Where have I been, Stuart Smiley, Ten-step Programs, Common sense & Me (or lack of)
Posted November 14, 2009on:
I’m honored that at least a couple people have wondered whether everything was OK because I haven’t had a blog entry in a few days.
Let me put it simply – it’s been a hell of a week. I’m OK, but I am coming to terms with my humanness.
On Tuesday, I decided I was going to go for a walk, something I love to do. Before and after surgery I had been walking three plus miles a day. It helps clear my mind and makes me stronger. Studies also show that women who walk do better with their treatment.
So walking has been a talisman for me, a bit of protection against evil or disease.
Right after chemotherapy, I can’t go very far, but by the time the next session comes along I am walking more than 2 miles a day and feeling pretty good in the process.
I’ve written that the chemotherapy does not hit me right away. The truck hits days later and sticks around for six days. It’s accumulative, not with nausea, but with exhaustion and just plain feeling crummy.
Somehow, I had convinced myself that I missed the truck this time so on Tuesday, I went for a walk by myself. I talked about 1.3 miles or so when I found myself overwhelmed with exhaustion. A few blocks from home, I had to stop and rest a couple times sitting down on front steps of houses, resting for a couple minutes and moving on.
Then less than a block from home, I couldn’t go any farther. I lay on the grass and closed my eyes. At that moment, I couldn’t even crawl home.
Luckily, the high school sons of a friend came by and saw a person lying on the ground, they were unsure whether this person was drunk or was just watching the sky. When they realized who it was, they offered to call an ambulance, but I just wanted to get home. Sheridan got me to the couch, called Dick at work and got wet cloths for my head and neck. He stayed until Dick got home. By that, I was feeling a bit better.
Dick had the great line of the day, “If you want to go for a walk tomorrow, call me and I’ll come home and nail the doors shut.”
Sheridan’s mother Mary Ellen, a nurse midwife, came by after she heard about it and we talked about what I had done and the high – too high – expectations I have for myself.
It was not the smartest thing to do – dumb in fact. I should not have walked alone and should not have gone that far. Let me assure you, certain persons yelled at me for it.
I know I could have ended up in the hospital or at least in emergency via ambulance if the boys had not come along. And I’m sure I scared the you know what out of the boys, especially when I whipped off my hat inside the house and showed by chemo head.
The kind discussion with Mary Ellen was that maybe I should use a little more common sense in my walks, which brings me to a story. Back in 1993, when my son, Michael, was going into kindergarten at Emerson Elementary School in La Crosse, I went on the parent-teacher board as the newsletter editor.
At the first meeting, the big decision was whether we should stay a part of the Parent-Teacher Association, or become unaffiliated as a parent-teacher organization. The Wisconsin PTA, not wanting to lose any school, sent a state representative to sing the praises of all that the PTA offered to a school.
This was my first official meeting as a board member and I sat by my friend Dorothy listening about as earnestly as I could (I’m not so earnest). The state rep mentioned several programs including something called the Common Sense Program.
At that moment, I turned to Dorothy and whispered in all sincerity, “Did I miss common sense.”
Dorothy took her time and quietly answered, “Yes, Sue, you missed common sense.”
I could not stop laughing for 20 to 30 minutes. I’d pull myself together and then I’d spray out laughter. At one point, Dorothy had to explain to the other folks that I was not laughing at them. And at still another point, I had to make a run to the bathroom.
The truth is that in many ways I did miss common sense. There are some things in life that I just don’t get right. Oh, I get by OK, but sometimes I do some incredibly dumb things like walking farther and harder than I should.
It’s taken all week to get over the exhaustion and the deep wound to my pride, which brings me to the twelve-step program. One step to get over your addiction is “recognizing a greater power that can give strength.”
That power is chemotherapy, although it certainly isn’t giving me strength at the moment. Hopefully, if it is truly working its diabolical magic killing the evil cancer cells that would be strength.
I have struggled so much with what I have perceived as failure on my part to be strong. It’s almost as if I thought I could handle chemotherapy by standing in front of the mirror ala Stuart Smalley on Saturday Night Live. His daily affirmation was, “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough, and dog-gone it, people like me.”
With chemotherapy, it’s not so simple. I have had many people telling me to give myself a break and I’m trying to be kinder to myself on this. But it’s a wound to my pride, pure and simple: stupid, foolish pride.
And, I’ve felt the perkiness of this blog has been all fraud when I’m now feeling not so perky now. I’m getting accolades for being “positive” and strong when right now I’m not so positive or strong. (But I am honest.)
One of the nurses told me that I’m exhausted because my body is working really hard on the inside creating healthy cells and reminded me just how strong the drugs are that they have given me to kill the cancer. And I’m on a dose dense regiment – every two weeks instead of three. That means I’ve had less time to recover before the next one starts.
“It’s like when the kids were little and all they did was sleep, eat and grow. That’s what you are doing now. Sleeping, eating and growing healthy cells.”
And they tell me I am doing very well. I haven’t ended up in the hospital – which is a major plus – even if I was trying on Tuesday.
I was told, too, that some of those who actually do the best during treatment are those who are pretty inactive and mainly sat around anyway. They don’t notice they don’t have the strength for their regular lives.
And it was explained to me that even Lance Armstrong struggled through chemotherapy.
“But I thought he kept on going through chemotherapy,” I said.
“He didn’t enter the Tour de France during chemotherapy,” she said.
So there is hope for my professional biking career. We agreed once I was done with treatment, I had the Tour de France in my future. It would be a nice way to see France – next year. But I don’t see myself in those skinny bike shorts.