Monday, June 25, 2007

And yet so far to go

If my trip to the mountains reminded me of how far I have come then the past two weekends have reminded me of how far I have yet to go.

The past two weekends, I have gone to perfectly normal work/social engagements. I have attempted to prepare myself for the events, and engineer it so that my inability to stand has the minimal impact by commandeering a central table with a few other people and then have people come talk to me. You see no more circulating for me. Nope me and lefty claim our two chairs and pretty much stay put. OK that was fine. However, I hate being relatively isolated at a party, I want to wander and talk to people etc. So, when I couldn't take it anymore I went to wander a little (emphasis on the little here people) and my foot felt like it might explode. So, back to my chair I went, learning my lesson. All pretty good so far, but then the end of the parties arrive and you have to do the saying good-bye thing. Which again requires, yes you guesssed it- standing, so by the time I got to my car Lefty was mad at me. Then comes the drive home, consequently by the time I took my lovely granny sock off Lefty was screaming. As if he was saying, hah- you thought that you could go back to not thinking about me, but no way. I'm here and I don't like to be down yet.

So, there it is although I celebrate all of the things that I can do now, I try so hard to have patience for that which I cannot yet do, but patience is hard.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Mountain Air

One of my favorite places has always been Lake Arrowhead. I started going there when I was about 4 and since that time have countless memories of family events, trips with friends, hiding to study, or escaping for some alone time etc in that little corner of lake arrowhead that V-L calls Lepercahn cove as opposed to the real name of the bay. I haven't been able to get up there much this year for obvious reasons, but this week i acutally had two contiguous days without a single appointment and so off I went. The last time that I was up there was when V-L was visiting me/ taking care of me and I was still on crutches. However, as I am bullheaded and stubborn, I managed to find a way down the kazillion stairs and along the short mountain trail to the dock for a brief respite. Totally worth it, but hard, so very hard. So, on that trip any of my usual mountain pursuits were totally out.

Now, just 5 weeks later, I returned and immediately headed out for a long, yes long as in almost 2 hours- relax I had to take about a 45 minute break in order to make it back- walk around the lake with Sadie who ran up and down the hills with such unexalted joy.
We actually made that walk each day followed by the subsequent rest and icing time and a little advil, but made it nonetheless. I even took the boat out for a spin around the lake and went for a short swim. The trip was just what I needed. It reminded me that while I still have a long way to go, I have come so very very far.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Jar of Rocks
Or Bloggers Join Forces

A call has gone out to a few of us who blog about our lives as cancer patients and recovering from the above to all post on the same topic. This is the second such challenge by the assertive patient. I didn't participate in the first on meltdowns, but I have been invited to the second one on health and happiness. The topic seems somewhat timely to me as I am mentally preparing myself to stop being a fulltime patient and start getting back to work and my old life. So here goes...

It is not really surprising that people always wish for health and happiness as though the two are integrally linked, but are they? If I was supposed to magically stop being the happy person that I have always been the day I lost my na├»ve ability to say no to every question on a medical history, well then I didn’t get the memo. Yep, that memo was lost. Don’t get me wrong; I will never say that the 7 months since my diagnosis (8 since my first surgery) have been a happy, fun- filled escapade. However, you will equally never hear me say that they were unabashedly terrible. The day after I got my diagnosis, I asked my friends to throw me a birthday party, because I refused to allow myself or anyone I cared about have a pity party. For the next several months, I learned first hand what it meant to be a patient and to be dependent, and I hated it. I refused to get out of bed every day until I could smile. Most days it wasn’t that hard, some it took hours, some I finally gave up on my edict as I had given it to myself anyway, but usually I succeeded. Why smile all day? Because if you are smiling and laughing, you can’t feel sorry for yourself. My PT always makes fun of my laughter, but really the alternative is something I can’t and won’t accept. Now for those of you who have been reading and been around me you know that I have had my really bad days too. I won't deny that.

During all this time, I have tried to search for meaning in my illness. Is it supposed to make me a better doctor? Wasn’t I good at my job before? Am I supposed to learn to ask for help when I need it? Am I supposed to remember the rocks in my life? - Maybe. The story where everyone agrees the jar filled with large rocks is full until gravel is added, yep full again. Then sand is added, yep full. Then you add water and now it really is full. In this tale the rocks represent what is really important- family, friends, faith, health etc. The gravel is important stuff like your job, house, etc. Sand is the small stuff. Water is the beauty of the world around you and the minimal extra time it takes to appreciate it. The point is, if you don't add and care for those ingredients in that order then the rocks lose. (Those who have known me for years are now shaking your head, but you see this is what happened when I entered Dante’s 9th level of hell (the one of immobility) and was stuck on a couch for more or less 6 months. I've gottten philosophical.) For me I think I feel everything deeper now. I am more aware of the beautiful sunsets, the smell of the roses, the gift of my friends and family. I have learned to ask for help when I need it. I have reconnected with friends I’d lost due to time and distance. In essence, I have refilled my “jar” with rocks, so now my job can be the gravel again. Therefore, anyone who would try to convince that I should be sad because I lost a couple of rocks that were there for health might have a tough argument with me.

