Friday, November 12, 2010

I Raise My White Flag

I wish I could more accurately describe this feeling I have felt come on me the last few days. I think I have tried in previous posts but it's sort of like a combination of physical tired and emotional tired (with a bunch of toxic chemicals in he mix!). I've been struggling identifying it (because that would mean confronting it, I think) but last night in my cancer support group, I pretty much fell apart. Now you have to understand that I sometimes struggle with my own situation when I am with this group, mostly because my cancer experience has not been as challenging as some of the other people in the group. So when I whine or complain, I feel like I have no right to do this because I have "only a slight case of breast cancer." And maybe it's that kind of thinking that has gotten me in trouble. Up until about a week ago, I think I was at the gym about 70% of my usual time -- and, as you all might remember, I even managed to squeak out a marathon (at my slowest time ever). I have only used one sick day this semester and have worked through feeling crappy with almost a sense of pride.

However, as of today I haven't been to the gym in a week. Even thinking about it makes my stomach hurt. I'm struggling to keep our house clean and organized. The intestinal issues are making eating not fun. In general, I have this feeling of being drained and fatigued that feels worse than what I was feeling before (and I thought that was bad).

So somehow in group last night, I got frustrated because the thought of going to work today and being "on" 100% when I teach just seemed so overwhelming. Where was I going to get the energy? Amanda, one of the other group members, talked about her own frustrations (she has two small children and a FT job) and how she has recognized that you have to be your own best advocate for your health; no one else is going to do this like you can -- and should. Many of the group members gave me permission to be less than perfect and "sick" even when I can't seem to give myself that permission. And Robyn, another group member, got a little angry with me when I said "slight case of breast cancer." She said you have cancer, you are undergoing chemo, and you are experiencing radiation. You have cancer. I think there is still a big part of me that has been in denial about all of this, as strange as that must sound. But my body is now forcing me to recognize this fact.

So here is what I know: I am a bit of a perfectionist. I want to do the best at everything I do. I'm even ambitious, I think, because I want to be a teacher-scholar (like one of my personal heroes, Howard Tinberg) and work hard at being an advocate for two-year college students. I want to write a good dissertation, not just an adequate one. I like a clean house, one that is organized and comfortable. I want to break four hours for a marathon time someday. I don't want to gain back all the weight I have worked so hard to lose. I want to be a fun wife who offers an oasis for her husband. I want to be a good friend to everyone in my life.

But maybe what I am beginning to understand is that I AM tired and at least through the end of this year, I need to slow down. Major slow down. I don't want to delay feeling better by trying to pretend that I am a trooper and can get through anything. So I took a sick day today and am trying to ignore the dishes in the sick and the papers that need grading. I have two doctor's appointments today but that't it. Maybe I should do some online searching to figure out how to relax ....

5 comments:

  1. Girl, you are harder on yourself than I am on myself! That girl in your group was right - you DO have cancer...but that DOES NOT define you in any way. You define yourself, and from what I've seen, you've successfully defined yourself as strong, amazing, and 100% perfect.

    You deserve a break. You've more than earned it. If I can do anything at all to help you, just ask (though I know that's probably hard for you to do).

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  2. I know exactly what you mean. After the stroke I felt the same way. But, it was only a little stroke, and my recovery was so quick, I had nothing to complain about.

    While I still don't want to wallow in self pity, I am so glad that I finally acknowledged - 1) That it was okay to need more time to do things like recover & 2) that it was okay to be angry about all of this.

    I didn't ever go to a group, but I did go to private counseling primarily because I needed a safe space to be angry about it all.

    If you want, email me and we can chat. The stroke wasn't cancer, but I think we would do well to commiserate. :)

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  3. Thanks to you both. I think we strong women are just not so great at admitting "defeat" sometimes. I just started seeing a private couselor, on top of the group stuff, and I think this is a step in the right direction. I guess I am starting to realize that crap you deal with before a cancer diagnosis (or other medical diagnosis) doesn't go away but can also become more magnified and intense. I can't articulate enough how much I appreciate the encouraging vibes. Many, many thanks!

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  4. Oh Dianna...how I do wish I was there to give you a hug. My heart is so full I don't even know how to put into words what I'm feeling right now. I desperately admire your passion and discipline. For a very long time, I struggled with the same intense desire and emotional need for perfection. I think you know that about me :-) I've worked very hard to break that cycle of destruction and I have found that while I've not been successful with it on all fronts, I have finally given myself permission NOT to be perfect. That's not to say I don't still struggle with body-image issues (esp. now that I've gained weight) or work-related issues (since I'm not really in the type of job I want to be in), but I promise you--all the struggles I've had--work, relational, financial, physical, emotional--God has used every single one to show me time and time again that He is the only answer. Our true identity is in God's love for us, and when we reside in that knowledge, our life experience and outlook is changed forever. You will still have bad days, you will still feel unworthy and not good enough, but you have the spiritual armor to defend yourself against such lies. Sorry to be long-winded; this particular post just really touched my heart and I wanted you to know that and know that I love you.

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  5. Dianna,

    Yes, allow yourself to slow down. You have been remarkable through all of this. I shared your blog with a close friend of mine with whom I just reconnected after a long time. Here’s what she said in response:
    “Wow, Lisa, what an amazing woman!! You must be blown away by having a student like she is--I know that students like this always made me feel humble and deeply touched because I knew just how few and far between they are. And it made me even more careful in my dealings with them because they are so unique and special. Not that I short-changed my other students, just that someone like her is so rare. You're so lucky to be directing her dissertation!!”

    I agree 100%. I stay amazed at your resilience, your tenacity, your unwillingness to let cancer control your life even though it is trying so hard to do so. Giving yourself permission to slow down is not letting the cancer win; it’s getting your second wind for the fight to come.

    As I was listening to music videos last night, I ran across one I had downloaded. It was of Celtic Women singing one of Josh Groban’s song (lyrics pasted below). As I listened to it, I kept thinking of you and how fortunate I am to have you in my professional and personal life, how much better a person I am because of you.

    When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary;
    When troubles come and my heart burdened be;
    Then, I am still and wait here in the silence,
    Until you come and sit awhile with me.

    You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
    You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
    I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
    You raise me up: To more than I can be.

    You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
    You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
    I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
    You raise me up: To more than I can be.

    There is no life - no life without its hunger;
    Each restless heart beats so imperfectly;
    But when you come and I am filled with wonder,
    Sometimes, I think I glimpse eternity.

    You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
    You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
    I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
    You raise me up: To more than I can be.

    You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
    You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
    I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
    You raise me up: To more than I can be.

    You raise me up: To more than I can be.

    L

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