When Do We Rest? When Do We Push Forward? Questions about Cancer Treatment

“I’m not sure that you actually have the ability to recognize when you’re tired, because you’re so used to pushing through it,” the doctor told her.

This statement is from an article in Cure Magazine about Joan Lunden’s experience while she was in treatment for Triple Negative Breast Cancer.  When I first read it I was struck by the sensitivity and perceptiveness of Lunden’s doctor. This doctor seemed to know and understand Lunden as a person not just another patient.  Thinking about this brought back my own path through cancer treatment and how I pushed myself to make life as normal as possible. This was, not surprisingly, nothing new …

At first I felt kind of sad, maybe even a bit forlorn. Did I miss an opportunity to take care of myself in a more gentle, kind way? Would some of the “collateral damage” like the peripheral neuropathy and tiredness I still experience be lessened if I had rested more?  I spent some time confronting my old habits of  thrusting myself forward when I was tired or sick.  It was actually helpful to reflect on the question, “when do you rest, when is it important to keep moving?”

But then I watched the PBS series by Ken Burns, “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies” based on the book by Siddhartha Mukherjee.  I was deeply moved by the patients who fought so bravely for their lives and even more touched by the researchers who toil year after year, decade after decade as they look for a cure for cancer.  It reminded me of why I struggled so much to keep life “normal” for my family.  It validated my choice to continue working as a therapist in my private practice not only because it helped me immensely to focus on others but also because it prevented my family from even more severe financial distress.  When I thought about these things, it felt right that I had pushed forward despite how ill I was.

And so, I end up, once again, not with a clear answer to the question of “when do you rest, when do you push” but, indeed, more questions …

I’m curious what you think and feel about this? What did you do during treatment? Looking back,  would you have done things differently?  Please feel free to comment below.

2 Responses to “When Do We Rest? When Do We Push Forward? Questions about Cancer Treatment”

  1. Linda Landowski Says:

    I was in so much pain during treatment. Besides being so ill with nausea, unable to sleep and so many fears! My husband lost his job one year before my Triple Negative Breast Cancer diagnosis! Many needful ’scripts I couldn’t afford. I was throwing up. My best caregiver for that was one of my cats, Stinkie. That laid on the cold bathroom floor with me! she made the throw up sounds for me! I needed certain tests too that I couldn’t afford. Since I knew so little Health history. Other then knowing my mother Died young from Breast Cancer. Her parents died young and so did her uncle die from Cancer. Even safe drinking water or watermelon was too expensive for me to buy. Mind you I did have little treats. My daughter that drove me in her car, since my cars weren’t trustworthy She’d drive me past the New Dodge Challengers! I’d Dream of owning one if I live. I also got a 49 cent cone from McDonalds. That tasted Gritty & like Dirt. Most foods & liquids hurt, burned and tasted like dirt or mud!! I’d be At AC/Chemo on Mondays. Disabling Nuelasta shot on Tuesday. Be bedridden for 10-12 Days! Back on day 14. Until I had Weekly Taxol. These treatments robbed me of quality of life and left me feeling like I was tortured and left to die. But I stay on living for my long time husband whom I’ve been with since I met him on Christmas Eve when I was 16. For my daughters. The first blood relatives I ever had in my life! and my 4 grandchildren whom I adore. And my cats & plants!! I do love life. I hate that TNBC ate up my life, savings, Hopes & dreams!! The year I was diagnosed I had a big birthday planned. Then 11 days later celebrate 30 years of marriage. We never ever had a vacation, weekend away or any hoopla in our lives! The only times we ever were apart was the births of our daughters & My Triple Negative Breast Cancer hospital stays! But none of those Hopes or Dreams ever came True! In August 2014 I found out I am indeed BRCA1+Positive. I needed that test in 2010. But no way to afford it! We’re still experiencing hardships.. Watching everything break down, go wrong and be broken. Nothing more then me. Being broke and broken. I need to be restored like my house and cars. My hopes & dreams!! However some how I awaken each day. Nonstop head to toe, endless pain! Day in day out. That pain is my life. It is life. I am not giving up on love, hopes or dreams! I guess that keeps me going! I also am thankful/grateful for any good in my life!! My last surgery was in December 2014. We still have Zero income! Living on love, Prayers, credit cards and loans. Doing without.. Not giving up.. What hurts as bad as this pain? Seeing pity & disgust in loved ones eyes. As I can’t do what I used to. With all of these endless & ever coming out more & more.. ‘Collateral-Damages’ of what all of this did to this once healthy-perky, happy body!! Losing too many Triple Negative Breast Cancer sister-friends too, too often. Cancer Kills!! Cancer kills your body. But mine just hasn’t gotten that message to my Chemo damaged Brain!! I Pray & Hope for Cancer prevention. A Cancer Cure! With Quality of life after all of this. With the full ability to work and feel wellness, healed and capable of living, enjoying & making a Life!! Living this long without income makes me feel so worthless, helpless, hopeless. I can’t explain this to others. I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. Having started out as a baby that has her childhood robbed from me. Knowing all my life growing up I had NO family, parents, love or anyone being there for be taught me how to survive against the odds. Isn’t it time I catch a break? I don’t as much as know my father’s name, health history or even my nationality… I will say I can say TNBC Survivor. Who loves & lives to encourage others on.. For if I can live this long without such needful things in life.. Anything is possible! The Best is yet to be!! Never ever give up…

  2. Katrina Fox Says:

    I think I pushed forward for several reasons…. the searching eyes of my family as if they were checking for how much things were affecting me which made me want to give them reassurance. My 49 year old brother had died from pancreatic cancer one year before my diagnosis and my parents were still struggling so much. I welcomed the treatments, side affects , etc as it had not been an option for my brother. I did back off, slow down after being admitted for a neuprotinic fever and in isolation for a week as I did not want to alter the plan of treatment. I probably had a larger issue of eating enough protein with the days of sleeping for 3 days after Thursday chemos. My horrible side affect of dry mouth made liquids what I wanted. I did push to appear as normal as possible with several wigs, make-up, etc. I also kept my sense of humor by using duct tape to remove the stragglies of hair that I was eventually left with.