Friday, May 15, 2009

jiggity jig, jiggity jog

I'm home. Blissfully, gratefully home. My hospital situation couldn't have been better if I'd requested it, a private room with kind, knowledgeable nurses, and friends nearly always with me. Greg's mom house, where we stayed for three nights after I left the hospital, is also very comfortable, and like a second home to me. But driving over the bridge onto the island Monday night, I had the same feeling of relief and joy that I have always gotten when I come back to MDI. A good deal of the solace is in the place itself. It is magical to me, just as it was 21 years ago when I moved here. Over the years I have built this amazing network of friends to add to the charmed comfort of this place. That network is like a blanket for me to nestle in. I am so very blessed. Perhaps my deepest wish for humanity is that every person have a place where they feel so treasured. 

So I'm home, with three tubes hanging out of me and a tight elastic abdominal binder than Greg and I call my girdle. Though last night we decided that maybe I looked more like some mutant wrestler with the belt, the tubes and bulbs attached to them, and my bare legs in slipper boots. Very sexy. I can't have caffeine or chocolate, and I'm sure alcohol is on that list, too, though they haven't mentioned it specifically. I haven't wanted that, but I have been longing for the other forbidden substances. Mostly the chocolate. 

The restrictions have less to do with the cancer, and more to do with the blood supply to the tissue transplants, but of course, it starts me to wondering, again, about what I should and should not do now that I've tangled with cancer. I think most of us think about that from time to time, whether cancer has touched our lives directly or not. On the flip side of wondering about how I should change my lifestyle now is the question that has been nagging me since Dr. Hendricks told me I had cancer: why me? I'm a pretty healthy person generally speaking. What did I do or ingest or feel that made some of my cells mutiny? Did I eat too many hot dogs when I was young? Drink too much in my 20s? Was it the stress that felt like it was crushing me at times over the past couple of years? Wearing deodorant, drinking water from plastic bottles, breathing the air, digging in the dirt; it seems like almost everything I've done has become suspect.

There's no way to know, and perhaps it shouldn't bother me too much, but I feel like if I knew, I could make lifestyle changes to make sure it never comes back again. Unlike heart disease or diabetes, I just don't know what those lifestyle changes are. Of course, there are the obvious ones. Eat lots of veggies and fruit, get plenty of exercise, don't smoke, don't drink too much. But I feel like I was already doing all those things, and still the cancer took root. So what now? Eat a macrobiotic diet, become a vegan, meditate, drink wheatgrass shots, take this or that supplement, give up caffeine and alcohol and sugar. Yikes. Would doing any of those things matter? All have their proponents, with testimonials to the changes in their prognosis, overall health, life. But does that mean it's right for me? What would my life be like if I made these changes? 

One of the first books I turned to after diagnosis is a book called Cancer: 50 Essential Things to Do by Greg Anderson. It's been a great book for me, and I highly recommend it. One of his tenets is that you must believe fully in your treatment in order for it to work as well as possible. If you view every step as a chore forced upon you by your doctor, it won't work nearly so effectively as if you embrace the process and truly believe that it will make you better. Of course, this requires some research and some serious thoughts into your deepest beliefs. I'm beginning to wonder if I will just have to apply the same principle to other choices I will make about what I will and won't do to prevent this disease from coming back. There will be more medical treatment for me, though I don't know just what yet. But I have the feeling that there will be more lasting changes to my life now, too. I haven't quite figured out what those changes will be, though I'm pretty sure chocolate will pass my lips again. I guess I'll let you know when I decide what else makes the cut.

Oh, and by the way, the housecoats are working out perfectly.

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