Thursday, June 17, 2010

My theories of relativity (no not physics)

I could have guessed at the seriousness of this when I could not sleep through the night without ibuprofen every 4-6 hours. I could have predicted the outcome when doctors were telling their staff to call them the minute the results were in. The magnitude of this became more real to me when I started speaking directly with doctors on the phone; on their personal cell phones. Doctors don’t typically do that. Not really. But they do with me.

Pain is a very relative thing. I can start recalling my first signs of pain within the past 1-2 years. My very first memory of pain was waking up in the morning and taking my two dogs outside. This would require me to go down a steep staircase, through a hallway, kitchen, and then to the back porch. I remember the dogs ran down the stairs while I limped in pain, shedding many tears and wondering if I should scoot on my bottom side the rest of the way down. I was in agony on the back porch waiting for the dogs to come back inside. I wondered what kind of muscle I pulled, what kind of arthritis I was developing, and other practical or logical ideas for what I was feeling. I was definitely in pain. But in more pain than what? And in less pain than what? This is why pain is relative. I guess you have to base your pain upon the experiences you’ve already had in your life. For each person it is very different. There is emotional pain and physical pain experiences that we can draw upon. This pain I was feeling in my right knee at the time however, didn’t really compare to anything I had ever felt. It was just a nagging, deep, piercing pain. It wasn’t always in my knee and it didn’t always feel piercing as the days and months went by. This is when I grew more and more suspicious. Ibuprofen, soaking in hot baths, and an occasional kindhearted listening ear were the only things that seemed to help. I thought if I just gave it some time it would surely go away as some things do. By the time I was in about as much pain as I could handle, I decided to see a doctor. Why I endured that kind of suffering for so long I am really not sure. I think I endured the pain because it was so irregular and because it was never the same kind of pain and never in the same place. Maybe I thought I was going crazy.

Eventually I discovered the truth. Eventually the pain got better (after surgery). The pain got worse before it got better. But the pain got better. I now look around me as I go through my treatments, enter hospitals, read about people’s experiences and meet new people in all kinds of different situations and I think about how things really are relative. How could I possibly judge other people and their conditions based upon my own experiences? The simple answer is that I cannot. What may be right for one person may be the completely wrong answer for another. And what one person can tolerate physically and emotionally, another person may not be able to withstand. I haven’t been able to keep track of my “grateful lessons” I’ve learned because they are so numerous to mention. Things that I am grateful for happen on a daily basis. Some are big and some are very small. But I learn from all of them. One of the strongest lessons I’ve learned this year is that I am unique and so is everyone else. My experiences are special and so is everyone else’s. If I don’t know exactly how someone feels, it is still okay to reach out to him or her in understanding ways. I never ever want to discount anyone’s feelings. Afterall, things may get worse for them before they get better… and I know how that is.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Life and living

This week I turned another year older. I am 33 now. This year I learned that a rare cancer had developed in my femur bone called fibrosarcoma. Upon turning another year older and having the experiences of this year so far, I have decided a few things. Life is important. Cancer matters for me right now. But life is important. One of the biggest challenges that cancer patients face is their fear. Wouldn’t it be extraordinary if there were more thought given to life and living, and not to the diagnosis? I realize what the definition of diagnosis means, but once the condition or disease is identified, that person still needs to live. I hear a lot of people refer to “life after cancer” and it makes me wonder what they were doing when they weren’t living. Cancer, surgery, and treatment (depending upon the type of cancer) can take months and sometimes years to complete. To create a world of survivors, we need to have the courage to live, and the power to take on those big challenges that will be handed to us. If we live during the whole ordeal, we will be more equipped to handle situations that if we otherwise had no life in us at all would not be able to. Though the days may be hard, tiring, frustrating or painful I choose to live my life. Why would I want to stop living? After all, it is only a word. It is only a disease. It is only bigger than you choose to believe it is. It can only stop you from doing that which you love, if you let it. It can do many things. But you can do anything. I can do anything. And I choose to help create a world of survivors. That is the goal. Life... is important.