My web site is devoted to medical and treatment information about this rare cancer. My blog is devoted to sharing what has been the more difficult part of the journey for me, the emotional and spiritual road I've traveled as a rare cancer survivor.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Emotional Recovery and Springtime

Maybe this is a bit of a confession in regards to my failings or weaknesses, but here goes.

I am a tough women. I have a very high pain threshold. I asked for my morphine PCA to be discontinued within 24 hours of my big surgery as I didn't need narcotics (I did receive Toradol, though, a great pain reliever). I wore street cloths in the hospital within 48 hours of my surgery, and would only use my hospital bed to sleep at night, I walked the halls almost all day every day. I was discharged in 6 days on only ibuprofen. I walked for 3 miles on the streets of New York City 8 days after my surgery. I was driving my car and grocery shopping less than two weeks after my big surgery. I drove myself to and from chemo, sometimes I even rode my bicycle the 5 miles to and from chemotherapy. I did athletic training while on chemo to prepare to do a century bicycle tour. I wasn't going to let cancer beat me, I wasn't going to let cancer win. I was tough.

Physically, anyway.

I always thought I was very tough mentally and emotionally too, but I have to say, the emotional and mental recovery from cancer diagnosis and treatment has been a long one.

After cancer, at first I couldn't play my piano. I'd sit in front of it and my hands wouldn't move. I don't know why, but I hear the same thing happens sometimes to other musicians in times of tragedy. I lost interest in gardening and in my bird sanctuary, I lost interest in spring cleaning. Not sure why, I just did. I recovered my ability to play piano after a short while, but I quit celebrating and participating in springtime. Springtime activities to me represented a commitment to the future, and for several years I didn't commit to more than one day at a time. I didn't want to commit to the responsibility of keeping bird feeders filled, to watering and caring for plants, to weeding gardens. I couldn't maintain garden life and bird life any more, I wasn't sure if I could even maintain my own life.

This year is kind of a landmark for me though...for the first time since diagnosis, I want to really invest in springtime. I want to plant gardens again, set up my bird scanctuary again, buy houseplants. I spent a lot of money on gardening supplies and bird feeders last night.

I can finally plan for and enjoy a potential future, I think because it doesn't need to be promised for me to feel fulfilled. I feel much less fear. I've finally lost my fear of dying, and that's a milestone that is so liberating. Death no longer represents an ending to me, just another transition. Life is, after all, transitions. And this year I want to participate in and celebrate the transition that is spring, not as a commitment, but as a promise, as a hope, as an example of beauty emerging from the dark and cold.

My newfound normal is actually very liberating. But I was slow in getting here, maybe?

The emotional recovery has been a long one and is probably still not over. But I like my new normal better than my old normal. Like the Monarchs, in the spring I can see life coming from death, new coming from old, large coming from small, growth from nothingness. Springtime is full of those reminders that life comes from death, that large things come from small beginnings. I have a hope for a future is unending now. Spring will help me celebrate my new perspective this year.


Graham Davies said...

Carolyn, you are so like me. I have a high pain threshold too. I refused all painkillers seven days post-op, and when I was discharged from hospital I quickly got back to driving my car, swimming, walking my dog and playing golf. I healed quickly too and I'm proud of my neat 10-inch scar.

But, like you, I had problems coming to terms with what initially seemed like a short future life. I did not see the point of tending my garden and buying new clothes - and I continued to put up with an old pair of spectacles that I should have discarded months before. Then, three months post-op, I just said to myself "this is silly", so I went to the garden centre and bought a dozen trays of spring bedding plants. I bought a couple of expensive shirts, new summer shorts, and I spent 700 pounds (around $1400) on two new pairs of spectacles - one of which was a light-sensitive pair for driving and skiing. I also bought a satnav device for my car and used it on a two-week driving holiday in Europe in September 2006. I now use it regularly for driving holidays.

I no longer fear death and my restored Christian faith tells me that I probably have a lot longer to go than I first imagined. Seize the day: carpe diem!

Carolyn Langlie-Lesnik RN BSN said...

Hi Graham,

You and I were a lot alike. I didn't want to buy clothes, glasses and other things I needed for awhile as I felt I was such a poor investment risk. It took me a little longer than 3 months to get past that, though. For a long time I had ingrained in my mind the graphic depiction for my pathology showing about 10% survival at three years.

My restored Christian faith has really helped me a lot too. None of us really owns tomorrow, but I believe we all have an unending future. So it is important to seize each day as its own day, now I just trust God with my future. It was nice to release the burden of worrying about tomorrow.

Graham Davies said...

Just thought I'd let you know. I got the results of my last CT scan and blood tests today, 19 March 2008:

- CT Scan: No visible signs of PMP fluid of jelly
- Blood Tests: normal

My consultant does not need to see me until this time next year, but told me to contact him at any time if I had cause for concern.

Yippee! Crack open the champagne!

Carolyn Langlie-Lesnik RN BSN said...

Hi Graham!

Congratulations! I know what it feels like to get good reports! I love that you have a year off, too, if you choose. I know I love my vacations from testing and doctor's appointments.

Take care, and stay in touch,