What kind of klutzy fool sprains an ankle walking off a porch? How could I sprain two ankles in 10weeks? I don’t have a good leg to stand on! It’s humiliating. Poor Jay; I don’t want him waiting on me again. I feel so stupid and can’t blame that on cancer. Am I getting so out of shape that I can’t even walk? I should stop being a wimp and push myself more. No, I’ve got to slow down; stop acting as though things are normal again. Stop expecting so much!
My contorted thoughts raged for a few moments. How quickly I can go from positive thinking and acceptance to blaming, berating, pushing myself! Alone with my ice bag and swelling ankle, I moved from humiliation and disgust to wallowing in self pity. Guess it doesn’t take much these days. On the other hand, numb feet, two sprained ankles, fatigue, intermittent melancholy, headaches, and joint pain when I thought I’d bounce back quickly feels like a lot.
After 48 hours of ice, ace bandages and ibuprofen, I can walk upright today, cautiously, but without cane or crutches. I spent time researching neuropathy, other lingering after effects of chemo, and reading message boards of other recent survivors. What a relief to know neuropathy (nerve damage from chemo) causes weak muscles (esp. ankles!) as well as numb, burning feet. Nerves in the legs take longer to heal too. I discovered some of my other odd symptoms are common in this stage of recovery: aching joints, headaches, melancholy, brain and body fatigue. I’m glad I’m not alone in this, but unsettled knowing I have more recovering to do. Chemo is the gift that keeps on giving.
I reluctantly go to the ‘Healing Together’ group at the Lancaster Cancer Center. I want to believe I can bounce back easily because of faith, nutrition, and attitude. Yet, I need to hear the stories of others so I know how to be gracious with my recovery. A survivor stated, “When a "crisis" appears over, there is an expectation to be "over" the whole thing.” I agree, knowing my own expectations exceed what I sense coming from others.
Another survivor speaks: “I would be a liar if I didn't say that surviving cancer is a daily rollercoaster of emotions, physical and mental challenges and a soul searching journey that often leaves me exhausted. I am looking for answers about my joint pain, my fatigue, my memory inconsistencies, my feelings of melancholy, my hormonal imbalance, my weight fluctuation and a host of other seemingly normal and related but annoying symptoms of post cancer treatment. There are certain things I intrinsically feel/know would help some of these symptoms such as exercise, caffeine withdrawal, nonconsumption of any alcohol, a better green-leafy diet, vitamin intake, yoga, therapy, a good cry now and then, more stress free moments in a day, meditation and more joyful experiences, but I have found it difficult to either manifest or maintain these seemingly simple acts of well being for any real length of time. It is a journey. I guess I am reaching out in this little baby-steps-cyber way in hopes of finding some answers or validation that I am indeed "normal" or at the very least finding some listening ears who know first hand what I am experiencing.”
Like this person, I’m still processing the events of the last 12 months. I’m baffled with this ongoing processing, as I felt very present through each moment of treatment. But, reflection is always good, and the deeper truth is the journey. Don’t we all struggle with what we intuitively know, what we need help to know, and what we don’t want to face. I keep asking for the grace to live fully each day, to reflect on what comes up, to let go of what I can’t change. I want to flow like the water in a brook, moving around rocks and sticks, not fighting or resisting too much, but accepting, letting go, bending through life’s circumstances. I wish for moving effortlessly over smooth, polished stone, but want to be prepared for sharp obstacles and churning rapids too. So I come back to practicing kindness to myself and others, trusting, mindfulness, gratitude, prayer and meditation.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. --Reinhold Niebuhr
I have lost my smile,
But don’t worry,
The dandelion has it.
If you have lost your smile, but are still capable of seeing that a dandelion is keeping it for you, the situation isn’t too bad. You still have enough mindfulness to see that the smile is there. --Thich Nhat Hanh