A New Life of Accommodation

It has been a few months beyond a year that I started blogging. And to tell you the truth, it’s been a little difficult for me to get back into the swing after my latest hiatus. Blogging has been the portal through which I unburden myself of corrosive and heavy thoughts. However, right now it’s all I can do to try to empty my head.

When we are beset with a crisis of any kind we long to return to normal when it is over. All I ever thought about when I was home this summer was the day I would return to the office–if just to have the chance to bitch about the things that everyone else bitches about. A chance to be with people, nudge the mind, and be like everyone else. But in reality the return is not so easy because after going through this it is hard to be like you once were. Indeed, it is wholly impossible.

overwhelmedWhen I was home I was drugged 24/7 with Methadone, Oxycodone, and Lyrica. When you take medications like that on a set schedule and not “as needed” you don’t necessarily think straight. And if you can you’re a far better drug taker than me. Take the day I received a letter from Human Resources informing me of long term disability benefits. I read that letter and thought it meant that I was losing my job. It was completely irrational, of course. But what can I say, folks, this is my brain on drugs. (How I pulled that Facebook petition together I’ll never know.)

Once I returned to work I was happy, but it still wasn’t normal. With the plan my physician rolled out I was essentially working 15 hours per week and gradually lengthening my days. The plan is a sound one and it is working, but I find myself at month’s end still needing another month to lengthen my hours. I never realized that my back was so weak and that it would take so long to build up strength. I guess knitting isn’t the ideal way to strengthen one’s core.

With my return to the office came the realization that I am not the person that I once was. It’s a drag and accepting that will be a process. I taught a class this afternoon and proceeded in my usual way by walking around the room, engaging my students and planting seeds that I hope will take root and grow. When I teach I do nothing else but focus on the subject. Any pain I feel is ignored if not out of my mind completely. But thirty minutes in the pain in my lower back was starting to hold me back. Ten minutes later I needed to sit and finish up my presentation to the students. Gathering up the materials after the students left was arduous. The onerous walk home (all of one block) was rewarded with some Oxycodone and a comfy couch.

So remember that letter from Human Resources about long term disability benefits? Well, I had to revisit it once I realized that I needed another month to adjust. Revisit means that in my irrational drugged state I ignored the initial letter. Well, that is not entirely true. I asked questions, but I was unable to comprehend the complexities. It was overwhelming; every person had a different answer and one even told me not to bother applying. So I finally applied. I can still work part-time, it is retroactive to the period when I didn’t take it (when I should have) and I’m going to be okay. I think. In any case, it’s not forever.

When I spoke with the disability expert I told her my story and how it can be when some folks are alone with no one to assist them with complex information. And although I have no idea how it can be done, my employer–who excels in work/life assistance in many areas–needs to be a part of benefits discussions when individuals are ill. If the employee declines, so be it. But the territory is vast, it is complicated, and it is overwhelming. I am intelligent and can make my own decisions, but I was significantly impaired and that negatively affected the choices that I made.

Cancer just complicates everything. If you’re ahead of it you worry about being behind it. If you’re behind it you desperately push to get in front of it. The day I learned that I had breast cancer I never dreamed that the year to come would be so challenging. I naively believed that I could embrace the pink and I would be okay.

This isn’t what some people term “the new normal.” Nay, it’s just life. It is now driven by medical interventions of all sorts: PET/CT and MRI results, blood work, medications, pain management, and therapies. And, of course, by important financial decisions that in the end are all about quality of life.

All I can do is make the best of it. Suck it up and just do the best that I can, ask for help when I need it, and soldier on. Like my man Marcus Aurelius said: “You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

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37 Responses to A New Life of Accommodation

  1. Chandra says:

    Thinking of you. Didn’t know how else to tell you. Miss your scorched-earth posts.

    • Scorchy says:

      Chandra, thank you so much for your kind note. I am going through a bit of writer’s block at the moment, but I have all intentions of returning to the blog as soon as possible.

  2. AnneMarie says:

    I join the masses in saying your words are eye candy and it doesn’t matter what form they take. Sarcastic, witty, heart-wrenching, serious and every other conceivable art form because yes, your posts are a work of art. THIS is an important post. It underlines what so few of us understand about the realities of living with the fallout of a metastatic diagnosis and trying to rebuild a semblance of your former life: the life before cancer drew the line in the sand. It’s different for all of us, but for SOME, it’s more different. My month of education which is slated to begin tomorrow? You, my friend in the group that has the highest priority for me.

    LOVE you….

  3. Catherine says:

    I’m glad to see you blogging, though this is a post that makes me go “Bahhhhh” because it’s such an overwhelming reality. Cancer complicates in so many ways. Nevertheless, I’m glad to read you again. 🙂

  4. NotDownOrOut says:

    As a single woman without children, I spend time thinking about how I will handle these sorts of things on my own. I think your post helps answer the question. I hope to handle them with grace, patience, self-forgiveness, and a little humor. You are a woman to admire, Scorchy.

    • Scorchy says:

      It’s so hard, isn’t it? But we’re strong and we have one another for both the weak and the strong times. Everybody’s mortal. But we do mortal better! 🙂 xoxoxoxo

  5. Knot Telling says:

    I don’t know what to say, but I’m very glad you wrote this!


  6. bethgainer says:

    Scorchy, I agree that there’s no “new normal” and returning to work after all that you’ve been through is indeed rough. Just take one day at a time. When I returned to teaching (I also teach!) after my DIEP flap procedure, I was in such back and abdominal pain. It takes awhile to adjust. Your post is poignant and touching, and I’m sending you a cyberhug.

