In the days, weeks, and months following the diagnosis, I ran a gamut of emotions.
Disbelief. Anger. Uncertainty. Fear.
And most of all: Shame.
I was that person these things aren't supposed to happen to. One of my surgeons said I was probably the healthiest person she'd had her office.
I'd love to tell you it's the same behind closed doors. It's not. I'd love to tell you I'm as strong as I appear when you first meet me. I'm not. Between August and the end of December 2019, the following happened...
- I tried really hard to see the silver lining. There was some: had I not gone for an early diagnostic, the prognosis and subsequent treatment could have been much worse.
- I found myself continually frustrated by a medical system I'm "supposed to be grateful for”. (Side note: Canada, we need to do better.)
- I developed a somewhat dark sense of humour. It’s an amazing coping mechanism.
- I put 3700 kms on my motorcycle in August and September. The road is a good listener.
- I told almost no one, including my parents, the details or nature of what was going on. Sometimes it's more stressful to manage others' emotions and constant questions about your health.
- I cried. A lot. Daily, sometimes.
- I texted friends and tried not to get tears on my phone. I called my husband in the middle of the night when he was away at a workshop, hoping he'd hear his phone, and sobbed in his ear for half an hour.
- I cried in front of more people than I wanted to or am comfortable with.
- I had to confront a lot of other fears and some very deeply rooted issues. I was never afraid that I wouldn't live: my life was not in any kind of imminent danger, but rather fear of "survival'' - how would I maintain my business and keep a roof over my head for anywhere from a couple of weeks to a few months?
- In reference to the last, I swallowed my pride and took a 3 month desk-job contract that was offered to me, and which had nothing to do with fitness. Eating and paying bills is important.
Three days before the second, more major, surgery I went for a beer with a friend who knew the details. Being somewhat cheeky, he joked, "You seem anxious."
Being cheeky back, I said "I can't imagine why."
But then I said, in seriousness, "I don't know if it's even possible for me to cry more over this."
Life handed me a giant lemon. With salt. I didn't want to make lemonade. Or have tequila with it. I didn't want to throw it back and ask for something else. I didn't want the lemon at all. I hadn't asked for it, yet, there it was.
I'm all for maintaining a positive outlook, overall. Plenty of evidence suggests it really does improve health. I have found this to be true. (And paradoxically, the several months following my second surgery, even during COVID-19, proved to be overall positive, because I decided that I was going to live my life as much as I could within the guidelines.)
This doesn’t mean that if life hands you a shitty lemon, you are obliged to turn it into something good immediately.
If life hands you a lemon, cry.
That's what I did.
P.S. To everyone who helped me out and listened/comforted, but especially GM, MN, RB, HB, JC, DT, AAB, BA, ET, KP, PF, SK, JJ, and MK....thank you for your support, your shoulders, your ears, and your love. You made a rough patch a lot more bearable.