Friday, September 19, 2008

Body Consciousness

I've wondered several times over the summer when the cancer started growing in me—at least, when it was measurable. We all have cancer cells in our bodies all the time, but occasionally something goes wrong with our immune systems and those individual cells catch hold and wreak havoc, instead of simply being destroyed.

It's likely that, had I been seeing allopaths regularly, my current cancer would have been discovered long before it got to the point of riddling my lungs, bones and brain. But not necessarily—these things can come up fast, say, within six months, and it could have been the six months between check-ups. Anyway, I'm not regretting my decision of last year—to take time off from cancer and treatment and live a "normal" life for awhile—I'm merely wondering when the cancer would've started showing up on scans.

I'm wondering this for a couple reasons. First of all, the riding lessons I've been taking since 2001 have been primarily for hunter/jumper—that is, a typical lesson starts with a warm-up on the flat, walk-trot-canter and some dressage, then ends with jumping. I was far from accomplished as a jumper, but at one point I was pretty comfortable jumping a series of four or five jumps in a row, each one about two feet tall. Not so this last fall and winter.

Once we'd decided to stay in Seattle and bought a car, I started my riding lessons again. I jumped for a couple months, but gradually became less and less comfortable with it. I took a spill off a tall horse in one lesson and landed on my hip. It wasn't that I was riding unbalanced or otherwise poorly, but that the horse didn't want to go straight after the jump. We'd gone over once and he'd swerved to the left instead of heading the several paces to the arena wall then turning; Stephanie, to help me keep him straight, had gone to stand some distance from the jump on the left side to encourage him to reach the back wall. He was having none of it, though—even with more pressure on the right rein and left leg to keep him straight, he took one look at Stephanie when he landed and turned immediately left. I flew off. I didn't get injured, but I also didn't jump him again in that lesson, which I really should've done for both our sakes. Soon after that I came in one day and said to Stephanie, with some regret because jumping's fun, "You know, I'm okay not jumping for awhile." In part, my favorite horse at this barn had been sold and none of the others were as responsive and comfortable as him, but mostly something just didn't feel right. I rode for maybe another month and a half, all flatwork, before my morning nausea and my shortness of breath brought a stop to that as well.

The other reason I'm wondering about when my cancer was measurable is because sometime in the spring I virtually stopped driving, on my own, without Dr. Jason requesting it. Again, I just felt not right in some way. I was starting to be a bit fatigued, and I guess I just didn't think that gave me the right level of awareness for operating a vehicle. I think the last time I drove before last week was to an acupuncture appointment in Fremont, and I enjoyed the freedom of taking myself somewhere, but mostly I was content to let someone else operate the car (although I was very bossy about where he should park, where he should turn, and how fast he should go—a lot of fun for Ian, I know).

Looking back, it seems that my body was very clearly telling my mind that something was wrong, and equally clearly making recommendations for how I could be the safest until I found help to deal with the issues. As the spring progressed and my bones became more and more riddled with cancer, falling off a horse would've been more and more dangerous to my physical health. And as the spring progressed and my brain became more and more riddled with lesions, driving became less and less safe for me and the people on the roads around me. And so my body told me to stop doing these things.

But the telling—it's very hard to hear and understand the body. I think I did a pretty good job—I took it easy, I didn't try to muscle through or ignore my hesitations—but I kept wishing the messages were clear. It was such a relief to have a sinus infection, because I knew what that was. Of course, the messages were clear, at least clear enough to keep me safe, and they perhaps would've been even more clear if, from the start, I'd been open to the idea that the cancer was back. I was trying every method I could think of, barring Western medicine, to prove to myself that it wasn't cancer—who knows how many small clues I was deaf to.

My body feels good now. I feel safe driving—I haven't, as I'd worried, thought at all about having a seizure on the road. I feel good. And I felt good on the horse yesterday. I'm a little sore today—mostly my sitz bones, which don't have so much muscular padding as they used to and will again—but by no means wiped out. I was tired yesterday, too, after I returned home from my ride, but a comfortable tired, not a drained tired. I cooked dinner and went with Ian and Hoover to puppy class, and was in bed around 10:30pm. Even the chemo fatigue is nothing, now that I look back on it, to the way I felt last spring.

I'm on the mend.


Adam English said...

I liked this post! During my morning commutes I've recently thought about consciousness on various levels: e.g physical, spiritual and emotional. Often, my thoughts circle back to the reminder that it's so very easy to be caught up in the hustle of things and ignore things that later, in hindsight, are glaringly obvious.

But most of all, I'm thrilled to hear about your continued progress and recent outings and adventures.


Rich Young said...

Hi, Calin,
I check in with your blog periodically to see how you're doing, and I'm thankful to see that you're doing well. My son, Seth, was more in tune with his body than anyone I had ever known, probably because of how his 2 rounds of cancer affected him. We never questioned him when he said something wasn't right; we just took him to the ER or the doctor, depending on the time of day. It was a problem, however, to get the hospital nurses to believe him in some cases. It seems like they just didn't believe a teenager could be that closely in tune with his body. However, after they saw him enough times, they believed him! As Adam said, most of us get too caught up in the hustle of things and don't pay attention. I hope we all learn a lesson from what you have said.

You're in my thoughts and prayers, even when I don't comment on your postings.

Rich Young

Anonymous said...

Funny. I think there are a number of us who are on the mend as a result of you being on the mend. Love you!--Cousin S