Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Shrine

     I have a shrine to Hope in my living room. Ever since my diagnosis, these little amulets of Hope have found their way to me. These tchotchkes are a powerful reminder of the human spirit. They elevate my own spirit. They represent the power of the human tendency toward optimism. Even in the darkest hours, humans somehow manage to maintain a spark of belief that things will get better. What is that capability? Faith in the divine? Total denial? Coping mechanism? Maybe all of the above.

    The items in my shrine have personal meaning. They are connected to the giver, an extension of that person to me, an expression of their thoughts for me and wishes for my well-being. The fact that someone else saw this trinket, thought of me and made sure that trinket made it me, imbues that little trinket with powerful mojo for soothing a troubled soul. It is no longer just a trinket, it is now a tangible talisman of Hope. When I arrange my totems, I can feel the wishes for my good health, both physical and metaphysical. That brings me solace and peace. There is no better state of being than that.

 My Shrine

Friday, February 3, 2012

New Normal? I reject that!

I have been pushing through physical rehab these past 7 months. Today, my progress was evaluated. Mainly balance and strength testing with all these stupid human tricks like toe tapping, standing on one foot, the sobriety test walk, standing with eyes closed. I scored very well on most parts (flunked the sobriety test walk, hmm) and set a record lap count for the 6-minute walk. The director later told me that I was a "model patient" for the cancer recovery program and asked to include my history and progress in the study presentation she will make to the oncology board next month. That made my day!

You see, most people struggle through cancer treatments. We persevere through all the untoward effects, focusing on one thing, remission. A lot of us make it to remission at least once.  But our bodies are wasted. Our spirits are bruised. We look to our medical team to help us. After all, our team has guided our every move up to this moment. We are told to accept our "new normal". We "might not be the same". Duh. We have lost  hair, lean body tissue, muscle strength, balance, nerve function, bowel function, appetite, body image, sexuality, fingernails, or whole body parts. By the end of treatment, by the time we achieve remission (yay!), we are wrecked. Well, that's our "new normal". That is the standard of care as it stands today. That is so wrong.

I reject my new normal. I resent that I am left hanging, trying to scrounge and cobble together a way to recover. Cancer treatment should not end at remission, it needs to end after recovery of health. Health does not mean absence of visible cancer cells. Health means strength, vitality, spirit. I am thankful that I stumbled upon this Cancer Rehab program at my health center. It wasn't offered to me at the hospital or my oncologist's office. I found a brochure at my physical therapist's office. She happens to run the program. I am just lucky to have been assigned to her. Cancer Rehab needs to be a standard part of cancer treatment. Just as a stroke victim gets rehab or a paraplegic gets rehab, cancer patients need rehab. Health insurance needs to cover it. We have lost our health and it needs to be restored. We need help to do that.

That's why I am so excited to be included in this study. It is a small part that I can do to demonstrate not only how much rehab is needed, but also how much it can benefit the cancer patient.  I can scarcely imagine my life without the benefits of this program. I can scarcely imagine the lives of those who do not have access to such care. We need more of these programs.

OK, enough for now. Thanks for reading. Stepping off the soapbox now. :)

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