November 15, 2017
I have been dreading this day because it marks one year since my life-changing, life-saving Whipple surgery. So many people who have this surgery don’t make it to a year later, and I understand how lucky I am to be alive and that I will get to live a long, healthy life, get married, have kids, and live my dreams. What I dreaded about today was the fact so often I’ve been told that how you feel a year after Whipple surgery will likely be your “new normal.” I have difficulty accepting how I feel now to be my new normal.
The cast of RENT measures a year in daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, and cups of coffee, in inches, in miles, in laughter, and strife.
The cast of CHELSEA would typically measure a year in the same way, but this year, as they say, has been different.
I'd measure November 15, 2016 to November 15, 2017 in hugs, hospital visits, stitches, staples, pain, nausea, macaroni and cheese (by the grace of Beyonce it's one of the few foods I tolerate relatively well), tears, pajama days, naps, self-loathing, self-loving, and a lot of love and gratitude.
It has been and continues to be the hardest time in my life.
People, including myself, often like things to fit into neat, little boxes. We hope things have a beginning and an end date. We expect everyone will get better and be back to normal. It makes us more comfortable to hear someone is making progress than stuck in stagnation when we ask how they're doing.
Progress pleases the soul and makes us feel like we’re going somewhere in life, and without progress, we tend to feel like we’re wasting our lives. I haven’t made many improvements in my health the last several months, and this lack of progress weighs on me.
(PLEASE READ UNTIL THE END AND I SWEAR YOU'LL SEE I’M NOT A NEGATIVE NANCY!)
My quality of life isn’t bad, it will just take some adjusting to, and I’m still very hopeful I will improve, get stronger, and continue to adjust.
These things take adjusting to: There are days I’m too tired to walk or stand for long. The day after a significant outing I feel like I hiked for eight hours the day before; it takes a massive toll on my body. I can’t absorb nutrients properly, digest most fruits and vegetables, or absorb fat from food I eat so I’ve lost any muscle I had which leads to being weak. I get dizzy and nauseous when I stand for a while. I get bouts of nausea so extreme I am literally paralyzed by them.
People tell me I look better than ever and that it seems like I am doing great and having fun, judging by my social media posts. But remember, we don’t post the lowlights, we post the highlights. Even as I write this, I’m conscious of coming across as too dark or too cynical, but more than anything I am trying to focus on being honest. A lot of us are going through tough times and hold back from sharing them with others because we fear it will alienate people or make them pity us, but truthfully, I think these painful experiences are what can unite us and bring us closer to one another.
As difficult as this year has been, it's also been filled with a lot of experiences that were impossible to imagine when I was on what I considered to be my death bed this time last year.
This past year I’ve gone to concerts, I’ve laughed harder than I ever have in my life, I’ve gone horseback riding, swimming, and boating. I’ve danced, I’ve attended weddings, I’ve read great books and watched great movies, and I’ve had more warm hugs than I can count!
By any standard, I have a good and very, very lucky life.
I have so many people who love me unconditionally (and vice versa!) and remind me of this every day. I have countless people I can call for help should I need it, I always have plenty of food to eat, a warm bed to sleep in, pups to cuddle me, and a roof over my head in a home I love, and the best, best, best mom, dad, brother, and friends a girl could ask for.
Any amount of discomfort has NOTHING on all of that.
There is still SO much more good than bad in my life, and I regularly remind myself of this. Gratitude has been a common theme in any of my posts about my surgery and recovery, and it will continue to be.
I've learned you can use your pain as a spotlight on your suffering, or you can use it as a magnifying glass for everything else in your life that is GOOD.
If you ask me, the choice is obvious.
Thank-you so much for reading and for your continued support.
xo - C