I just got back from a ten-day heavenly trip to Georgia with Shannon: lush palms, Spanish moss, butterflies, lazy boating on a lotus lined river, and my mystery fever (just for a day).
I get mystery fevers every few weeks and have for a long time. I down Tylenol, drink tons of water, lay low that day and don’t push it the next day. If I get a little cancer PTSD, I take xanax and snuggle with Shannon.
On vacation, the day after my mystery fever, we visited the gorgeous Savannah-Ogeechee Canal with a 1-mile roundtrip walk. The heat index was 100 (which I actually love – call me crazy), the terrain flat and stunning. I heard a voice in my head saying with confidence: “Don’t do the walk. I know my limits…. Blog about this when I get home.”
Knowing my limits is instinctual now, but it wasn’t at the beginning of my cancer ride. I used to push myself hard, like a poster-child cancer patient who was getting the most out of life. I was like Wafa’a, a lymphoma patient in Chapter 3 of Everything Changes, who was addicted to clubbing. I didn’t want to feel left out, be home alone, or let cancer get the best of me.
But over time I’ve changed my definition of what the best of me is. The best of me is not Kairol conquering a hiking trail in the beauty of nature, nor is it me feeling sexy in a great summer outfit, nor dancing my heart out in ballet class. The best of me is when I can look long and hard in the mirror and just be satisfied with who I am no matter what I am doing or how I am feeling. There are no limits to this “best of me.” I know, I’ve done this look’n-in-the-mirror as a pasty white ghost in a hospital gown about to swallow 150 millicuries of radiation. If I can be the best of me in that situation, then I suspect it is fool-proof.
Recognizing the parts of me that are limitless makes it so much easier to accept my limits. No big hike? No biggie. I sat on a rocking chair at the ranger station and looked at the sky. It was pretty lovely. Ultimately I don’t know if it’s cancer that taught me to know my limits, or if it’s just part of being a young adult who is maturing and happens to have a few tumors in my neck.
Do you have a hard time knowing what your limits are? Do you push them, respect them, hate them? Has this changed for you over the course of your illness?
Read more about Wafa’a the cancer clubbing queen in Everything Changes: The Insider’s Guide to Cancer in Your 20s and 30s.