Lessons in humility

This is now day seven after surgery, and I am feeling impatient.

I have been feeling impatient for several days.

That’s why I encourage the family to take a short hike on the beach AND go to Ghirardelli Square for ice cream sundaes on Saturday.

That’s why I decide to walk back from church Sunday, buy some groceries and carry them home. Four long, precipitous blocks down Nob Hill from Grace Cathedral. Four more blocks to Whole Foods. Two blocks back to our temporary apartment. I think the bags total less than 10 pounds. The post-op orders say no carrying things heavier than that. Then, I a fit of ambition, I make coq au vin for dinner.

My body is not amused.

Yesterday, my body pushed me flat onto my back for half a day and made me sleep. I had been hoping to taper off the Vicodin, but yesterday the pain flares again. Back on the painkillers. We have salad and Trader Joe’s frozen pizza for dinner. I go to bed at 8:30 and sleep 11 hours.

Today, I try to let the painkillers run out. My body says no. My body says you can’t do any work much more challenging that updating your jumbled contact database. My body says no standing up for too long. It’s late afternoon and I’m not dressed yet. It’s exhausting doing nothing.

And it’s humbling doing nothing. I have had the silly idea that I am in charge. I am trying to accept that I am not in charge. My body is.

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About leftbreast

I have had breast cancer. I was diagnosed at 47, and am now 49. I have finished "active treatment," two surgeries, chemo, radiation, monoclonal antibodies. These days, I only take a drug to suppress my uptake of estrogen, since my tumor was highly reactive to that hormone. I have been married to my husband Pete for 21 years. I have a stepdaughter, Maureen, 30, and a daughter, Erin, 10. I've been a freelance magazine journalist for 20-plus years, covering everything from Chinese foreign policy to Catholic nuns to endangered species. I have had a great life. I have lived in Asia and all over the United States. I have spent nights with tree-sitters in Oregon and with astronomers at the Mauna Kea observatory in Hawaii. I've been to a cocktail party on the poopdeck of a British destroyer docked in Shanghai. I've taken the bus to Tibet, and tramped through the cloud forests of Panama with biologists. A magazine sent me on a raft trip down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon; another sent me to cooking school for a week. I have spent time with celebrities, presidents and heroin dealers. I love my work. I have a loving, supportive family and more friends than I probably deserve. I have had the space and time to camp, ski, cycle, garden, cook and spoil my pets (an Australian shepherd, a German shepherd and a tabby cat). If it all ended tomorrow, I would have to say that it has been a really, really good ride. When I was in thick of treatment, I was simply fighting for more time. Now, I'm trying to connect the experience of cancer with the rest of my life, with the time that's been won. I hope the cancer never comes back, but if it does, I'll be ready. That's what this blog is about.
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