Step by step…

Coming home has been much more of a challenge that I had anticipated or planned for. The last 7 weeks have been a series of distinct phases.

  • The shock of the  diagnosis.
  • A frenzy of effort to get into MD Anderson and with the most experienced surgeon possible.
  • 3+ weeks of waiting and preparing for surgery and fighting one of my worst sinus infections in years.
  • Traveling back to Houston, pre-op and day of surgery.
  • Post op, 4 days in the hospital that felt like 8.
  • And then 4 more days in the hotel, a relative purgatory surrounded by comfort and yet never able to really get comfortable.

I had been so focused on preparing for the surgery, and then working hard to get released as early as possible, that I had not thought much of how it would feel to be home. You would think that it would be such a relief, to finally be in my own home, sleep in my own bed, etc. Yet it was deeply unsettling. All so familiar, yet everything had changed.

Struggling with conflicting emotions. Want to get out and engage. Tired and want to just sit. Want to visit and meet with people. Want to just be quiet and with family. Want to get out and “exercise”. Want to sleep and rest. Want to get back into the work flow. Want to go on retreat.

Feeling restless, and then go on a walk and realize how tired I am, how depleted my energy reserves are. I have often heard that it is common to feel some depression, and yet I don’t feel depressed. However, if you talk with Brooke, I think she would say that at times I certainly seem down and subdued. Sometimes without warning I feel cranky and irritable. I am sick of sitting in the house all day everyday, and yet I don’t really feel like doing much else.

I am not the best patient. Ready to be done with all this “cancer” crap. And yet settling in that I am never going to be fully done with it. I have been researching 5 year survival rates for lung cancer, more on that in another post, but suffice it to say that I am just starting my journey.

Feel so many questions hanging over me and so few answers coming through. So I have been given a gift of life, a get out of jail free card. Feel a pressure to make something out of this reprieve, to honor the gift. And have some thoughts and ideas…yet it would be so simple if this had never happened. I look around my community and sometimes find myself yearning to go back to 3 months ago…ignorance is bliss.

It is often said that you really appreciate what you have…once it is taken away from you…Certainly I appreciate the stability and predictability of the life I had. Everything was preceding on plan. Loving family, check. Healthy kids, check. Professional growth and opportunity, check. All of our needs and wants covered, check. Financially ok, check. My only real lament was the desire to have more time with family, in nature, and in my spiritual and service pursuits. Of course I am not alone in that desire.

And while I was restless about certain things, or felt I wanted this or that in different aspects of my life, I had it pretty good. Better than perhaps I realized. I looked into the future and could see a vision for what lay ahead, excited for each step in the journey. Now I feel like I have been knocked off of my safe trajectory, infused with a dose of uncertainty. And as I sit with limited energy, and continue my healing, I watch my family and the world swirl around me, I am uncertain of what comes next.

Doing my best to stay present in the moment, focus on my healing.  I felt like I bounced back quickly in the hospital, yet now I am humbled at how slow this part of the recovery is. The left side of my chest and rib cage is still numb and as it is waking the nerves are tingling and sensitive. Daily I am finding and unwinding secondary and tertiary tweaks in my muscles and joints. And as of late I have been having bummer headaches, light headed and fuzzy. And to date I still have not traveled more than a few blocks from our house.

I need to continue to be patient. I need to stay focused on the present. Step by step, day by day…

We join spokes together in a wheel,

but it is the center hole

that makes the wagon move.

We shape clay into a pot,

but it is the emptiness inside

that holds whatever we want.

We hammer wood for a house,

but it is the inner space

that makes it liveable.

We work with being,

but non-being is what we use.

– tao te ching

3 thoughts on “Step by step…

  1. Hi Andrew,

    I promise it will get better. There are so many ups and downs with recovery, so many lights at the end of the tunnel and then plunges into darkness. Cal and I understand the recovery, and it is hard. We send you our love and support. It’s definitely a one-day-at-a-time exercise in patience.

    Sending love,

    Meredith and Cal

  2. Hi Andrew,

    Recovery involves many ups and downs. Try to keep a positive attitude throughout, as I’m sure you’re doing. It’s tough to see the bright side when you’re tired and needy. You have such a lovely family and you are so brave. Cal and I are sending our love and support. We have a lot of experience in recovery. Please lean on us for any questions you may have.

    Meredith and Cal

  3. Yes.

    This recovery, void of treatment and hurry and desperation to live, can be the most challenging part of this journey.

    You are not alone in time and space, but you are on a different page than everyone around you, and that makes you feel lonely, confused, crazy, frustrated, misunderstood. And fatigue ensures you’ve got plenty of time to perseverate on it.

    Everyone around you is ready to celebrate and move on. They were grieving while you were actively going from appointment to appointment. You had to dissociate from your grief to survive the tasks at hand.

    But there is a reckoning.

    Now it’s your turn to feel shock, grieve, fear, even anguish. These things mix with hope and gratitude, but they are there and will have their due in you.

    If you allow them to come, speak, pass, you will heal. It will take time.

    You have the time.

    Sit in this discomfort for now. Feel it, express it. Honor not only your life, but your grief. Have faith that by doing that, you are doing what it takes to move forward.

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