The elephant on my chest and Cancer Care

December 27, 2009

When I came from behind my “wall of strength” and talked to my mom about this “elephant on my chest”, the time line made sense to me.

I had a very difficult spring. If you go back in my journal you will read about the explosive emotion I was experiencing and acting out. Unfortunately, most cancer treatment centers do not prepare the patient upon release for the psychological fall out. While in treatment, most patients are on full survivor mode and every ounce of their being is focused on the will to live. When they complete treatment and are released forever, a tidal wave of emotion crashes down on them as they process the past months and absorb the serious life threat.

Once I recognized I was in need of help (I thought I was going crazy) and took my concerns to my social worker and then pastor, some semblance returned to my life. A change in my anti-depressant and adding bio-identical hormones helped in calming me, too.

Summer came and Dale and I were full speed ahead on landscaping our yard – well, at least I was full speed ahead, he thought I was a bit overboard and called me the lawn Nazi.

In looking back, I, too, amazed myself with the energy that I expended.  I had my stem cell transplant just over six months ago and I thought I would be fatigued in this recovery phase. But I was a wild woman. It was great to feel well, it was great to have energy and strength, and it was great to be outside. I picture myself like a bulldozer especially when I was pushing the river rock around with my whole body under the deck. Crazy, huh?

Then I broke my leg resulting in surgery. A rod and plate and many screws were drilled into the bones to hold it all together while they properly healed. This brought an abrupt end to my outdoor activity. Never having had surgery before, it hurt and recovery seemed to take forever. The break forced me to rest and be quiet. My attention was given to my healing and getting back on my feet. Just recently, about three weeks ago, I noticed my limp wasn’t so pronounced and I was doing more and more with my leg and knee.

About two months ago is when I began to feel better, my attention was off of my leg and I was looking forward to getting myself involved with various tasks and responsibilities again. My mind was spinning with possibilities and I began saying “yes” to all of them. I went back to being my wild woman but more than that, I was on major overdrive in filling my life with busyness.

elephantDecember 14th I found the elephant on my chest, December 17th it gained weight, December 21st it was crushing me and December 23rd I finally decided to let those I love know the truth about the elephant – I really haven’t had an anxiety or panic attack so I don’t know exactly what they are but I think I was very close to having one, the weight was killing me.

And so the following is my first entry on the Cancer Care online support group, post treatment survivorship:

December 17, 2009

A little over a week ’til Christmas! My family and I love Christmas; the festivity, tradition, sparkle and celebrating as a family. My oldest daughter flies in Sunday p.m. and will stay with us through her winter break; I can hardly wait . . .

John, I am a new, too. I am a little over a year out and received my complete remission report in November. You think I would be elated and put everything in the past but I am up and down, like a roller coaster ride –

Which brings me to my thoughts this week.

Last Christmas, I was just released from the hospital to come home for good. I was recovering from my SCT (stem cell transplant) and I don’t know where my energy came from, but I went nuts in decorating our new house. I remember barely able to get up off the floor once down on my hands and knees. But I was driven and I did it and we had a VERY celebratory Christmas with all my family.

This year, I feel I am on super overdrive. It’s not the holiday, it is what I am committing myself to do. I am feeling a bit stressed and I don’t understand why I am pushing myself so hard.

I have always been an “A” personality; a starter, organizer, finisher. It took me a few good adult years to find the balance before I had cancer. Now, after cancer I am back at it but once I commit to something I want to quit, not the old me at all. I wonder why in the heck I committed myself. My excuses to quit is the commitment takes up too much of my time and it’s not what I expected; I’d rather be at home in my sanctuary of peace. I commit, reevaluate, and say, “Ah, that’s not what I wanted to do.”

How fickle I am! As of today, I would like to just attend a Bible study, not facilitate one. And why did I ever say I’d work up on the ski hill? (The job is just two days and obviously seasonal) I want to come and go as I please with my life but I keep putting myself in places where I think I ought to be not where I want to be. Ugh. And, lastly, but this is a heart desire, another cancer survivor and I would like to host a cancer support group with a different focus than the one offered in town at the hospital. We are not in any hurry to start a group and we are taking our time to weigh the responsibility of hosting one.

Before cancer, all this cancer world and reality was not a part of my life. Since it was such a traumatic experience (does anybody NOT have a traumatic experience with cancer? please let me know), I want to use it to help others . I need to find the balance in helping others in need and need of support verses obsessing over helping others.  What is my motive for this support group?

This last summer I broke my leg, had surgery and was forced to “take it easy.” It was painful and I had to take it easy. My pain and limp eased up about two months ago and I am full speed ever since.

Who am I and what am I to do with myself? I was involved before I had cancer, I am involving myself again after cancer but now I am questioning my involvements/commitments. I get started and then want to drop out – I am forcing myself to fulfill my commitments, ski hill ends in March and Bible study ends in May.

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