2015 March 17 - The Question of Self Pity (Lotsa Update)

Hey friends,

It's been a really long time since I've written to you. That also means that it's been a really long time since I've written. I just haven't been able to manage the energy and focus to sit down and really tell it like it is, or to (perhaps) figure out how to pretend it's better?

Some darling friends are visiting St. Louis for a few days and encouraged me to write something to all of you again - said they've been hungry to know how things are going - the good and the not-so-good. So here I am. It's something.

Here're the generalities: I've been working full time in the office since mid-January. That is going well, I think - some days I leave early, some days I come in late. (Lucky for me, I've been able to accrue sick time to cover this.) There are doctor appointments and bloodwork appointments and port up-keep appointments. But, I am carrying my weight again at work, and it's nice to know that my being back makes a difference to my coworker-friends. My three-month check-up in early February (just blood and physical, no CT scan) showed that things are looking fine - nothing new to worry about. I had more, regular blood drawn last Friday and am waiting (anxiously, as you might imagine) for those results. My next scheduled CT scan is May 1st.

Now to try to describe what life is like right now...This is an old metaphor, but bear with me; it's all I've got at the moment. I've never run a marathon (or run more than a mile - I'm a walker!), but I've come to imagine each day as that - a long stretch of step-after-step to get to the end where I try to rest up to do it all again the next day. Some days it's slow and steady, eyes on the road ahead, no room for distraction; I power through. Some days I glance around to see friends cheering along the fence-line and I can slap hands, get a hug, smile, pick up the pace. Some days, it feels like crawling along through a hailstorm. I always feel tired. I always wake up wondering if I can really get out of bed and do it again. (Well, there was one day - a Sunday about 6 weeks ago - when I woke up and felt OK! That's something, right?)

Two things I heard from doctors last week that are both encouraging (because I'm not outside the norm) and a bummer. First, that this time - 5-6 months post-treatment - is often very hard. People think you're feeling better by now and maybe you are, but it's marginal enough that it doesn't feel like much. You want people to be able to be glad you're okay - and you are "okay," huzzah! - but you still feel like only a slice of yourself. Second, that recovery from treatment generally takes at least twice as long as the actual length of the treatment. By that measure, I might be almost half-way through?

This brings me to another reason I haven't been writing. I'm stealing this from Joan Didion: The question of self-pity.
These are the first four lines of The Year of Magical Thinking:
"Life changes fast.
Life changes in the instant.
You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.
The question of self-pity."
I know, I really do know, that I am doing so much better than I could be. I know I'm lucky to have made it through the surgery and treatments and that things look ok now. I know I had so much amazing support. I know I'm lucky, and yet I cannot feel happy. The question of self-pity.

It occurred to me a couple of months ago that I never took a break in all these months. It was always go-go-go, what am I on the hook to do today? I was not working full time during treatment, sure, but that was not a break. I was always in treatment and recovering and trying to figure out how to work more, until working more led to the shaky transition out of treatment and back to work full time. It occurred to me that I never really stopped to breathe. On Friday, I leave for a week in California. I'll be staying for a couple of days in San Clemente with my Auntie Meg and cousin Angela, then riding the train up the coast to Santa Barbara, where I'll stay in an AirBnB set-up with a friend of a dear old college friend. (My brother, Jason, came riding along on his white horse again to get me airline tickets with his travel points.) My criteria for the trip: sun, ocean, nobody expecting anything from me. I hope this is good. I hope it helps. Send me your prayers and sweet thoughts as I try to do a little reset, get my feet on the ground.

Well, I started out thinking I was going to write you three or four sentences and look at this big, long missive. Thanks for reading and caring.

Love and more love,