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.
When 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.”