Who Am I When my Body Fails Me? is a question we all need to ask ourselves when injury or illness takes its toll on our lives. How are we different? How are we the same? How do we respond to mental, physical, and/or spiritual stresses? How do we view God when we are weak or in pain? Below is the most recent of several blogs on this question. Click on Who am I When My Body Fails Me in the Category List to find the rest.
SOMEONE ONE LEARNING TO COPE
I am one of about 95,000 people in the U.S. living with multiple myeloma, a treatable but incurable blood cancer. I have been taking weekly chemotherapy pills, steroids, and having chemotherapy injections since December, 2015. Recently my aggressive treatment was cut back because of the side effects of steroids and chemotherapy. However, I will continue with some kind of chemo therapy until it stops working.
Because the side effects of the treatment have been fatigue, anemia, high blood sugar, low blood pressure, and bone pain, I have had to alter my lifestyle and learn a few tricks about how to live more comfortably when my body fails me. It’s good to adopt habits even if your body gets you through your days just fine; you will be training for the day it doesn’t. I share them in case you haven’t thought of these yet.
Find and Follow Your New Rhythm
Find a new rhythm that matches your new lifestyle (check out my earlier post on Finding Our Rhythm). What is the best time of day/night to work, to sleep, to relax and not fall asleep, to shop, to work? What day of the week is the best day to be out of the house, to meet friends, to keep appointments? Keep to that rhythm as your plan your schedule for the week. (And yes, plan your schedule ahead so you are not doing everything on the same day and falling through your front door when it is finally over.)
Develop a Routine for Routine Things.
I’ve learned to get out everything I need for breakfast, so I can prepare and cook and set and clear in as few steps as possible. This routine prevents needless trips back to the kitchen or back from the table – the fewer steps the fewer naps! For dinner, I put everything together that I can when I am feeling strong and put it in bowls or pans or bags in the refrigerator. I set out the plates and silverware and glasses, I will need. I learned to do this because I often fall asleep at about four in the afternoon and sleep into or past the supper hour. I found myself skipping meals or eating quickly prepared but inappropriate meals because it was so late. Now I have most of my meal ready to warm up or just take out of the refrigerator.
Find a place to put everything you need to get dressed so that you are not running from the dresser or the closet to the bathroom or back to the bedroom. Set out everything you need for a trip out of the house by the door you are going to use: keys, purse, umbrella, books, mail, grocery list, recyling bags, shopping bags, coat, gloves, boots, etc. – preferably the morning before. Put things in the same place every time – especially glasses, keys, and phone. Organize your grocery list by aisle so you don’t have to backtrack. Create a bill-paying and accounting storage system including pens, pencils, envelopes, stamps, bills, bank statement, lists of automatic payments or deductions, etc. Buy and address birthday cards ahead of time and put post it notes on the envelopes reminding you when to mail them.
Become a Planner for One Day at a Time
Each night I go over the blessings of my day and then review what I am planning to do for the next day. Of course, I have probably already made a list, but it’s still good to have a mental picture. Before I get up in the morning I think about how I want my day to go. (Visualizing is a great way to assure a positive experience; baseball pitchers visualize each pitch to each batter in each inning before the game even start.) If I wake up in pain or fatigued by a sleepless night, I can re-calibrate my plans so that at least the necessary things can get done without my mentally flailing around trying to decide what those are.
Talk your spouse or significant other or a family member into being a planner. I am my husband’s chauffeur. He likes to ride on the fly. I like to plot the route. He is learning to plan his errands and communicate the plan so that his exhausted wife doesn’t become his cranky wife.
Write a Lot of Notes
When my mother was sliding into dementia, a friend of mine who was an occupational therapist was assigned to teach her how to change her habits so she could remember better. It involved lists and post-it notes and notes to self as well as notes to her nurse or her children who were caring for her. My mother refused to let her in the house saying, as usual, that she didn’t need help. My sister and I learned from the massive confusion this attitude caused. I write notes about errands and about library book due dates and about questions I have for people with whom I need to talk business. I do “to do” lists for everything. I am in training for when someone else has to help take care of me.
Find People and Tools to Help Make Life Easier
Find a way emotionally to accept help from all the people who want to be helpful. My hair dresser always twists the cover of the lotion she sells me because it often isn’t lined up properly and I can’t get it to function. She feels helpful; I’m glad I don’t have to struggle with it myself. My sister and a friend enjoy weeding and chatting. Jim loves trimming bushes. Rich and his team from church like to repair things. Another friend likes to research resources. Many of my friends want pick up the tab when we have lunch together; I always carry small bills so I can leave the tip.
One day I ran into a friend in the grocery story. I was distraught because I couldn’t find my wallet. She helped me backtrack my steps through the store, eventually going with me to the pharmacy counter. When the wallet didn’t turn up there, she paid for my prescriptions! Eventually we found the wallet in my car – but she wouldn’t let me pay her back. What an example of loving service! God shows love to us through His disciples; we need to learn to graciously receive the gifts they can give us. (By the way, save all the cards you get from friends and family; I tape all mine to the back of the door in my writing room. When I go in the room and shut the door, I can see dozens of brightly colored notes of love and encouragement.
Find just the right bag to carry things to the car or a drawer to organize for your medications or a basket to keep your sewing or reading materials in. Recently, when I was too weak to stand by the stove and cook my husband’s eggs just the way he likes them, I learned to cook them sitting on the seat of my sexy new red walker!
When life surprises us, we need to learn new ways to cope. Examining how we can help life flow more smoothly so we can stay in good spirits is a gift we need to give ourselves and those who love us.