This week saw the beginning steps towards my second surgery. If anything should be a sign of progress for me, it’s that. Or so I would have thought. But instead of rejoicing at this new clarity around the next big date in my cancer journey, I became wobbly. Remember all the important lessons I’ve been learning about patience and perspective? It seems they have to be learned over and over again before they stick – at least they do for me. Instead of calmly moving step by step towards this new goal, I fell feet-first into the quicksand of trying to plan for the future. If the next surgery with all its possible debilitating side effects will happen next month, then I have these upcoming weeks to travel to see my mother. Travel? Go to a much anticipated wedding. Wear something other than sweatpants? I looked at my calendar over breakfast and found myself looking across the table at my husband with tears in my eyes. Just thinking about these things was overwhelming. Clearly, I’m not ready.
But how will I know when I am ready? How do we ever know that we are ready to take on a new challenge? Looking too far over the horizon certainly isn’t the way. Even looking at the horizon itself may be more that we can handle. And with time playing crazy games with my brain right now, looking too far backwards also isn’t working. So I took a deep breath, plus another spoonful of my cream of wheat, and looked only as far back as yesterday, and as far forward as lunch, and this is what I saw.
I saw that the day before I had not only walked upstairs and peered into my office, but I had set up my computer, sat down in my desk chair and worked there for a few hours. My God, what a change that was. Not only was I able to focus on work, but I could sit up without pain and I knew I could do it again after breakfast. That must be a sign of progress. Realizing that, the lump in my throat that had been made of tears melted away to be replaced by lumps of oatmeal. Then I started to think, what if I set a small goal for myself for next week, something like leaving my home and visiting a friend in their house instead of having them come to visit me? That would be a sign of progress, too, wouldn’t it? And then, perhaps some days later, I could take a walk outside, down the road to my mailbox and see how far I could go without getting too tired. Wouldn’t that be great? And then, sometime, I could try driving my car somewhere, with my husband riding shotgun, just in case. And then, maybe I could drive without him. And then. And then.
I have reminded myself of the importance of baby steps, although I don’t really like that term anymore. These steps are not small, and certainly not for babies. Each of these steps is a monument to what I have accomplished already, and what I will go on to achieve. These are important milestones on my road to recovery. If I can remember to be patient, then I can see them for the marvels that they are. These lessons I do have to relearn all the time, but if I’m honest, that’s nothing new. That’s not just cancer. That’s life.
Relearning lessons over and over… that really resonates. I love that you are setting reasonable goals with an open heart. For someone as accomplished and competent as you are, there is real beauty and maybe serenity to be found in this process.
It’s hardly surprising the prospect of the second surgery is a little daunting, even though you know it is a necessary part of recovery. And I really do think you’re allowed the odd ‘wobbly moment’, Sue, especially given the number of non-wobbly ones you’ve managed.
Keep counting the milestones, we are all counting with you.
This is so powerful. Thank you for writing. There’s so much to be said for those small achievements. They really matter.