It’s hard to believe I’ve been out of quarantine for a week and a half. I had such high expectations of how fantastic it was going to be, escaping from quarantine, and jumping back into life at full force. Once again, I was proven naive. 😉
“Just Breathe” is harder than it sounds
I spent every business day last week in and out of hospitals, doctors offices, stuck with several needles and in/out of various machines, trying to get some answers for why my breathing is so bizarre. I never gained any answers, just ruled some dangerous options out, which is good, but nevertheless, it was pretty defeating.
The hardest part about the week was the lack of compassion and lack of communication shown by several of the medical professionals I interacted with. By Friday, I was having trouble getting phone calls returned and there seemed to be no sense of urgency with each doctor. When you’re dealing with difficulty breathing, it’s hard to hear on Friday morning that these doctors are unreachable, and it’s best to try and call back on Monday.
I don’t know if my breathing is getting any better, or if I’m just learning to adapt very well. I’ve kind of learned how to circular breathe while talking and singing, which makes me think I should consider picking up the bagpipes or didgeridoo. 😉 Still, there are still plenty of times I have to pause and take a deep breath, especially in the car.
Advice from friends, allowing community in
As I’ve mentioned before, it’s often hard for me to admit when I’m struggling, and it’s hard for me to accept help, because I feel like I’m burdening those I love by sharing how much I’m struggling. I received one of the best pieces of advice this week from my friend Kristen, from my cycling tour:
Lydia, I am praying that you find the courage to reach out sooner to those who are near. You are not a burden to people who love you. Your season of need is an opportunity for them to love you extravagantly. Do not take that from them.
I have been continually thinking about this advice. I had never thought I was being selfish with my prideful attitude of “keeping it together” and minimizing mental/physical/emotional breakdowns people witness, but now I can see there is great value in allowing people to step in, and love in a language that they know how. Yet again, it comes back to community and the importance of allowing people to be there, to walk with me, to cry with me, as well as laugh, sing and be joyous with me.
My roommate has been teaching me this as well. She has such a sensitive spirit and an empathetic heart. Through much of this process, we have joked that she has felt more weight and cried more than I have regarding my struggles. I am lucky to have this support at home, and I have been loosening up to sharing with her my difficulties as they come, and she has remained empathetic and kindhearted, which has strengthened my desire to follow Kristen’s advice to allow people in.
I’ve been challenged to put my pride aside and become much more transparent, especially with my physical difficulties–which is the hardest for me to own up to. I am less hesitant to reach out to my doctors when I feel like something is off. I’ve been readily calling and texting my dear friend Una (also from my cycling tour), to ask her medical advice and letting her know what exactly I’m dealing with on a day-to-day basis. She has been a steadfast encourager and voice of reason, and I am so thankful for her.
One of my deepest struggles these past few months is not having any control over my physical fitness. For the past few years, exercising daily and keeping in shape has been a staple portion of my day. Because most of my undergrad studies and work revolved around staring at a computer screen, working out every morning became such an important way to make sure I could remain focused and energized throughout the day. I have grown to appreciate being fit and staying active.
Also, living in southern California for four years influenced this. In a state that is essentially summer year-round, there is an expectation to have a beach body. One of the biggest reasons I wanted to leave Orange County was because I really did not like the instilled pressure I felt as a woman, and the way that it had influenced my self-worth. It took four years for me to realize that the culture had seeped into my thought process without me even knowing.
One of the biggest struggles people tell you when you’re diagnosed with thyroid cancer is that you will struggle the most with feeling tired all the time and with your weight. Having my thyroid completely removed and going through radiation left my body without a metabolism and no thyroid hormone for a couple months. I have done my best to keep a running/cycling schedule in the midst of it all, but the hardest idea to digest is that it doesn’t make much of a difference right now. With zero metabolism, there’s only so much you can do.
I had not realized the amount of my identity that I placed on being fit, busy and active, and how much value I placed in those things to define myself. I am confident in who I am, and I always have been, but I’m learning how to remain confident in who I am, even when I have no control over my fitness and my appearance. It’s hard to admit and it’s a lot more difficult than it sounds! It’s the age-old reminder that my identity is found in Christ alone.
Thankfully, I am now two weeks into my new thyroid medication, which once regulated, will act as my thyroid for the rest of my life. It will take up to six weeks for it to accumulate enough to check to see if I have the right dose, and then my endocrinologist will decide if I need a different level.
I’m feeling more and more “normal” each day (even with the breathing issues) and tackling each day thankful to be here and able to do so. I’m excited for the immediate future, applying to jobs, meeting new people and having fantastic conversations. While I don’t really know what the next step is in this cancer process, I know God will continue to be here with me–in Spirit and through the voices of friends, family and strangers. It’s truly a beautiful story.
“I got circumstances. You guys understand it. I understand it. It’s already been beat.” Chuck Pagano, 2012 Indianapolis Colts coach, diagnosed with Leukemia