My mother was fiercely independent right up to the final weeks of her life. Or at least she wanted to remain as independent as she could for as long as she could, and she generally succeeded in that.
Let’s say that this apple didn’t fall far from that tree.
Last week I had a cyst removed from my right thumb (I’m right-handed). It started out quite small over a year ago and had grown to the size of a small pea just below my thumbnail. It wasn’t painful, but it was beginning to change how my thumbnail grew and, because it was sticking out from the surface of my thumb, it would get abraded if I rubbed it against things. It was time to go.
I drove myself to the hospital with the understanding that this would likely be done with a local anesthesia, but I needed to be prepared in case they needed to give me stronger happy juice during the procedure. Let’s just say that the hospital over-achieved and knocked me out for the surgery.
Thanks to the nerve blockers used in my arm, my hand was flopping around like a dead fish, completely uncontrollable and completely useless. (Much like in this classic Tim Conway / Harvey Korman sketch.) When it came time to go home, I had to have the nurse button my shirt and tie my shoes so I could leave the hospital. So much for independence.
Of course, that meant that I couldn’t drive myself home. Thankfully, I had given two friends a head’s up that I may need a ride and had each of them on standby waiting for a call from me. Tom was gracious enough to chauffeur me home during a rainy rush hour in San Diego. (San Diegans lose their minds when it comes to driving in the rain because it happens so infrequently, so I really appreciate his navigating through that mess.)
The next morning with full control of my hand and minimal pain from the incision, I had to retrieve my car from the hospital’s parking garage 31 miles / 50 km from my house. Being stubborn and wanting to regain some independence, I took three buses and two trolleys (light rail) and two hours and forty minutes to get to the hospital. But I got my car on my own. Woo-hoo! (Although it’s been almost a week and I still haven’t untied the nurse’s knots on my shoes—I’ve been slipping my feet in and out of them all week long.)
Some of you may recall that several posts ago, I talked about relationships and how disillusioned I was with some of them. Some reflection since that post and this incident have recalibrated me to a degree.
Facing any illness in general or cancer in particular as a single person poses its own set of unique challenges. Obviously, I have to impose on the lives of those around me to meet some of my needs if I can’t do things for myself. I hate having to do that (stubborn independent streak) but obviously know that it’s okay to swallow my pride and do so when the time comes.
This incident highlighted for me the handful of people that I would feel comfortable approaching for assistance, and that’s a good thing. (Keep in mind that my family is half a continent away in Chicago, so something major would have to happen for them to be of assistance. Either I go there or one of them comes to San Diego.)
I would like that list of potential helpers to be a bit longer just to spread the burden among the lot of them, and that’s where some of my questions about current relationships still come into play. Relationships that were fostered over decades before I joined social media (i.e., Facebook), seem to have been reduced to mere “likes” and 🙂 now from people who used to call, email, or visit. Will I be able to call on them and rely on them if and when the need arises? In most cases, I should be able to count on them, but time will tell.
With luck, any need for physical assistance will be years away and I’ll have time to sort things out. In the meantime, I won’t burn any bridges and will work to ensure that I’m holding up my end of the relationship.
5 thoughts on “Month 99 – Stubbornness, Independence, and Relationships”
Stay strong, Dan. One thing I have discovered during my dance with the gut goblin is there are always people out there who want to help. Like you, I have always been fiercely independent. I have also seen friendships fade over time and even a few that have been surgically removed because they couldn’t deal with my illness. But for every disappointment, there have been two or three surprises in the form of loving and caring individuals who simply want to help. I have learned a great deal about what true friendship is all about during this trying time. I just had to become aware of what was happening around me, let go of the relationships that were being terminated and forge new ones with the unexpected givers. These will, I believe, become lasting friendships when and if this nightmare is finally over. Until then, I am happy to have them in my life and am learning how to ask for help when needed. Life is for sharing, after all.
Thanks for your comment. I experienced the same when I was first diagnosed. Some of those who I expected to provide the most support ran away the fastest, and others who were more acquaintances than anything else stepped up and surprised me.
For me, I’ve always been the definition of introvert most of my life. Add in being in the closet for nearly four decades (another story for another time/blog), and I rarely let more than 3-4 people get close to me at any given time, even today. So when I see some in that small cadre of relationships that I’ve cultivated over the years step away or show limited interest, it bothers me. But I’m coming to terms with the notion that that’s okay. At least I know where I stand with them now.
Thanks again and all the best to you!
Hi Dan, So good to see you posting again! Sorry for the hassles you had to go through for your thumb, but glad you took care of it. I am surprised that you have not mentioned anything about your next steps to address your recurrence. I would assume that you are considering salvage radiation therapy (SRT), as I am. If you are talking to radiation oncologists, you are probably also hearing about SRT with hormone therapy. By hearing about, I mean that if you are seeing more than one oncologist you may be faced with the decision of whether or not to do the hormone therapy, again, as I am. I wish you the best in your fight. I wish I could hear more from you. I very much look forward to your reply or next post.
Thanks for reaching out. Regarding next steps for the recurrence, to be honest, I’ve put that whole thought process on hold for a while. I needed the break from the research and anxiety. I’ll have another PSA test at the end of March or early April, and that will force me back into reality.
Yes, SRT is the option that’s on the table for me and not one of the doctors recommended concurrent ADT with it given my numbers and slow PSA doubling time. I know there’s research out there showing that concurrent ADT with SRT appears to improve the outcome of SRT, but I’m not keen on starting it earlier than necessary.
I’m sure that posts in the not-too-distant future will get back on the treatment and imaging research and decision-making process. Ugh.
All the best to you,
I just found your blog today. I’ve been thinking about starting a blog just to give me someplace to vent and maybe help someone else in the process.
I’ve been dealing with prostate cancer since 2008. I went a different route than you did due to my lifestyle. I’m now dealing with my 2nd recurrence. There are some things I could share with you from the perspective of someone of approximately the same age and diagnosis. If you have an interest you can contact me, if not I understand.