Sudden, scary illnesses require that you find a new way of living. You must negotiate a new normal for yourself, or else a solution will be thrust upon you. My many nice friends and acquaintances have urged me to remember to put myself first in all of this. "Just take care of yourself," they say. Yes. Yes. That is a good idea. A really good idea. I'll do that. Put myself first, and hang everything else. That's the only thing that makes sense.
But very early in this process I discovered this is more easily said than done. In the weeks preceding my first chemo round, I was subsumed daily with what I called "cancer errands." Appointments galore, and they didn't schedule themselves, either:
Going to the new surgeon, going to the new oncologist, going to the nutritionist.
Going for an echocardiogram, a CAT scan (which required advance preparation and a trip to the lab the day before), and blood work.
Going to the pharmacy to pick up all my drugs that I take at home. Going to the hair stylist to buzz off my hair. Going to the wig store. Going to Nordstrom for comfier bras. Going for day surgery to install the port in my chest. Going to Whole Foods ("The Temple," I call it) for provisions. Going to People's Pharmacy (which I call "The Chapel") for the pile of supplements I now take. Going to the chiropractor to loosen up for the battle my body is about to undergo. Doing laundry, even all the "delicate wash" stuff, and paying bills.
Surely after all that, the just taking care of myself could start. My preparations completed, I was ready for all that self care I was encouraged, nay, ordered to perform.
It hasn't really worked out that way.
Right now, because I am complaining, I feel I must guiltily and hastily affirm the help and care I have received from my brother and the fellow parents in my child's school. They do a lot of the leg work for me, picking up my child from school several times a week and taking her to the places she needs to go. The parents pack my child's lunch one day a week, and bring us a dinner once a week as well. Their care and generosity have released me from some of my usual obligations. For this I am in their debt, I do not know how I will ever properly express my gratitude. It's guilt-inducing for me to even think that despite their invaluable contributions to the war, I am still losing the Me Time battle.
Maybe it's useful to stop and imagine what a near-perfect, healing, me first life would look like. First, I would never worry about what is or is not in the refrigerator and whether I have had enough of it for today, and no conversation about it would be necessary. Next, every bit of discarded mail and trash would be stowed without reminders in its proper place. Our books, magazines, and catalogs would all have a place to live and stop competing for space on all the horizontal surfaces in our home. The bills and household business would be concluded in a few short minutes, rather than days. Laundry's done. When I am feeling energetic, the bulk of my time would be spent in daily moderate exercise and body work and of course, my sewing. I would even have time and energy for fun and frivolous things outside home (those things to be determined later).
A friend wrote me yesterday: "I have been a bit concerned that your blog has been idle. We're
hoping that means you are busy with other things besides thinking about cancer." Why yes, I was, I was shoveling paper all last week, working with my checkbook, getting ready for taxes, filing all my medical paperwork into a labeled accordion file, and looking for summer camps. I cooked dinner, I picked up the house, I did laundry. I did a little sewing on Sunday.
This doesn't fit into my picture of self-tending. This feels like I have to add cancer to my list of errands and tasks. I am failing at doing my cancer the right way.