In the past few months, I have met many warriors who are battling all kinds of cancers. I applaud and respect them because I know that cancer can be an uphill battle and it is often hard to see beyond the ravages of the illness. It can consume our lives and our thoughts. And sometimes our way of dealing with cancer (or any other chronic illness) is to isolate ourselves from the world.
That happened to me after the stem cell transplant. For the longest time, my attention was on the stem cell transplant process – I read about it, I visualized it, and I saw myself successfully going through it. So once the transplant was done, I felt like I did not have much to look forward to regarding treatment.
For about a month after I came home from the transplant, I mostly shut myself from the world. I did not leave the house much. I turned down invites from friends for visits and lunches. I did not return calls or emails. I isolated myself from people I loved. I was scared and unsure. I felt most comfortable under the covers in my bed. One of my friends called me out on my behaviour and for cancelling visits with her multiple times. Many others kept in touch with me to let me know that they were there for me and that I could reach out to them anytime.
Around this time, I also started reading a book, The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. What struck me most about this book is research by the author that most people, during times of trouble and hardship, tend to bear down and work harder while isolating themselves from family and friends. And he concludes that this is the worst thing you can do because this is the time when you need the most support from people around you. I realized that this is exactly what I was doing. What is it about the human condition that makes it so difficult for us to reach out for help? Is it that we are afraid to be vulnerable? Is it that we want to be seen a particular way? Is it that we see reaching out as a sign of weakness? For me, it was not wanting people to see me when I was feeling “less than” me.
The past month has been a lot better for me. I had a 50-day post transplant follow up with my doctor, and he confirmed that the stem cells appear to be working, although I still have some residual cancer in my bone marrow. My doctor also said that I was doing exceptionally well for someone who just went through the stem cell transplant and confirmed that I will only get stronger over time. So I have a lot to look forward to!
In the past month, Nagib and I went to New York to celebrate our 31st wedding anniversary. We went to Yankee Stadium, watched Spiderman and ate lots of pasta with shrimp! I have started a fitness program at Goodlife Fitness (can’t wait to tell you all about it!), I ran a team building workshop for about 100 volunteers and was the Emcee at a wedding last weekend. This past week, I volunteered to do 15 minute coaching sessions at the Canadian Management Centre for ICF Coaching Week. And I am reaching out more, even when I’m not at my best. It feels good to be back – nervous,wobbly, vulnerable, hopeful and all!