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Nov 27, 2020 10:10PM
Happy belated Thanksgiving. (Happy Thanksgiving to you too, LillyIsHere!)
BevJen, I'm grateful you are here, but I'm so sorry for all you have been through for so many years. The cervical metastasis may actually have been a gift in terms of extending your life by decreasing your estrogen production via the hysterectomy.
It is so much easier to tell someone to reduce their stress level than it is to actually do it. So much is out of a person's control in terms of what life hands you. It takes a lot of fortitude to determine how you will handle what you face and what you decide to say yes and no to in life.
What do you do to relax?
I have been an anxious person for most of my life, probably because my mom was very anxious and I learned to be that way (she spent most of her time "prophylactically worrying," not that it changed anything) and because there was a lot of stress due to health issues my brother and father had when I was growing up. My brother was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 13 and he lived for nearly 4 years, but it was nearly 4 years of immense battles with constant chemotherapy and radiation and all their side effects. My dad had 3 bouts of malignant melanoma, but ended up dying young of a heart attack. I've struggled mightily with depression on and off ever since my teens.
Over time, to relax, I've chosen to spend a lot of my waking hours outdoors. I garden almost every day, as long as the temperature is above freezing. It gets me out of my own head. I've been the volunteer caretaker of a formerly abandoned 7 acre cemetery for 35 years now. It's only a block away from my home. Working there became my therapy starting when I was 28 years old. I walked by the cemetery shortly after my husband and I bought our house. A woman was sitting on the ground next to 300 daffodil bulbs looking overwhelmed. I asked if I could help her plant the daffodils and she talked me into taking over the care of the cemetery in the 3 hours it took us to plant all the bulbs.
The cemetery had been devastated by vandalism at that time. The grass hadn't been cut in years. I would plod over there after work every day and try to make a dent in something. I spent all the daylight hours working there on the weekends. In the early years, I mowed the grass myself. It took me two weeks to finish a mowing and it would be time to start again. I was working full-time, but I didn't really come alive until I got home from work and went through the gates of the cemetery. I began fund-raising and eventually raised enough money to pay for mowing. That allowed me to apply for grants and do other fund-raising so I could start planting trees there. The balm of being there was listening to the birds and watching the bees and butterflies on the flowers that I planted, little by little.
It's taken over 3 decades, but the cemetery is a nationally recognized arboretum now. I've planted about 300 trees and now have a total of 5 pollinator gardens there. I quit working full-time almost 7 years ago and the cemetery has been a full-time job for me ever since and believe me, my house looks like it! Years ago, I gave up on trying to keep an immaculate house. Now, I just nod at a dust ball when it blows by.
We live near an apartment where people have left their cats behind. I'm not really a cat person, but we've taken in 17 cats from there over the years we've lived here in addition to the dogs we've adopted. I still have 6 cats. With that many animals, I realized I'd have to adjust my expectations of what constitutes a clean house. It doesn't hurt that I've been on anti-depressants for 25 years now.
I almost never cook, but my husband thankfully decided to take it up about a year ago. He likes it. I can spend 8 hours weeding a garden, but after 10 minutes of chopping vegetables, I lose my will to live.
I used to be much more of a people-pleaser than I am now. I'm naturally introverted, so socializing with a wide variety of people was mostly stressful to me. Even pre-Covid, I was rarely willing to go to parties and other get-togethers. I have a sister, a daughter, and a few friends that I would die for and I feel grateful beyond measure for them. I have circumscribed my life dramatically over the years and that has paid off in reducing my anxiety and depression.
I realize what relaxes a person is different for everyone, but I think figuring out what does and indulging that (as much as is practical) is key to making the best of the time we have here.
All the best to everyone from my very little corner of the world.
Papillary thyroid cancer, stage IVa, surgery November 2009
12/7/2012, ILC, Both breasts, 1cm, Grade 1, 0/1 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
12/20/2012 Lymph node removal: Left, Sentinel; Mastectomy: Left, Right
2/24/2013 Prophylactic ovary removal
3/13/2013 Femara (letrozole)