Sunday, July 03, 2016

Natural Instincts Be Damned!

Re-reading my last few blog posts, I noticed that I have been tending toward overt pessimism lately. That is not like me. I am an optimist by nature, so I am a bit surprised by the downer tone of my recent blogs. I guess if anything can turn a sunny optimist into a bleak pessimist, it is a little bout of stage 3 cancer, huh?

I know exactly what my problem is, however. And I know how to fix it. But the fix is not a super easy one for me to swallow.

Here's the thing. I am halfway through my chemo treatment now. I endured the horribly debilitating AC chemo and I've moved on to a kinder, gentler chemo (if such a thing exists). I've been lucky enough not to have some of the more unpleasant side effects of Taxol. As a matter of fact, since starting the Taxol portion of my treatment, I have had very few side effects at all. I am easily tired, but that is kind of a given with anyone undergoing cancer treatment. And sometimes, when the weekend hits, I have some minor bone pain. Actually, it's not so much pain as an inkling feeling that I can't trust my legs to hold me up. Jello legs is what I call it. It usually hits on Saturday and is gone by Monday. So all in all, I have no real complaints.

That said, because my head is freed from the duty of processing multiple unpleasant side effects, it has more time to roam. To think unpleasant thoughts. To focus on the negative. To careen from one wild idea to the next with wanton abandon.

And careen is does!
  • Who is going to buy my daughter cute clothes when I am gone? 
  • Who will cook for my family? Will they eat McDonalds every day?
  • Who will take care of Ruanita when I am gone? 
  • What kind of men will Lucas and Nicky be? Will they know to be kind if I am not around to keep them in line?
  • Who will ever love my children the way I do?
  • Will they forget about me?
  • Will they be better off without me?
  • Will they be glad to be done with me and my annoying problems?
  • Will Ruanita remarry?
  • Will she love her 2nd wife more?
And so on and so forth. It gets quite dark if I let it continue.

Part of the problem is that I spend a lot of time alone. Too much time alone. Ruanita and I are committed to giving our children a normal summer, but there is so much that I cannot do. So Ruanita takes them to the lake. Ruanita takes them to the pool. Ruanita takes them to the library. And bike riding. And gardening. She is the fun mom and I am the stay-at-home-because-I-can't-handle-the-fun-stuff mom. All that time alone gives me lots of time to think. Too much time to think.

The solution is simple. Spend more time with other people. So I can't go to the beach, but I can call up a friend to have lunch while Ruanita and the kids are gone. I can't go to the pool, but I can have coffee with a friend. There are things I can do to avoid being alone. I just have to force myself to do them.

As a lifelong introvert, I enjoy the company of people...until I don't. If I'm being honest, I have to say that socializing is exhausting at times. It sometimes takes every single ounce of energy I have to not crawl under the covers of my bed and hibernate there for days. I could easily become a cave-dwelling hermit if left to my own reclusive devices. Calling up a friend can be tough for me because, frankly, I don't always want company. I don't always want to "be nice" and "make small talk" and "open up." Sometimes I just want to be grumpy, all alone and silent in my own bed. In a hushed house. With only my mute dog for company. But there is a difference between what I want and what I need. In the intense head game that is stage 3 breast cancer, I have to force myself to do the things that will keep me on top. That will keep me positive. That will keep me from drowning in all the crazy thoughts that careen through my brain. That means that I need to avoid being alone for my own sake. For my own sanity. And for the sake and sanity of my family.

A couple of days ago, I met a coworker for dinner. We sat - just the two of us - and chatted for two solid hours. About everything and nothing. We talked about my diagnosis, but we also talked about her kids and my kids and bugs and dogs and everything in between. I left that dinner feeling energized. Alive. Better than I had in weeks. And I realized as I left that it was not because my friend had any special gifts. There was nothing about our dinner out of the ordinary or magical. It was simply being around another person that energized me. Being around a friend who spoke to me as if I was a person and not a disease. It made me feel like maybe I was okay, after all.

Attitude is everything. Or, if not everything, it is at least a HUGE chunk of my total well-being. And if I do not do the work necessary to cultivate a positive attitude, then I have lost. I've lost before I even hit the half-way mark.

Strange how this applies to both cancer treatment and life, in general, huh?


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