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Archive for July, 2012

I don’t know why or how I’m going to assert that I have credible dating advice for cancer survivors–when I was undergoing treatment, I was already in a relationship, and haven’t dated since.  But I think–in my unhealthy quest to make sense of what’s “worth it” in life–I’ve been coming to some realizations about the type of people a cancer survivor will meet.

Conversely: surviving is sexy, but anyone that’s amazed by you because of your scars and your stories clearly hasn’t realized there was a You before cancer.

By now, I’ve coming far enough from my cancer to see the different phases of my survivorship, over these last 18 months.  (How cool, really, to mark your life into eras.  The history gives it a bit of grandeur.)  I think that some rationales are best suited for particular eras.  For the past six months, I’ve been working on being comfortable being alone, on stabilizing myself so that no relationship becomes a crutch.  Now, I think I’m trying too hard to be alone, trying to assert that control can solve problems and that my life is in my hands.  In reality, it’s not.  The uncontrollable caprices of time make things ever more uncertain, and maybe it’s best to ride the waves in a two-person boat.  The only advice I can give is to never stop learning, and to never assume that one strategy will consistently give you the advantage.

I haven’t figured out quite how significant others, who only meet the cancer survivor post-treatment, should feel about beauty.  When I was going through treatment, I was always made to feel beautiful, and when my hair grew back, I got compliments on every hairstyle, that it was everyone’s favorite yet.  Looking back, I cringe and agree: each inch of hair seemed ever more gorgeous at the time, but I’m left with a year of awkward haircuts that I can’t imagine would woo a man.  Can I really expect someone I hardly know to find that waifish, dehumanized time in my life attractive?  It’s perverse, really, to find beauty in that suffering.  Yet eventually I think a survivor would want their significant other to look back at those pictures and marvel, to say that they were really great.

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Long-Term Care

[More to come on my incredible kayaking trip, but that merits more thought and reflection.  For now, a medical update]

Is it weird to be exhilarated – yes, exhilarated – by a medical appointment?  In a somewhat inexplicable way, this conversation was exactly what I needed, even if it took over 6 months for me to book the appointment. (Blame Dana-Farber’s method of having secretarial middlemen between patient and appointment scheduler.)

I had my first appointment at Dana-Farber’s Adult Survivorship Clinic, and I was pretty skeptical.  In the past, I hadn’t really jived with one of my doctors at the Jimmy Fund, and one of the nurse practitioners and I are not on good terms (not sure if I’ve written about the type she told me to “sort out my [nonexistent, physically impossible] pregnancy and get back to her”), so I didn’t know what to expect.  I had one great radiation oncologist, but what with DFCI’s looming bureaucracy (different offices and floors for every step of your visit!), I really didn’t expect much.  This was just one obligatory appointment with a nurse practitioner before I could be seen by an endocrinologist. (And let’s just get it out there: my experience with nurse practitioners has run the gamut – the ones for oncology have always seemed very intelligent and professional and legitimate substitutes for MDs, but others have been completely unknowledgeable, unhelpful, and actually detrimental to my health when they’ve overlooked serious concerns… like my cancer.)

So, at the bright and oh so lovely alarm resounding at 7:05 am, I was not expecting much.

I had about an hour-long appointment with a nurse practitioner, who I found out is the clinical director of the survivorship clinic.  The things we went over I pretty much knew–risks of secondary cancers and lung problems and atherosclerosis–but it was really reassuring and there was great care spent on each discussion.  He tried to be encouraging by reminding me that a 300% increased risk for a given ailment doesn’t mean it’s a high risk, just higher.  He also told me that I’m pretty much doing the best I can with my survivorship: staying on top of appointments, not smoking or being obese, exercising a lot (especially the Couch to 5K program to build lung endurance). He assured me that my level of drinking isn’t really averse to my health (who knew all alcohol, not just red wine, is somewhat heart-healthy?) and reminded me that no one is perfect, and trying to attain perfection in health would only lead to obsession, self-deprecation, and futile failure… well, he didn’t say that, but that was the take-away: striving for full control never works, but that’s okay.  To top it all off, he’s a survivor too!  Basically, a total boss.  I have so much respect for what he does, and it really helps to know someone like that is here for me.  (He even said that I could email or text–yes, text–him with health concerns, so that I don’t ruminate over symptoms.  This guy’s a lifesaver… no pun intended. Groan.)

Side note: The Yawkey Center is incredibly gorgeous, state-of-the art, and efficient– I wanted to marvel, but the elderly patients did temper my delight.

I’ve been feeling a little anxious and glum lately–I think it’s kayaking post-partum depression–and this motivation could not have come at a better time.  I’m about to go do my daily exercise and rejoice in the day!

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