A fellow cancer assassin and I had a short conversation on facebook this morning about feeling tired and lethargic from treatment and wanting to do too much. This is something that is always on my mind and I thought it would make for an excellent blog post, so here goes.
I have always been proud of my ability to get things done. I am a multi-tasker at heart, an organizer, a cleaner (love a clean home) and just a "doer" in general, often trying to fit in a hike or climb in with all the rest of my daily "chores". Basically I think that when I was diagnosed last March and knew that the statistics for my survival of even one year didn't look too good, something inside of me shifted. I had this deep down feeling that I just had to do it all, see it all, experience it all, not missing or letting slip by one single second of my life. I wanted to take it all in and hold onto it, there were still so many things I wanted to do in my life, so many things I wanted to see, smell and hear. I went on a binge trying to fit everything in, not wanting to miss a second of it. Keep in mind this was on top of everything else going on: research about food/cosmetics/household products, or about therapies and treatments that could help me kill the cancer that had all of the sudden become the most prominent thing in my life.
One day I came into the Center for Traditional Medicine for my regularly scheduled nutritional IV, my friend Susan (another fellow cancer assassin) was there and as usual we started talking about all the things we were doing etc. She realized that I was completely exhausted (something that I am not good at telling myself) and suggested that I slow down a bit. At first I was like "No way! I've gotta see it all before it's too late!" It was at this point that Susan gave me a little bit of advice that has completely changed the way I look at my time, energy levels, and priorities. I want to share it with you all, even if you don't have cancer, because it is so worthy of sharing. It goes a little like this:
Susan explained that I should look at my day and energy levels much like a tank of gas. I know that I have a certain amount of energy each day that oscillates wildly when I get chemo or an IV (less energy then). From this I can sort of plan the things that I want to do that day. Prioritize the most important things or the things that you really want to do (don't forget that even having FUN expends your precious energy too) and do those first. If you have any energy left over after that then you can decide exactly what you want to devote that energy to. Simple huh?
For me, I know how much energy I will have to do things each day. Usually for me preparing food and the regular duties take quite a bit of energy, especially after chemo. I know that I want to get to the climbing gym or out on the crag so I save some energy for that (perhaps blow off vacuuming or dusting that day for some fun instead). Basically I think that this bit of advice helps me to know that I do indeed have a limit. As much as I don't want to admit it, and as much as I want to do it all, I just know that if I do I will be paying for it the next day as I lay on the sofa until 2 or 3 in the afternoon completely exhausted, OR my liver is hurting and most likely it came from overdoing it the day before and not taking some of my energy and time to take care of myself first. I know just how important it is to have the energy to fight this stupid cancer and if I use it all up cleaning the house or doing other things I wont have any left to fight. That is just not acceptable in my world. I truly feel that my cancer was partly caused by too much stress (or at least amplified by it). Chinese medicine says that the liver is where we hold resentment, anger and stress, no wonder mine ended up compromised! So these days I try to live as stress free as possible, for my own sanity and for my health. I realize that I have a certain amount of energy every day and I try to plan accordingly. Sometimes I still overdo it, but at least I can now realize when that happens and try to prevent it from recurring. I still get frustrated, VERY frustrated that I cannot do all the things I want to do and that my brain has turned to mush from chemotherapy. I cannot concentrate on anything most of the time (even 1/2 hour sit-coms on tv) and I constantly lose my train of thought and for the life of me I can never ever seem to find the word I am looking for. Those things frustrate me more than I even know. But out of all of this crap, this is the golden nugget that I have come away with.
I deserve to be healthy.
I deserve to live a stress free life as much as possible.
I try to look at these frustrations and find something good in there like this:
I now have the time for myself, time to rest as much as I want, time to take care of me. So what if I can't remember things sometimes, that just keeps it from getting old and hey, I save a ton of money on movies because I don't remember watching them so they are all like new releases to me :)
It is easy to get lost in all the overwhelming things that cancer brings into your life and to feel so very deflated, defeated, lost and alone. I am not going to say that this doesn't happen to me, because it does. I throw myself a huge pity party from time to time and I am not ashamed to say it. It feels good to get it out and rant and cry and scream at the unfairness of it all and THAT is important. Getting it out prevents me from "holding it inside" and creating more avenues for cancer to thrive inside me. I am not saying that anyone, including myself, needs to go around with a smile and nothing but positive things to say, that is not only absurd and ridiculous but it will eventually backfire and leave you feeling even worse later. I am only suggesting to slow down, enjoy what you enjoy, no one can do it all at once. All those things you didn't get to will still be there tomorrow, and who knows, perhaps the extra time will make doing what ever it is that much easier later.
I hope everyone is having a wonderful Monday!