Going Solo, Well Not Really

An Idaho Summer

Just before I arrived in Idaho this summer I had a text conversation with Linda, who has opened her and her husband’s second home to me. She was concerned about me coming to Idaho. Covid-19 was on  upsurge in the state and she was concerned. Linda’s statement to me was she wasn’t sure I would have allies up here. I told her as a single or solo person I can’t rely on having any allies.

Guess who was wrong? Me. A week after I arrived in Idaho I got sick. I had a sore throat, it was really sore. After spending a weekend self-treating I decided a visit to the clinic associated with St Lukes Hospital was in hand. I was apprehensive. I worried that I had Covid-19. I was worried that I could have infected others. I was worried that things could get worse. I was disappointed in myself that I had exposed myself to this ugly virus. I was feeling alone.

I had a car appointment. I wore a mask and never got out of my car. The NP who saw me was gowned, gloved, and masked. My whole visit was conducted without moving from the driver’s seat. My heart rate was a little high and I received the lecture about drinking enough water at elevation. My throat was red and sore.

I was tested for strep which was negative and then for Covid-19. I was told I should self isolate until the results came back. Three days later the results were in and I was negative for the coronavirus. Yes!!! I am happy to report I am back in full working order and what was a scary moment in time is now in the past.

My friends came to the rescue. I notified Linda that this was happening. She immediately texted me and told me to hang tight. Over the next few days until the results came in we texted back and forth. Her support was a comfort to me and made me realize I am not alone. My sister, Ginny, was in touch and anxiously waiting for the results with me. Friends in Oregon, Mary, and Wanda, awaited the news and supported me via social media. Hmmm, I was not alone. I have allies.

Kayaking the North Fork of the Payette River

This event has made me realize I am never alone, not really. I have friends and allies all over the country and world who continue to love and support me and encourage me when I feel the most vulnerable and worn down. I have friends who support and celebrate with me when life is on an upswing. I have friends who make me realize I am not alone. I may be solo and adventuring out on my own but I carry all these people with me, in my everyday life. They are only a phone call away.

This summer I am up in the mountains. I am safe. I am biking, kayaking, hiking and taking plenty of photos. I am social distancing and wearing a mask. I am taking care of myself as best I can. And I am not doing it alone. I have allies.

Today I am thankful for my immediate family and my family of friends who love and support me, no matter what.

PTSD and Life Experiences

In mid-December I had my annual checkup with my surgeon and oncologist.

In 2010 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My initial reaction to this news was anger, furious anger. I was mad about having my life interrupted by a tiny, small lump in my breast. I believe that the anger masked the fear that this diagnosis instantly creates in most people who receive this diagnosis.

The good news is, that I am now eight years out and going well and strong. Some things changed due to this diagnosis. I watch what I eat, I am not perfect but I manage to pay a bit more attention to my diet. I exercise regularly. And each day I am thankful for one more day on this planet.

Then Jim got diagnosed with cancer. It was different this time. I was not angry. I was strong. Yet when he got diagnosed with the metastasis from the original cancer, I had a different reaction. Even when he was well, I found I was enacting, in my head, how to live without him. It was at this point, feeling guilty for creating this alternate life, that I decided to go into therapy. I still see my counselor for a check up a few times a year. It is good to check in.

When I had my appointment with my surgeon in December, I told him that there are just some months I cannot do my self breast exam. It is fear that stops me. What if I find something? What do I do? How can I do this again? He was the first person to mention that I had a little bit of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). He also informed me that most people, after any major life altering situations, have a bit of PTSD. Wow, I had never heard this before. It makes sense. He told me that it is OK to miss months. It is OK.

It is OK to acknowledge that I am human. It is OK to have PTSD. Giving this unknown stress a name has been helpful for me. Ah, here comes my ally, “fear”. Now I understand a bit more about my ally. The more that I can learn about fear the less of hold it has on me. I refuse to allow fear to take over. I don’t have time for it. As I learn more about fear,  the less it surfaces in my life. Maybe this knowledge will let me be kinder to myself. Hopefully,  I can let go of the guilt when I miss that important exam. Now there is one less hold fear has on me.

I really like my team of doctors. That is important. I love that my surgeon comes in the exam room, sits down and talks with me as if we are old friends. We catch up. We share pictures and stories. He is professional and kind. My oncologist is also a delight. She is smart and wise and she understands that fear. Why? She has had cancer. All my visits end with a hug and I find myself relax and feel like I am being loved and supported. I am ready to face another year.

PTSD is a diagnosis. I have often thought we all are walking wounded. We are wounded from life experiences. It is normal, it is life. We have good wounds and bad wounds. I think the good ones way outnumber the bad ones. Hopefully this knowledge will help me be kinder to myself, and to others, a little more patient and forgiving.