I am often told in the gentlest of ways, how important it is for me to rest and take care of myself. And the people who tell me this are very loving and very correct.
However, there are reasons that it is hard for me to sleep as much as is necessary. I do it but I’m not sure if most people realize the consequences. Or to put exercise into my daily life. And to take time to eat well. I suspect that a good number of cancer patients who are taking care of themselves have a very different life than the “well” people who do not perhaps put as much time into self care as they might.
I didn’t sleep well for 18 months. And the two years prior to my cancer diagnosis consisted of five courses of stress for every meal. Although prior to cancer, I had pretty much slept well, the rest of my self care was lacking.
Now, at typical weeks goes as follows. Whereas, a year ago used to be able to get up at 6:30 am to exercise, I am not yet able to do that again. The earliest I am able to get out of bed is 8:00 am and that is when I have morning patients or when I have an early healthcare appointment. If I have no scheduled morning obligations, it is very hard for me to get out of bed before 10:00 am and sometimes I am not up until after 11:00 am. This means that in a 24 hour day, I am often in bed more hours than I am out of it.
Six days a week, I go walking right after I get up. Usually it is for an hour but of late I have been extra stressed and I often walk for two hours. But even on days when I walk for an hour, it means that I don’t start the working part of my day until noon on most days of the week. If it is a day when it is my responsibility to cook dinner, that means I have about 5 1/2 hours to work and that includes showering, dressing, and putting on make-up if it is a clinic day for me. I have found that lately, if I don’t need to go into the office, I may skip showing all together in order to save time.The point of this is that due to my increased sleep needs as well as my need to exercise regularly, I have a compressed work day.
But wait, there’s more! I also have an above average number of healthcare appointments each week. I see my psychologist every other week, I still get acupuncture every three weeks, plus I have the normal oncology and every day person dentist visits, annual physicals, etc. Oh yeah, I am also a mom and need to bring my daughter to her healthcare visits. Next week, I have three of my own doctors’ appointments and one for my daughter. There’s no way I’m going to be able to pull this off. So I’m going to need to reschedule my appointments for the dentist as well as for acupuncture. I am keeping my psychologist appointment because I am dealing with a greater amount of stress these days and that is not a ball I want to drop.
And some how during that time I will be working, getting ready for a trip, and getting fittings for the charity fashion show. (Alas, I did not know that I would be wearing multiple outfits, each from a different store in the Greater Seattle area. And there are times I will want to have with my family and friends. And times when I am unable to do much of anything besides surfing on the Internet.
I know that my days of needing 12 hours of sleep a night will likely decrease. I am also hopeful that my healthcare appointment frequency will decrease. But I also know that they could all increase again if and when I have health problems again. It has been nearly two years since my initial diagnosis. I would say that I wish I had known how long of a haul this was going to be but frankly, knowing myself, it was better not to have known ahead of time.
Again, the fact that I need to take care of myself is correct. It is right for me to do what I am doing. But when you tell a cancer patient to “take care of herself”, I want you to know what you are asking her to do. And if you can find a way to magically make more time in the day, you will be her best friend forever.