Days Like These
In this day of social media, we can so often hide behind the keyboard, and put out to the world what it is we want people to know. Myself, I do tend to have a glass half full mentality. And yet - I can also see the glass is half empty. I read recently that when you look at that picture of the woman, or the vase, whichever you see, that you can't see both at the same time. I actually can see both images at the same time. I am sure that I am not the only one who is able visualize multiple perspectives.
The past year has been life changing. Back in January 2020, when I received a diagnosis of stage IV colon cancer, it really felt surreal. Without any signs or symptom? I was informed that happens. All of my adult life, I had dealt with the lingering effects of the Epstein Barr Virus (EBV), better known as mononucleosis. Then there was the cold sore (Herpes virus) that showed up when I was finishing my physiotherapy schooling. I am sure, that the virus took advantage of my stressed out and exhausted system. The greatest issue with the EBV was fatigue. The fatigue experienced was that of having a 24-hour flu. It would often be triggered before menstruation, after travelling, or when I took on too much and didn't give my system rest and recovery time. I pushed myself to succeed as a physiotherapist, which meant working five full days a week, managing a clinic, and doing course work on the weekends. I pushed myself to complete burn out at least four times in the first ten years of my physiotherapy career. Then I decided to fulfil a dream of owning my own clinic.
My physical health, outside of these episodes of fatigue (which always passed within a couple of days), seemed good. I had an ideal body mass index (weight to heigh ratio). I was active, playing ice hockey through the winter and doing triathlon training in the spring, summer, fall. When I turned forty, I completed my one and only half ironman. The first "crash and burn, lessons to learn" came in the form of an intrauterine fibroid. The heavier bleeding started about the age of forty-three. The fibroid was discovered at age forty-five. By the time it came out, via emergency hysterectomy at the age of forty-eight, it had tripled in size. In hind-sight, I would have it done when it was first discovered. Why didn't I? Well, I didn't feel that I could afford to take the six weeks off of work. I managed the symptoms, until they were no longer manageable. I sold the clinic in April 2016, then proceeded to have the hysterectomy.
My first colonoscopy was at the age of thirty-eight. My doctor at the time insisted on it, because my mother had polyps with pre-cancer cells. I have since discovered that there is a longer line of familial colon cancer on both sides of my family. I was given the all clear for ten years. So, when I was having my hysterectomy, I should also have been having another colonoscopy. It wasn't on my mind, and I didn't have a consistent family doctor anymore to remind me.
The diagnosis was at the end of January, but it wasn't until May, 2020 that I started to have any physical problems. The gallbladder type of pain with mid thoracic referred pain would occur 1-2 times a month. It seemed related to my eating, and I assumed it was a side effect of some of the treatments. The tumor markers we were monitoring were on the rise, and my liver and gall bladder enzymes were creeping up. I would feel like crap for 1-2 days after an attack, which generally resolved only after vomiting. I continued working three days part time from home, and doing treatments the other two days.
A full bowel blockage, in mid-October 2020, resulted in a great deal of pain, weight loss, and colostomy surgery. The recovery was slow. My lowest measured weight was 101 lbs (typically my ideal is 125-130 lbs). There was nothing in the tank, physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically. The pulse of the spirit kept me going. Days, once filled with treating clients and exercise, are now spent reading, writing, sleeping, napping, meditating (sometimes napping while meditating), Qigong, walking my dog, and some farm chores. I have gone on the occasional hike with friends, and kayak. My energy system isn't even close to what it used to be.
To look at me now, you would think that all is well. I am up to 110-113 lbs. If you see me out in the yard, I look good. Just this past week, I had three days where I felt almost normal. Of course, I did more on those three days. My energy dropped pretty quickly over the remainder of the week and by Saturday, I was about 30%. Most of the day was spent in a rest and recovery mode. That for me is sleeping in, napping, and watching television. When my energy gets that low, there is no reading or writing.
This is my mountain climb. My Everest. Sometimes I feel like I am making progress up the mountain. When climbing if you go up too quickly and don't acclimatise one may experience altitude sickness. If this occurs, you have to go back down to a lower altitude and recover. Once recovered, you can start the ascent once again, but perhaps at a slower pace. That is what my recovery has felt like, up then down. Rest and repeat.
The glass half full part of me is grateful that these episodes pass. That I have the opportunity to rest and recover, instead of soldiering on and depleting my energy source. My glass half empty persona, gets pissed off. It is requiring a daily spiritual practice to keep myself from going down the black hole. I am learning how to "accept life on Life's terms."