I was torn about publishing this particular post, until a certain little voice said, “What are you afraid of? Go ahead, keep it to yourself if you like, but remember, you can’t help anyone else unless you let an open, loving heart prevail a little over that closed, fearful mind…”
Gulp. Ok, so here goes: Facts: It turns out that the back pains I described in some earlier posts actually stem from my previous breast cancer having metastasized into my spine and pelvis, and some in lung and liver. Also, osteoporosis, compression fractures, and muscle spasms added to the terrible mix of pain and immobility. There, that’s it in a nutshell. Of course it sounds terrible and scary, I admit it.
HOWEVER! I have since learned that there is always a “however.”
Cancer again! However, my oncologist prescribed a new anti-cancer drug that wasn’t available until last year, that seems to be very hopeful with minimum side effects; likewise a newer drug to move excess calcium from the blood into the bones, and strengthen the bones.
Immobility! However, reclining in a 0-gravity lawn chair outfitted with a special low-density polyester cushion took pressure off the worst areas of nerve sensitivity, and I could be practically painfree most of the time, using just acetaminophen as a painkiller. Using a Far Infra-Red (FIR) heating pad on my back helped ease pain and promote healing of fractures. Thus, living in the living room in this chair in front of a picture window since March 10 was pretty close to pleasant (“Location, location!” as they say). From this vantage point, I could watch the trees budding and greening and waving in the breeze, and people walking down the street. Also, my husband rigged up an easy-reach bookshelf, and with a pull-out shelf for my laptop with wifi so I was not even cut off from the big wide world. (Ok, those of you with ubiquitous smart phones need not be as impressed with the laptop set-up as I am!) A walker helped me get down the hall to a certain little room and back. We are blessed with many assistive devices these days!
Until it all came to a grinding halt at the end of May. Suddenly so much pain, I could not be in this chair; in bed, even on the soft cushion, I could not move or get up. At all. I could not spend more than a minute in the wheelchair in which I was supposed to go to my oncologist’s follow-up appointment. However, my doctor ordered patient transport; they put me on a gurney and whisked me off to the hospital bed my oncologist booked for me.
Blood test: hemoglobin (red blood cells) level at 63 (should be well over 100; they worry below 80)! The cancer was blocking my bone marrow from making enough hemoglobin. However, somewhere out there in the community there were caring strangers who had taken time out of their busy days to go and donate blood at no charge to save someone’s life. I thank God for these people! Thus I could immediately have three units of blood by transfusion. Two weeks later, two more units were given to me. Now my body seems to be able to make its own hemoglobin, so I figure the anti-cancer drug must be working too.
Would it be too macabre to reveal my sense of gallows humour in the “poem” I wrote in the hospital about Count Hemoglobin? However, I can’t resist:
The full moon poured its silver on the land
When there was insufficient blood on hand
To satisfy the Hemoglobin Count,
Who needed three more pints in his account.
His powers restored, he gloats about the feast:
From sixty-three to one hundred points at least!
The moon now waned, the appetite less dire,
Two pints should be the most he will require.
Ongoing pain and nausea! However, the Pain Management doctor and team worked hard to address these from different angles: trying different drugs and levels of drugs until we seem to be coming to a working solution.
Dark moments! You want to cry and feel sorry for yourself. I’m a real wimp when it comes to pain and nausea! Left to my own nature, I get irritated and frustrated that I can’t do all I want. Of course! That’s normal, right? However, patience is a virtue that needs to be practised!
Healing requires positive thoughts, meditation, a relaxed and grateful mind, a certain confidence in the future, awareness of purpose and something to live for, and so on. Granted, easier said than done. However, there is help for this too: counsellors, social workers, hospital chaplains, spiritual caregivers. My pastor was available for loving counselling, for listening to my feelings, assuring me that my impatience, frustration, (well, all the negative responses) can be and have been forgiven by Jesus Christ, giving me peace in my relationship with God, and I can finally express that peace and love to others. Comfort knowing that my future, however it goes, is in good hands with God makes a difference even in how I handle pain and nausea. As I am reminded: if the cancer should take over and it is time for me to go, I know that I will be in a good place with Christ in heaven. If the cancer is beaten and I have more time on earth to enjoy my grandchildren and family, it will be a blessing and I will be grateful. So far, I feel I’m being carried along on this earthly blessing side. Here is a poem from my book Mindset – Reflections En Route:
Time of first healing,
thanking God for good people:
aides, volunteers. Their diverse
diligence and care
overwhelm and humble me-
my eyes are opened,
I also thank God
for- known and unknown to me-
the many pray-ers
my body and mind respond
as prayers are answered.
Am I just lucky that everything seems to be going my way? Are things easy? Of course not. Acknowledging that is actually perhaps the most challenging part of the healing process. However, if we want to heal, we must control the things we can control, with the help of God: our thoughts, prayers, and physical things like good nutrition, physiotherapy, resting- whatever is necessary- that we can do. We trust God to help us with things beyond our control. Recently a good friend of ours passed away from cancer. Again I am reminded of our frailty and vulnerability. When my cousin died a few years ago, I included this in my book:
If you are struggling with any similar issues, know that you are not alone on this earth. If you reach out, you will find others around who will support you. Avoid those who want to tear you down. God is there always on your side.
I’m sure this is the longest post I’ve ever written, and if you’re still with me, thank-you! Sometimes it feels like I could go on and on; however, there is also a time to end a post! Next time, maybe just a sonnet or a limerick?