December 27, 2021

We begin our last week of this year. Weird. It’s been both the longest and shortest year of my life. Short because I feel like there wasn’t much in the way of accomplishment. I spent so much of the year sedentary, which is not normal for me. And long, well, because of the cancer. The unknowns and treatments and fear just seemed unending for a while. As I think back over the year, I realize that I’ve learned quite a bit, though, so I figured I’d wrap up the year this week with the top lessons that I’m thankful for.

Probably my biggest setback this year is the pain that I got from my cancer treatments. For someone who was used to being physical, I was not prepared for it. Not at all. I mean, in my prime I once moved a loveseat down two flights of stairs by myself. So I had taken for granted that I could lift, carry, crawl, climb, and walk however and whenever I wanted to. (Notice I didn’t say run because I don’t run. I’ve tried and stopped every time. Go ahead and judge me but I’m ok with it.) Then Taxol came along and wrecked my muscles. Maybe you’ll remember my whining about my muscle aches in previous posts. If not, let me remind you–it was pain that weighed on me between my shoulder blades and then radiated from my hips to my knees. I spent a lot of time on a heating pad and planted in the corner of the sectional sofa. And while things are WAAAAYYY better, I’m still not pain free. I can’t jump up from a chair and move quickly. I ache from sleeping. And I have to really think about how heavy something is before I hoist it from the ground.

I’ve said this to Patrick and I’ll now say it here. I wish we could allow others to feel what we are feeling. Like I could touch his arm and he could experience all the aches and pains and fears I have as I feel them. How awesome would that be? It would help at the doctor’s office. And imagine if we could do that with our pets? Game changer. Of course, I’ve thought this through because I have seen Behind Her Eyes on Netflix–the experience would have to be mutually agreed upon and with a limited duration, like half and hour, and then things would go back to normal automatically. Half an hour seems long enough to really get it.

My point is that pain is subjective. Some people can tolerate a lot and others only a small amount. I’m sure with my wish scenario you’d run the risk of someone thinking that what you’re feeling isn’t THAT bad. However, I bet more often than not, most of us would be amazed at what others are dealing with. I think we forget that when we expect someone to suck it up or just get over it. And when you deal with pain a lot, then you learn to mask it just to get through your day. You may never know if the person in front of you at the store is slow because they just had a chemo treatment. Or they have arthritis. Or fell in the tub that morning. Or any number of crazy ailments. And it’s not always physical pain–there’s a lot of emotional pain out in the world that is just as debilitating.

Lesson Number One. Be gentler with each other and with yourself. Compassion isn’t something we should only pull out at Christmas. We should sprinkle it on everything like glitter.

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