Everyone is feeling the stress of our world, which seems to have gone crazy! Dealing with cancer is just another part of the stress.
My own world of living at the end of pancreatic cancer seems to be just one more element of change and uncertainty.
One of my goals for this blog was to be able to support people who are also living with end-stage cancer, pancreatic cancer, if possible. I was connected to a friend’s cousin who was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in March, 2020 and began a treatment regime of chemotherapy that paralleled my own experience. She was also a motivational factor behind my last post, Pro Tips. We spoke occasionally and while I was supposed to be her support and cheerleader, her model of survival, she was my support too. She was even more positive than me about her ability to fight this disease. Sadly, she lost her fight last week. Just 6 months into the battle. Her experience is the common experience with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. It reinforced for me that I am the “outlier”, the person who defies logic.
Why am I surviving? Should I be doing something to help this “gone crazy” world? One of my sons wisely chided me for that comment – “What! Do you think you should be doing something that would win you a Nobel Prize?” Hm-m, no. But something??
Instead, I get to deal with another blockage of my bile duct. (What a terrible label of a body part). Another surgery. While my body didn’t like the experience of losing body parts in my younger years (appendectomy), it also doesn’t like to gain metallic body parts, such as stents. So, I spent an unexpected day in the hospital getting fluids, pain meds and every test available for infections while a brother from Cleveland visited and had the honor of caring for his sister. I left the hospital with another drug being added to my list of allergies with the rare reaction of the serious heebie jeebies, feeling overwhelming discomfort of being in my own body. A get-out-of-body anxiety reaction.
And as my body continues to react with pain, I’ve been informed I must learn to accept daily opiate use to combat the pain. I’ve reached that point in the progression of the disease. It certainly is easier to pretend the disease isn’t winning when you don’t have pain. So, I’ve created a “druggie chart” to help monitor my drug use. But that doesn’t mean I will stop focusing on living. My thought processes have always been rather fluid, so most people won’t notice my new relaxed zen style.
So, what is a person to do….to help them survive as Wisconsin leads the nation in rising COVID cases? We purchased an outdoor gas fireplace, were gifted (from wonderful family members) an overhead gas heater that restaurants use and perhaps may have to build warming igloos so I don’t have to be so isolated in these winter months. Perhaps, my last months.
So, what is a person to do…when the political world seems in chaos, with a debate that belonged on VEEP. Wauwatosa is surviving days of serious protests that are only blocks from our home. One night after hearing the helicopters and protests all evening, a loud knocking woke us all from sleep, our dog barking and running in circles and my sleepy husband yelling about woodpeckers as he chased the dog. Chaos in our home with no explanation for the knocking. A mirror of the world.
As a therapist, I learned that the best stress reduction activity during times of anxiety, when there’s nothing you can do to change the world, is just do something normal. Keep to normal routines.
So, I’m cleaning windows. I hate cleaning windows. And clean windows doesn’t qualify for a Nobel prize. Each fall, I try unsuccessfully to clean them as I pull down the storm windows preparing for winter. For some crazy reason, this year it is calming me. It’s the normal activity I can connect with in a world that is anything but normal.
If I’m not out walking or napping, you will find me most days near a window with a rag in my hand, attempting to clean and trying to locate those nocturnal woodpeckers.