selves) to our days before the nonsense.

      It is interesting to me to discover that so many of the women I know who have been through this or are going through this are all women that prior to cancer juggled many, many things and are quite accomplished women.

      I am glad that you are contemplating returning to writing your book! And yes, THAT really is progress. If you don’t mind sharing, what is the topic of your book?

      I hope you have had a great weekend.

      All the best,
      Lisa

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: