Facing Reality

It’s a been a sobering week since I returned home from the hospital, with progress slow and recovery incremental. I have a bit more energy, am no longer taking four-hour naps, but I’m still coughing, and ready for my pajamas by 7 p.m. at night. And let’s not talk about my lovely diet and the limited number of foods I can tolerate, or the ongoing testing I have to undergo.

When I first rounded the corner from the worst of radiation treatment, and started back swimming and living a bit more, I had lots of great plans for my time this summer. I was going to join a hiking group of cancer survivors, explore a local breast cancer dragon boat racing team, volunteer for the American Cancer Society, buy kayaks so my husband and I could get out on the water as we’d planned during retirement, join a board of a local shelter for women and children, travel, and do some consulting. In the cold reality of this latest setback, I’m having to reevaluate quite a bit of this and take things much more slowly. I was so ready to get back to having a life that I may have overcommitted. Not surprising, but considering that my four-times-weekly swimming is now down to zero given the flu, and the idea of even walking in the park makes me want to take a nap, it’s fair to say that I was a bit overambitious. The board membership will stay, as will a bit of travel, and probably a small consulting project, but other commitments may fall by the wayside, and the kayaks and dragon boat racing may wait until next year. My goals are simple — get healthy, but do it in a way that does not exhaust me.

The other reality that I’m starting to face is that not everyone who was with me at the outset of this cancer journey will still be with me during this much longer and perhaps harder phase of coming back into my life. I get it. They think that the crisis is over, and that I should “get on with it” and that perhaps I don’t need the support that I needed at the beginning. This part is boring. I’m not setting the world on fire, being a model cancer survivor who climbs mountains after treatment ends. I’m still dealing with illness and the side effects of hormone therapy. I have setbacks, progress is slow, and victories are small. Plus they have their own lives and their own worries and I’m not in great shape to be a support to them at this point. Don’t get me wrong, I am blessed to have die-hard friends and family who have been with me and will be with me no matter what, but a few friends have fallen by the wayside — I don’t hear from them often or at all, or I’ve gotten tired of reaching out with less than “I’m doing great.”

In the end, it’s all ok, and will be more than ok eventually, but the reality of coming back from cancer treatment is not for the weak-willed.

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