Man this cancer thing is already kind of ridiculous, and I haven’t even started treatment. From the moment I found out, I firmly positioned myself in full bad-ass stance, made long term grandiose plans and capriciously swore that nothing would hold me down or stop me from caring for other people and patients. I was cocky. I was confident. I thought that it would help me beat this thing.
So, that was like….so last two weeks. Now let me tell you about what I actually should have done or learned…lol When I first learned that I had cancer, I had people telling me everything from reminding me how I need to slow down to I could work full time with this no problem with no pauses! Well of course I gravitated toward the full throttle advice! Who wouldn’t? I didn’t cancel patients right away. I started writing my book. I started a new podcast. I recruited my army, once I finally let the cat out of the bag. I cried for about two seconds and then I was ready to go! I was not done yet! Screw you cancer! You’re not the boss of me! Sound familiar? Anyone else been there? It doesn’t last too long does it?
Here is what I should have realized and learned. The first thing to realize when you are told you have cancer is that it has been around a lot longer than you thought. You need to add a couple of years in some cases to the time of diagnosis. Whaaat?! A couple of years?! That sucker has been sneaking around in my body for a couple of years? What the hell?! What that means is by the time you are diagnosed, it has been around long enough to give you symptoms. This means that the path from feeling normal to shitty has been significantly shortened before you even get the chance to process the fact that you have cancer in the first place. How rude!
Second, I should have realized that now is the time to plan carefully, anticipate and CONSERVE energy, not burn it all up before you even start. This is the time to try to be realistic, without guilt, about what you will be able to do and not do. This is my biggest challenge. Instead of just relaxing, I spend way too much time feeling guilty on what I am missing out on and who I am letting down. I am fixated on the fact that I am dropping the ball. Ugh! I went from feeling good to crappy in about a week. Now I walk across the room or just sit and promptly get short of breath, depending on the day. I have fatigue that is so intense that it literally comes out of no where and sucks the life out of you to the point that even breathing seems like too much effort. I am told that this is common with lymphoma since it is a condition that has a lot more inflammation associated with it. Therefore, your body requires a ton of excess energy and calories to try to fight it off. It makes sense I guess. My point is, that I waste time when I feel good trying to accomplish a million things until the next time I don’t feel good. I am not good at resting. How will this benefit me? It won’t. It will only make it tougher and take me longer to get better.
Last but not least, I should have realized that I have to let people help me! They are doing it because they want to, not because I am making them. I need to stop trying to do everything myself. I need to stop confusing accepting help with some weird acknowledgement of failure or weakness. What is my problem? I still don’t know…lol All I can promise is that I will work on it, because I intend to see this thing all the way through. Wish me luck!
Traditionally, it seems that most patients do not view their physicians as actual, potentially flawed human beings. It’s just too uncomfortable a concept. If patients viewed their doctors as humans, that would mean that they would have to acknowledge the fact that they can make mistakes, have emotions, have physical ailments, and emergencies as well. To most patients, that is an untenable thought. Their doctors need to be superhuman, infallible, and infinitely available at a moment’s notice. This kind of thinking allows patients to engage in demanding, unreasonable, and entitled behavior at times and puts a significant burden on the doctor patient relationship.
Interestingly, this seems to have turned around somewhat now in the time of COVID. Now it seems like patients are attaching themselves more to doctors who are showing their human side. The videos I post of myself at home in regular clothes or talking about how I finally figured out how to do my nails by myself get tons of views. Patients are listening with baited breath to see how I might be struggling with all of these changes. It’s as if listening to me is giving them tacit consent that it’s ok not to be ok right now. I feel like giving them a glimpse into me as a person is actually helpful right now. I can potentially help guide them through the proverbial tunnel to the other side of this thing. I get excited when I post my Facebook live daily video in the morning and all those people tune in. Knowing that I am able to reach all those people in a positive way helps me too. Personally I am loving it. If I can be myself with patients and still help them at the same time, I am all in! I would prefer to be that way all the time, within reason of course. I still stand by what I have said in previous blogs. Patients who are suffering or have just been given a terrible diagnosis do not necessarily care how I am feeling at the moment. Common sense still has to reign supreme here. I guess what I am really saying is that I hope the compassion doesn’t die out when the pandemic does. Have a great day everybody!