Another Lap Around the Cancer Failure Track

Laura Zigman Health Guide
  • In my last post, I listed 5 ways I felt I'd "failed" during my cancer experience -- which means, since I'm pretty much the same as most women, that most women probably feel like they've failed in similar ways. I'm going to continue, and I invite you all to add your "failures" to the list:


    6. Not Leaving The Hospital Fast Enough After Surgery

    I wrote an entire SharePost about this so I won't repeat myself, except to say that this was one of my public "failures" since it took place in the hospital with doctors and nurses and surgeons and interns and residents present. It was also one of my least self-inflicted cases of feeling like a failure, meaning that this was one of the rare times when outsiders were making me feel like a failure more than I was making myself feel like one.

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    7. Not Wanting My Husband to Help Me Empty My Drains, Change My Surgical Dressings, and Administer Enimas

    Call me crazy, or a prude, or selfish, but my wonderful visiting nurse who I truly loved and who gave me amazing care for the first week I was home accidentally made me feel like a failure every time she suggested that one of the tasks she was doing (or, in the case of the enema, threatening to do) could be turned over to my husband. It was bad enough when she emptied my 7 drains and offered to explain to my husband how to do it, but when she reprimanded me (nicely) for not getting my husband intimately involved in my constipation-issues, I couldn't help but feel like a total loser. Were husbands all over America acting like Visiting Nurses to their post-op wives? Was I depriving my husband of some special "bonding" experience? Was keeping him out of the bathroom during my tasks as unfair as keeping him out of the delivery-room would have been when we'd had our son (full disclosure: I had some "privacy" issues there, too, though he was present before, during, and after the birth)? I'm not sure, but I do know this: I don't care. Despite the fact that he would have been willing to do anything I'd asked him to do, I was not going to ask him to do certain things. Now waiting on me hand and foot for 6 full weeks -- that I had no problem asking him to do....


    8. Wanting Painkillers After I Left The Hospital

    Call me crazy again, or a big fat baby, but somehow I felt like a failure for chasing down my doctors and begging them for refills on my painkillers. I'm not talking about extracting 4 or 5 refills out of them for weeks and months of bad pill-taking behavior. I'm just talking about finishing the prescription I'd been sent home with and wanting another. Just one more. Was that so wrong? Apparently it was, since I seem to remember running out of pills and spending a full day -- a Sunday, of course -- without any because I was supposed to be off them already. Already?? Didn't I also write an entire SharePost on the use of the word already???


    9. Almost Fainting The First Time I Took A (Modified) Shower

    I'd always thought of myself as being pretty thick-skinned when it came to having surgery -- pretty macho -- since I'd been having surgery since my emergency appendectomy when I was four and a half. I'd followed that up with (the now deeply ironic) breast reduction surgery when I was in college, and a C-Section, so when I was facing my bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction I felt I was prepared for what I would find when I was finally ready to step into the shower. Not so. Maybe it's because the woman we bought our house from had a penchant for wall-to-wall mirrors and glass shower doors in every bathroom, or because there were just so many areas of surgical "involvement" that I was hard to avoid looking at one of them, but that first time alone in the bathroom taking a modified shower made me cut things short and shuffle back to bed as fast as I possibly could (which wasn't very fast at all). Even though I knew my reaction was understandable, I couldn't help feeling like I'd somehow failed the first real test to accept my body as it was now.


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    10. Not Making A Full and Complete Recovery in 6-8 Weeks

    I still remember the surgeons telling me that recovery from TRAM flap surgery was generally 6 to 8 weeks. When I raised an eyebrow and asked for the true time-table, they gave in and said 8-10 weeks. So imagine how much of a failure I felt like when 6 months had passed and I was still having trouble getting out of a chair. Not that I'm complaining since a lot of breast cancer patients have a lot worse things to happening than having trouble getting out of a chair, or out of a car, or out of a bed, or into a bed, or rolling over in bed, but I just want to make a point that unless there's realllllllly something wrong with me (which of course is entirely possible), recovery time from a double TRAM flap is not 6-8 weeks, or 8-10 weeks. It is more like (wait: I'm doing the math -- and I'll show my work -- 6 x 4) 24-30 weeks.


Published On: February 25, 2008