Don’t get me wrong, none of this means I don’t mourn the loss of my strong ankle, the ability to wear cute shoes, go hiking, sit in the sun, be unscarred. (At least the snow was bad this year so I didn’t miss much this ski season.) I mourn all of that and more. I would love to never have known the fear of having tests done and waiting for results that might rock your world. Still I have smiled most of the days of the past several months. I have appreciated slowing my life down. I have made changes that I believe will stick when I start working again. In some ways, I feel more genuine to the girl I used to be. So, does getting a really scary diagnosis equal the loss of happiness? To me- not really.

Here are the links to the others posts:

Health and Happiness

Cancer and happiness

Happy Days

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

No Evidence of Disease

I just got the email from my doc that the scans I had yesterday showed no evidence of metastatic disease. I feel one step closer to putting this whole thing behind me. Thank you so much to everyone who has been supporting me along the way.

Saturday, June 9, 2007


I have been somewhat crabby the past few days and while I try to blame my hideous neighbors who are up to their usual no good behavior, I think that the true source may lie in Monday's activities. Why? Because Monday I have my first set of make sure that this darn thing hasn't spread scans. I get to spend most of Monday morning at the hospital getting my entire chest, abdomen and pelvis scanned. I firmly believe that they will not find anything. Somehow I just know that, but obviously I have to have the tests done for a reason, right? I can't even imagine what I would do if they find anything. Whenever that thought enters my brain, I banish it to the netherlands and come up with some other project to occupy my energy. This tactic seems to work well and at this rate, I might actually get my garage cleaned out, the slipcover that I am making done and who knows what else because idleness is unacceptable right now. Thank goodness that I can walk again. As walking has always been one of my best coping skills so when things get rough. I grab Sadie's leash and she bounces around as if Christmas has arrived and off we go. Tomorrow, I am going to hang out at my parents pool with lots of sunscreen on.
So, keep your fingers crossed out there.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

It is official

So, many of you know that as I am starting to feel better, I am starting to prepare to return to the doctoring as opposed to patienting world. I met with my boss last week and set a somewhat official restart date and a series of duties that I will perform (I am not yet cleared for clinical duty). Most of what I am going to be doing is writing, and associated administrative/ research stuff much of which can be done from home. However, the only clinical duty that I will have is participating is our antenatal consults. These are visits where we sit down and talk to parents whose babies have known anomalies to let them know what to expect when the baby is born. It gives us a chance to really discuss options without asking frieghtened parents ot make immediate decisions right after the baby is born. I really like doing them and I think it will be good for me to start to use the neonatology part of my brain again before it atrophies completely from disuse. Anyway, they just sent out the schedule for the consults for July and lo and behold there is my name on the clinic schedule. I don't really know how I feel about it, but there it is real and tangible with others counting on me and families feelings to think about. No more just get the work done and we don't care when or where you do it as long as it is done. Fortunately, it is still over a month away.

Hmm, in other news my physical therapist seems to take the fact that I am getting better as carte blanche to assign ever more difficult and challenging exercises. I actually left there sweating today. It feels good to use all those muscles, somehow I think I'll be sore tomorrow.

Monday, June 4, 2007

This Just In

Yes, there is late breaking news from the left foot girl. Here goes, I have officially just emptied my house of my last vestige of orthopedic medical supplies. I know that you have all been spared the amount of help that I have needed with my activities of daily living, and don't worry I won't go into that now. However, spend about two seconds and think of all the time you spend standing doing every day things... showering, cooking, brushing your teeth etc. OK, you've got the picutre, there was even more once upon a time (but I really won't go there) but lately it has been that kind of stuff. So, the shower chair got banished the day after I return from trip 3 to NYC, the crutches didn't come out of the garage a few days later, the bar stool in the kitchen got put back to the bar two days ago, etc. My garage now looks like a medical yard sale. Today, I even removed the contraption that kept the bedsheets off of my foot. So, the remaining main adaptation that I have to make for normal daily things (those lovely ADLs) is that I still really feel better with two chairs, one for me and one for lefty. Although, it isn't as essential as previously. Progress I say progress.

So, now what to do with all of this junk (oh, sorry essential medical supplies). The optimist in me wants it out of my house, like yesterday, along with the crutches that it all rode in on. Thankfully, that hateful wheeled contraption (AKA wheelchair) has already been taken away. Some things have to go back where they came from ie. the bedsheet device came from a medical warehouse/ freecycle thing where you donate what you don't need anymore and sign out what you need. So that should go back there. But what to do with the rest of it all, I really want it to go to people who couldn't afford it. I have thought about trying to doate it to my friendly Nicaraguan charity, which is my favorite idea because it is near and dear to my heart and they are so needy, but there is the whole transportation thing. I have a friend who works at a free clinic, so maybe it could go there. I don't know. Suggestions? I just know that I am glad it is the heck out of my house and I want it out of my garage ASAP.