Jane Biehl, Ph.D.
I look around my apartment heaving a huge sigh. Laundry is piled on my spare bed waiting to be folded. Clean dishes in the dishwasher need to be put away before my next meal. Trash is overflowing in my wastepaper baskets. However, I feel too tired and weak from my low blood count and chemo to do any of it.
Wistfully, I recall the days I could work all day, come home and do things around the house and then go out for dinner! Those days are long gone. I am off the chemo this week, but next week I will feel even more fatigue when I go back on.
I do fold my laundry (sort of) and put away the dishes. I will not tackle the trash until tomorrow because I live on a second floor. This involves steps, and it takes me a long time to do this particular task. I have balance issues from the chemo, and have to take each step one at a time holding the trash in one hand and the rail with the other. No more bouncing up and down the steps for me.
Right now, I am doing a real pity party. Fortunately, I do have a wonderful friend who comes and cleans for me twice a month and is a godsend. I actually had her before I was diagnosed with cancer, because I was working two jobs and would rather pay someone to clean then do it myself. Now I truly need her.
Eventually, a light dawns on me. I remember my wise mother in her old age remarking that she wanted to just care care of herself. She did it well until she was 90, and was devastated when she became dependent on others.
I can do most things I need to now. Maybe tasks are not done perfectly, and maybe I move slowly, but I can do it. There may come the day I can’t, as the blood counts go lower and I get weaker. I simply need to pace myself for daily tasks. I can’t spend any precious time I have left worrying about the future.
I often compare cancer (and life) to a roller coaster
. It never is a straight line. Life dips and curves and winds and goes up and down. If you are going in a straight line, it won’t be for long. Cancer (and life) also can be compared to a baseball game. We get thrown curves and sliders and fast pitches and sometimes, like the day we found out we had cancer, we get hit by the ball!
I have to take what I can get. I know sometimes all I can do are the simple things. I may need to postpone some jobs. I may not do it well. Laundry may be wrinkled, trash may overflow, mail may pile up and dust may accumulate. But is that really important in the scheme of things? Cancer has taught me it isn’t. For now, taking care of me is enough. And this is true for all of us both with and without cancer!