I am struggling.
This is hard. Life draining hard. The changes which cancer has brought into my life, both physically and emotionally, are still taking a huge toll on my life 8 months after my “treatment” ended.
I am tired all of the damn time, like bags under my eyes tired, every day.
I am gaining weight. F you very much menopause.
I feel as if I am failing as a wife.
I can’t sit on the floor or be very active with my son.
I try to read a book and I usually fall asleep. See above: tired.
I wake up numerous times a night due to hot flashes. Again: tired.
I have at least 3 or 4 blog posts in my head and don’t have the energy to sit down and focus on writing and I love to write.
I feel guilt every time I leave the house and my dog looks at me with his big brown eyes and I know that he is thinking: “when do I get a walk?”
I have 2 or 3 appointments every week with my naturopath, massage therapist and physical therapist who all give me “homework” of various exercises and stretches which I am supposed to do every day. I can’t begin to remember all of them, let alone find the energy to do most of them.
I am sure my friends believe I have dropped them. I barely return texts, let alone phone calls. The last thing I want to do is complain to my friends about how crappy I feel all of the time and how it dominates my life.
I am in chronic pain. My left arm and shoulder just hurt and has limited range of motion. If I move it wrong and try to do something out of range, I get a shooting pain from shoulder to fingertips and it brings tears to my eyes. My joints and hips are stiff. If I sit for longer than a hour, I struggle to get up and often need help. If I kneel down, I need a hand to help pull me up or something to push myself up on.
The side effects of the medication which I am taking to hopefully prevent future cancer contribute to the fatigue, hot flashes, insomnia and joint pain. And lucky me, I get to take them for 9 ½ more years. That alone depresses the shit out of me.
But despite all of this, I still feel the need to take care of others ahead of myself. It is such a part of who I am. As a teenager, I helped to raise my sister. As an adult in my career, I took care of lawyers, CEOs, board members and entire offices. As a wife and mother, I took care of my family. As a friend, I did my best to help out where I could. I provided care to others in return for love, gratitude and praise. (My therapist helped me work out that part.) With everything that has gone on in the past 14 months, I feel like that has all exploded and I am pretty useless. It has led to depression, more anxiety and emotional upheaval.
I want my old life back, but clearly that is not going to happen.
I was talking to my massage therapist about all of this and how I feel I am sinking under the weight of what “I need to do.” She asked me if I was familiar with The Oxygen Mask Theory. I thought for a moment and quickly realized what she meant. When the plane is going down and the masks fall from the ceiling, put your mask on first before you put the mask on your child. If you pass out, you won’t be any help to your child or anyone else. If you don’t take care of yourself first, there is no way that you will be able to take care of anyone else in any capacity, physically, mentally or emotionally.
It sounds simple, yet many of us, myself included, often fail to practice this. Why is it so hard to take care of ourselves? The aftermath of “Breast Cancer 2017” has forced me to do this. I nap whenever possible (I still feel a bit guilty about it, but I know I need it). I see a massage therapist on alternating weeks with a naturopath who does acupuncture and CranioSacral Therapy to work on the pain and stress in my body. I am doing physical therapy to work on the range of motion in my left arm and shoulder. Trying to take better care of myself is hard work and exhausting. I am so incredibly fortunate that my husband works so hard to support our family so I can be at home during this process. I cannot imagine having to bring in an income while dealing with all of this.
I did an exercise last week with my therapist. I had to talk to myself as if I was my own best friend looking at my life. What would I say to her? It came easily to mind: “Don’t be so hard on yourself. Give your body permission and time to heal. Rest.” It brought tears to my eyes. I know what I need to do, but it is easier said than done.