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The halfway point of Strive for Five

Pre-surgery: liver resection #2

What Per Posted on October 16, 2019:

They just took Gina back to begin surgery. She was in great spirits, a little loopy from the epidural, and she really really wanted a quesadilla.

Surgery should last about 4 hours.

I’ll add updates to this post as I get them.


Putting on a brave face

What I posted on October 19, 2019:

It’s day three at MSK, and we are set to be discharged tomorrow!

Versus my past procedures, I cannot get over how very TIRED I am. If I’m not trying to eat or do laps, I’m basically asleep. And three laps around the hallway are enough to wipe me right out.

I had a to-do list to tackle in bed, and I haven’t had the energy to even look at it to boss Per around. And my appetite is null and void: I’m managing a few bites and a milk at each meal.

A few bites of Italian ice

But my epidural and my drain are both out, and I’m feeling pretty good aside from the pain; which is manageable (especially since I’m not moving so much as I sleep). I seem to have sidestepped any major complications, which were the big risks for this procedure: bile duct leaks or liver failure.

The nursing staff has been wonderful—and nobody is a better nurse than Per!

So that’s all very promising in the macro sense, and I just have to remind myself to be patient. It took a few weeks to feel normal last time, and I know the same will be true this time.

It’s been just awesome to read all your notes. Thank you for making sure there’s always something encouraging waiting for me each time I wake up!

A visit from Hans

Looking back today:

This is me, already conscious of the fact that I am not bouncing back from this surgery the way I had from the first or even the second one. I’m scared about my lack of appetite and even more so my lack of energy—I’m not even bossing Per around?!

A pic of how I really felt

I’ve recognized that this surgery has impacted me differently, and yet in this post, I am trying to talk myself (and you) into believing that it has not—telling myself that I just have to be patient.

I guess I was right about that. I would need to be patient, and as it turned out, for a lot longer than I anticipated; because I was about to enter what was probably the toughest physical part of my entire journey. And, looking back, I’m surprised to find myself starting to feel the anticipatory weight of the next few posts.

Strive for Five was conceived as a year-long project reflecting on a four-year journey; this post marks the halfway point, six months after I started. So far, it’s covered just over a year of my journey—leaving the next six months to cover the balance of three years and counting. That pacing was both intentional (I wanted to give newly diagnosed patients a closer look at the beginning of a cancer journey) and incidental (over time, I wrote updates less often).

When I did write, it was more often to process what I was experiencing emotionally as I started to understand and accept the reality of my journey and its duration—and the fact that I was growing tired, that neither my body nor my psyche was bouncing the way it used to.

Even trying to write this while thinking back to where I was during this period, I feel weary—bogged down by the memory of so many months—it’s a slog to find the right words, and I feel the urge to take a nap. I am inefficient and unmotivated; I can barely get through my email.

This is especially frustrating, because professionally, I feel more engaged and excited than I have ever been in my career—especially about leading the Working with Cancer initiative. But as a result, I’m finding that I am always “on.” Every conversation sparks a new thought that requires new research. Every new email is the chance to connect with a new partner who could help us push things forward. Every patient referral is someone I have an opportunity to help. I might start my day with a global call at 7:30 am and end it with a cancer patient in Singapore at 9 pm—and when I think about the way I’m spending my day, I hear the whispered doctor’s voiceover from the Monday spot: “It’s cancer.”

"It's cancer"

It's ALL cancer now: my work, my Substack, the new people I’m meeting, even my TikTok feed.

After just three workout sessions, I’m so glad I finally moved forward with a personal trainer, but this morning I showed up exhausted. Before squats and planks, I felt compelled to share both why I was tired, and that feeling tired is scary in and of itself—having previously been a sign of recurrence. She assured me I would feel better after exercise, and I did; but having pushed through a whole workday that also included the dentist (the first visit since right after my diagnosis over four years ago) and my therapist, I’m ready to pass out again.

Per tells me it’s no wonder I’m exhausted: I’m wiped out emotionally, I’m coming to bed late and then revenge scrolling for another hour or two, I’m surviving on coffee until lunch.

I’m realizing I need some more scaffolding if I’m going to get through the next few weeks: the exciting work stuff—including two global panels tomorrow night and Friday morning (if you are at Publicis, I hope you will join me for them!), as well as the next few upcoming Substack posts, which I know will be emotionally weighty for me to relive.

So, for a while at least, and with the encouragement of my very wise therapist, I’m taking social media off my phone. (The more tired I get, the more I find myself reaching for it, and the more hours scrolling consumes.) I’m going to try to nourish myself in better ways—maybe even by reading a book. If you’ve got suggestions for a title that is uplifting or an escape, or if you have other thoughts about scaffolding that works for you, I’m all ears. And maybe right about now, I could use a star or two, too.

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