Checking on Myself After Cancer

I am doing remarkably well post-transplant.

From my first diagnosis to this very day, I focused on being free from cancer. I put all other health issues on the back burner.

For years after successful treatment, I focused on being cancer free. I now realize that my whole-self needs to be “health-pampered.” Doctor appointments are necessary, but I like to look at following through with exams as mollycoddle behavior. I reward myself with a hot shower, a good meal and a lighted scented candle after a day of doctor visits. 

Here is my current total wellness shortlist:

  • Osteoporosis and/or arthritis. I had a hip replacement before my first cancer diagnosis, and now struggle with some ankle issues and bone deterioration in my neck and upper back — likely from all the chemo. My neck is getting pretty darn bad. I contort my head every which way to try and crack the bones, but now it seems like the bones are fused together. I booked an appointment with a new internist and will inquire about the next steps to address these issues.
  • Hernia. I think I have a hernia. Will address at new doctor appointment.
  • Addiction. I am a recovering alcoholic and need to reflect on gratitude for sobriety. I’m not a great Alcoholics Anonymous example; meetings are infrequent, and I don’t have a sponsor. But I do have my own methods to maintain and rejoice in sobriety. Thankfully I have zero cravings.
  • Cholesterol. When I was in the hospital for AML, I was told to “eat anything!” Rich milkshakes were recommended. I had high cholesterol before cancer, and the LDL levels increased while slurping my cream. My mother had a heart attack and I do not want to experience the same, so I’m going to try and restrict fats. I am still slim from the cancer treatment experience and from genetics, so I do need to gain a little more weight. Balance is essential.
  • Memory. My father recently passed away from Alzheimer’s. I now execute routine practices to sharpen my memory. 
  • Sugar. My dad also had type 1 diabetes. I love putting sugar in my coffee and on top of my nightly berry bowl. It’s time to try and reduce sugar from my diet, I guess. Everyone is always telling me that sugar turns directly into fat. But I need some fat on my bones! This one is confusing. My blood tests always come back good. To be discussed with doc.
  • Exercise. I stand all day at work. I frequently walk, but not at a speed that would qualify the activity as exercise. I’m pooped at the end of the day and find it hard to perform cardiovascular activities. Also, this summer heat has put a damper on my occasional bike riding. I stretch every evening next to my copycat cat but need to get on a more vigorous regimen.
  • Girly things. My OB-GYN did not want to perform a pap spear when I visited her post treatment; I was taking tacrolimus to improve my immune system. She did not want to risk an infection during this vulnerable time. Now that I am stable, I best get in to see her for both the pap smear and a breast exam.
  • The dentist. I am admittedly a chicken when it comes to seeing the dentist. Before the drill touches a tooth, I holler in pain. Normally, I get a minimum of two novocain shots, even if I really don’t need them both. With all the cancer advances, you would think that the silent drill would have been invented! Even the noise and sensation of the electronic toothbrush during a cleaning cause me to hum and clamp the chair rests. I did go to the dentist before treatment as a requirement for treatment; any infection could have killed me given the depletion of an immune system via chemo and a bone marrow transplant. I went immediately after treatment and feared that all the chemo caused cavities in every tooth. I had none! Nonetheless, I am scared to go again. Must conjure bravery.
  • Eyesight. I have been good about getting my eyes tested. Chemo worsened my vision, and my new prescription is stronger. The eyes, otherwise, look healthy.
  • Mental wellbeing. I suffered from a disgusting depression that seemed to come out of nowhere after I recovered from my first cancer treatment. It might have been circumstantial, biological, or spiritual. I badly wanted God to take me (as opposed to suicide.) For example, I was terribly excited when my plane hit major turbulence, but I was devastated when we landed safely. I feel now that depression is worse than cancer. Depression should not belong in the human repertoire of feelings. If there is a devil, it manifests in depression. To combat depression and anxiety, I talk to a therapist and take prescribed medication. I get enough sleep. I am thankfully joyful now! I love life.

Taking care of our wellness can be time-consuming. Just scheduling appointments and filling out the forms sucks. However, I now look at things differently and feel like I am treating myself to feeling better. It’s also a great feeling checking off appointments on the to do list.

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