  7. Scorchy,
    It is so good to read your wonderful writing again. I am so sorry that you are struggling so. But I do know that Scorchy is a force to be reckoned with, stoned or not. xoxxo

  8. dear Scorchy,

    I am so happy for you that you are finding your way through hoops that must be jumped through to allow for a workable schedule, and that the benefits/conditions are retro-active for the time when you were not able to complete the form. I hope that buying more time to be part time will find you in less pain, and gradually finding something much more creative and inspiring than that repulsive
    “new normal” crap. I think your students are very fortunate and grateful for such a fine teacher – even if you have to sit down at the end. your post was so well written and gave such excellent insights from your own experience of the challenges we deal with every day – to try to be the best we can be. and I just know you will have given so many others the inspiration and desire to pursue and meet those challenges with the same strength and determination. you, my friend, totally rock that aspect of your blog, and we are all the better for it. it makes me swell with gratitude that we all have each other to rally round, piss and moan at the lousy days, but also celebrate the breakthroughs.

    much love and light to you, my dear friend, XOXO

    Karen, TC

  9. The Accidental Amazon says:

    I hope you know how important & validating & helpful & even crucial it is for you to write about this reality with your exceptional clarity & candor. This needs to be known. I get so tired, especially as we approach Pinksploitation Month, of people pasting happy pink stickers on breast cancer, as if it’s a walk in the park — or a stride for the ‘cure.’ Bollocks. THIS is the truth. xoxoxo, Kathi

  10. Janipani says:

    I’m learning my new NORMAL as well. surgery in January, chemo 6 months, and i’m in my second week of radiation. I wear a lymphaDIVA sleeve every day because we all know why, now I’ve learned a new word “radiation dermatitis” all over my chest, but ya know, I only have two weeks of nuke time left. It could be much worse. The way I look at it, is we all have expiration dates, and those of us with cancer, are more aware of how soon that date can happen. We’re not like a can of biscuits with a date stamped on our body, but we do know now…it is something to think about. Most of us never think about “expiring”. Cancer gives you time to think, not like getting hit by the bus. So I’m grateful for the time to think about how how I want the rest of my life to go, Cancer does change us all, and I so enjoy reading your blog – you have so many of the same thoughts and feelings as many of your readers have. You just have the courage and humor to put in down for the rest of us to enjoy and share. All we can control is the way we think, you are soooo right.



    • Scorchy says:

      You know, I also think it’s a kind of bonus think of how you want to live the rest of your life. It takes something that trauma to the soul to make you see that and, in our case, it’s this fucking cancer.

      Thank you for reading!! xoxo

  11. I love your honesty, humour and guts xxx

  12. dglassme says:

    Scorchy people have come to love what you write despite it being about something no one ever wants to deal with. You have a special gift of bringing it to life for us, and we thank you. This group you have gathered will closely watch over you for many years to come with humor and many hugs because you have captivated our minds and we’re being spoiled by your contributions. ~D

    • Scorchy says:

      I love you to bits, D. Every day I feel good knowing that we are all here for one another with no strings or conditions. I am always stunned by how well my writing is received, but warmly so. I couldn’t do it without all of us holding on together. xoxoxoxo

  13. Missed your posts. Happy to hear from you again but sad about the current state of affairs. You’re right, it is life. If it ain’t one thing it’s another. I constantly struggle with balancing my cancer life with the rest of my life. With mets there’s no going back to how life used to be. But I really don’t want the focus of my world to be all about the cancer now. And yet the reality is I can’t really return to a full time job again. Even the littlest stressors create havoc in my body.
    Thank you for your intelligent & honest posts. Just take it all day by day. That’s what I do. We know it can all change in an instant.
    Much love, -T (aka: graceful woman warrior)

    • Scorchy says:

      Thanks, T. It’s really hard to steer your thoughts away from cancer, isn’t it? That is what I hate about all of this crap. It’s always there in the background–like a roach behind the wall. Then it comes out, you swap, miss, and the little bastard goes back behind the wall. One day at a time indeed. xoxoxoxo

  14. Deborah says:

    Scorchy, I was so happy to see your blog post. I’ve missed your insight and humor. I suspected these last few months have been hellacious but you have come back with the gloves on. The longing to return to normal, or the way life used to be is something most of us FBC soldiers think about regularly. I have to stop those thoughts and focus on the way I want my life to be now. I know I can make it better than it was before. You continue to inspire me and I pray your pain lessens so you can make it through the entire class time soon. xxoo

  15. keithw says:

    Glad to see your post this morning. Like I’ve said before, your insights are worth their weight in gold for anyone treading this undiscovered country. Thanks.

  16. jgolden08 says:

    Glad you are blogging again. Your posts always move me so much

  17. Jo Ann Feeler says:

    Scorchy, welcome back. You give a voice to what so many of us are dealing with. The loss of my decision-making ability was ( & still is) a side effect of my chemo. I am really tired of these baby steps to recovery. My spirit wants to run, while my body has to step slowly, sometimes even slowing to a crawl. Pisses me off. But every step, no matter how small or slow, gets us closer to where we want to be. I am so glad you are back. And so glad that you are my voice, my friend.

  18. Your man Marcus also says, “You’ll find strength with the power over your mind, but it won’t be easy.” Maybe that’s a little pessimistic, but somehow I think I’ll be reading about how you pushed through in the future. Soldier on dear friend.

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