Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A hard week

If I were to characterize how I felt prior to surgery, I would say that I was doing okay (as many of you noted) with periods of anxiety. Post-surgery, especially in the last week, I would have to say I have depression. It's taken me a few days to first identify it and then figure out why. Mostly, I'm depressed because: 1) I had envisioned what my next steps would be, but the fact that cancer was throughout the breast tissue means that my prior plan no longer applies; instead, I have to figure out what I will do, particularly in terms of making difficult choices like suffering from both long and short-term side effects (e.g., with chemo, I may have nausea, hair loss, and nerve damage in the short term and it might contribute to my long-term fatigue) or making sure I do what I can to be sure I'm around for a long time; 2) I don't like not having a plan in place - it's depressing - I hate being in limbo and at the moment, I am because I'm in an information-gathering mode and some of the info I need needs to come from doctors' opinons about my risk of recurrence or metastases and I won't know that info until next week; 3) I also realized that my treatments will probably extend through the next year and where surgery seemed the hardest part, now I'm pretty sure that I'm facing a year of Herceptin injections; basically, the light that was at the end of the tunnel has disappeared; 4) I also had to set aside some of my information-gathering activities to work on some NSF proposal reviews; the pressure to finish them combined with my frustration over being distracted from what I really want and need to do made me miserable; and 5) I'm not able to spend as much time with Scott as I might like and there are times when we can't even talk on the phone, so I end up taking it out on Scott, getting mad at him and pressuring him to do more than he really can. Ultimately, Scott has received the brunt of all of this and I want to apologize to him for that. And, oh yeah, a couple of days ago, I found myself looking at people walking around town or on campus and I thought, "these people don't realize how lucky they are because they don't have to worry about cancer and making choices about treatment"; I found myself resenting others for living "normal" lives.

Scott sorta suggested yesterday that it would be good for me to have some distractions. I resisted that idea because I felt I really needed to focus on treatment decisions. However, today, I think that he was ultimately right. I participated in a four-hour teleconference today related to those NSF proposal reviews and oddly enough, instead of resenting the distraction, I enjoyed talking to the rest of the panel about these proposed research projects. Some of them were quite exciting. Anyway, it helped me to change my outlook and reorient my thinking from victim to active participant.

I also had dinner last night with my colleague, Janet Lee. We went to Evergreen - yummy! We chatted about a lot of stuff, but mostly about my treatment options. She helped me to reaffirm my decision not to do chemo (also bolstered by a conversation with another colleague, Melissa Cheyney). In addition, she reminded me that while other people around us seem normal, we have no idea what sorts of things they are dealing with and then Janet told me about a neighbor of hers who died while driving home on Hwy. 99W - a trailer disengaged from a vehicle going the other way and killed her on impact. This woman, apparently, had three kids. So, it helped me to realize that things could be worse.

I also got to thinking earlier today that from the time I was diagnosed to surgery, I never really felt depressed; scared and anxious, but I never felt depressed or felt grief. A lot of you said that you would've probably been depressed given the news of a recurrent cancer and were amazed that I didn't feel that at all. Well, this past week has been my time for feeling depressed. However, I think I'm coming out of it all.

Other than that, no new news in terms of treatment decisions.

However, I do want to say thank you to a lot of people: for meals, I need to thank Sunil Khanna, Court Smith, David McMurray, Karen Mills, Bryan and Jenna Tilt, Loren Davis, Dave and Nehani Brauner, and Janet Lee. I have more meals coming up, from Melissa Cheyney, Joan Gross, Donna Champeau, Irene Rolston, and Sunil again. I also need to thank my parents and Scott for helping me with things around the house - housework, putting up the Christmas tree, etc. Also, I've received music from Mary Braun, Paula Long, and Greg Hyatt. I received orchids FedExed from Hawaii from Diane, Greg, and Jasmine Hammerstad. Greg Hyatt and Susanna Love sent me a book of essays by Carl Sagan. Paula Long also sent Sudoku puzzles. Linda Howard bought me a book by Bernie Siegel. Parcella Provence loaned me some other books by Bernie Siegel. Tammy Webb gave me a teddy bear that has a microwavable warmer inside it. I'm sure that I've forgotten some things . . . perhaps next week, I will be able to get out some thank you cards. So, for now, I hope that this post suffices to communicate how thankful I am for your generosity. Being surrounded by good food, gifts, flowers, and plants does help remind me how fortunate I am. So, thank you!

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