10/13/17 A Patient, not a Person

I saw the surgeon on Monday.  This morning, I saw the radiation oncologist and, in the afternoon, the oncologist.  For the first time I felt like a patient and not a person.  I look in the mirror and I don’t know who that person is.  It’s a lot of rapid physical change to take in.  My mind is the same, but everyone else sees the outside of me, that I’m still adjusting to.  Sadly, today, I glimpsed myself as they see me.

Not quite six months ago, I was busy with our organic farm growing vegetable, taking care of the livestock, eating better than anyone I know, and putting up food.  I was working on illustrating a couple of new books and doing many new paintings.  I was  trying to help Frank with his non-profit Land Trust organization.  And I bicycled 15-30 miles about 4X a week.  Then, I got the diagnosis of cancer.  But I didn’t feel bad.

After the chemo, the doctors (and everyone) said I was so strong!  I did great!  I was disappointed that I wasn’t brave enough to go around bald, like I thought I could/should.  I guess the bald head screamed “cancer patient” to the world, and I didn’t still feel like one.  I was just trying to get through a battle with this new health issue.  I’ve had others: Fibromyalgia, Graves Disease, a rare viral pneumonia, and Lyme Disease.  This was just one more.

Then, I was frightened of the surgery, but I got through that.  And the surgeon said “It looks great!  Wonderful!”  And I saw not just a flat chest, but almost concave…and a huge lateral gash across my whole chest from armpit to armpit.  Now I look like an effeminate (bald) man, dressing as a woman.

But the degradation continues.  I learned today the list of “normal” side effects of radiation are long.  Burnt: skin, lungs, blood vessels, throat, etc.  Doctors seeing me for the first time see the “new” me, an obvious patient, not the person I was so recently.  I don’t want to be a “cancer patient”.  I don’t want to read all about cancer.  I’m not that interested in the topic.  I’ll never become a doctor.  (Likewise, they could never get the skill I have, unless they put in the work of half a century of painting and study in my field and nearly 40 years of gardening.)   So how do I claim my life back?  They depressed me today.

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