So of course we talked about medical stuff today. I asked J if that is what we are going to be talking about from now on, and that I don’t even remember what we talked about before all of this happened. He said that is good, but I don’t know why.
I told him about my visit with the surgeon, and how the surgery will work. We talked about how my husband wanted my surgery to be after the two weddings we got invited to, but I wanted to have it before because I want to get it over with. The surgery actually got scheduled for the week in between the two weddings, and my husband asked me to call the doctor’s office to try to change it until after the second wedding, which I did, but September 9th was the only day the hospital had available. My surgeon said he does surgeries on Thursdays, but he is doing mine on a Friday to fit me in.
J asked me about how I am feeling about the attention I am getting, and considering that I often view myself negatively and without worth, am I now realizing that people value me. I told him that people do seem to be emailing me and calling, but of course that is what people do when they hear someone is sick. I told him that word is getting around and people who I didn’t even tell about this are calling me, and he said they don’t need to do that – they are calling me because they care about me.
I’m actually still not sure how I feel about the attention; I have to think about that some more.
I told him that people have said they think my positive attitude is great, that I have “courage” and I am an “inspiration”. I said that was ridiculous, and it is just perfect Harriet again – always competent. It is so much pressure now, people think I am an inspiration, so what if I have break down and have an anxiety attack?
I talked about how I don’t have to do any work, I just go to the hospital and the doctor takes out my kidney. I don’t even deserve to say I have cancer, because compared to people going through chemo and radiation this is nothing. He said that people having chemo and radiation don’t do anything either, someone just puts a needle in them or pulls over a radiation machine. That I can’t compare myself. I tried to object and he said that he doesn’t think I understand what he is saying and I interrupted and said that he doesn’t understand what I am saying. That people are suffering with “real” cancer, and I am lucky. This will be one month out of my life and I’m done. I don’t have to “fight the battle” of cancer. I’m not sure if he got that.
I also said that people say I am either in shock or denial because I’m not freaking out. I really can’t win, if I seem fine I’m either in shock or denial, if I am freaking out people will think I’m too emotional. I asked J if he thinks I am in denial, and he said he thinks I am being realistic, with the exception of my recovery period. The surgeon said I could go back to work in 3 to 4 weeks, and I told J that he must be exaggerating, I’m sure it won’t be longer than 2 weeks. J said that he thinks I may be minimizing how I will feel after the surgery, but he doesn’t know for sure because he has never had this surgery and doesn’t know anyone who does. We talked about being realistic vs being optimistic and pessimistic and he said we don’t really know what the recovery will be like.
J said that people are reacting this way because they want to do something. If I am showing anxiety they can try to make me feel better, but if I am not showing anxiety there is nothing they can do.
Then we talked about how I don’t want to be one of those people who is handed a death sentence and it changes their whole life. That all of their problems go away and they are happy for each moment in the day. It is so stereotypical and cliché. He asked what was wrong with being one of those people and I said it is just very cookie cutter. He asked if I was one of those people if it would take my specialness away. I’m not sure that is it, I don’t know about this one either. I did tell him that I now consider myself a very lucky person, and I never thought that about myself before, even though I had a great life. He said that is somewhat of an epiphany, and I agreed, but I said that the sky isn’t bluer and apples don’t taste sweeter since my diagnosis.
I asked J if he has ever had a client die of an illness, and he said when he was in grad school they had a clinic and he saw a woman with end stage breast cancer, but only twice and then she didn’t come back. He assumed she died. He told me that I would not be the first client of his to die while I was still seeing him, and I said I know that because if I knew I had something fatal, I would quit therapy. I asked what is the point of therapy if I am going to die soon? J said the breast cancer woman came to therapy to get help with dealing with her children’s reaction to her illness and impending death, and I said that makes sense, but for me I don’t see the point of continuing if I am dying. He asked me why and I said that the whole point of therapy is to change my problems and my ways of thinking, and why do that if death is imminent? He said that if one were to continue to have therapy with a fatal illness, the objectives would change. For example is one were in therapy to quit smoking, then discovered that they had 3 months to live, the smoking would not be quite so important.
J asked why I asked him if he had a client die, what was I thinking about? I didn’t tell the truth here. I just said that I was curious, and that if I knew I was going to die I would quit. What I really wanted to know is if he would be sad if I died. But I couldn’t say that.
Let’s see, what else? I told him that I hadn’t told my mother yet, but I was going to have to soon because word was getting around. People in my husband’s family are hearing the news, and so far the only person in my family who knows is my aunt. He asked if I have told my cousin and I told him that no, I haven’t, and I also am feeling guilty because I haven’t called her in about two weeks. He asked why I would feel guilty about that, and I said that she is having a really hard time and I went from talking to her a lot, to not at all, and I feel badly because I think I am being selfish, with all of this distractibility I have from the medical stuff. J said something like, “So you don’t think having a bunch of medical tests and running from doctor to doctor and finding out you have a malignant tumor is a good reason to not call someone who you supported for about 4 weeks while they were suicidal?” I said, “Well if you put it like that, it sounds pretty reasonable.” He said he would like me to get to the point where I can put it like that and not have it pointed out to me. J said that it might be good to tell my cousin, if she is feeling ok right now, because she will be able to offer me the same kind of emotional support that I offered her. I said that I didn’t help her because I would one day expect the same from her, and he said he knows that, but it would be an opportunity to show her and me that we can get through things together. But I said that if I tell her, and she tells her mother (my other aunt) and I don’t hear from them or get support from them I would be disappointed. He said if I do tell them I should do so without having any expectations, but that is very hard for me.
We got back to if this is what we will be talking about from now on, and having a medical problem doesn’t make my other problems go away. He said he thinks it is good that I have kind of put my other problems in a box and even put some of the boxes under the bed. I’m not so sure that is good, stuffing problems away doesn’t seem healthy, but maybe it is only possible to deal with one issue at a time.
I told J that I have silly anxieties. I think most people would be worried about the cancer part of this, or dying in surgery or something, whereas I am worried that I will gain weight after the surgery, or I’ll lose all of my fitness during my recovery and I won’t get back to where I am now. He somehow tricked me here, and asked me if I think where I am now, as far as weight and fitness, are good enough, since I would like to get back here after surgery. I had to say yes, and he was glad that I thought so, and that was progress, I’ve moved from obsessing about losing two or three more pounds to feeling that where I am now is good enough.
And he said what I am worried about is what I am worried about, there isn’t anything I “should” be worried about. He thinks I am handling all of this very well, that I am being an informed patient, I am doing research, and I found an email group for kidney cancer, etc. I mentioned that doing all of this research last week made me feel overwhelmed for a while. I got anxious, and sometimes I get twinges of anxiety. J said that is perfectly normal, and I am doing very well with it. I told him that I think it is pretty good that I get up out of bed each morning, and I still exercise and eat right, and I could be hiding in bed eating cookies and ice cream. He said that is probably what people see as “courage”, that courage doesn’t mean having no fear, it means going on despite the fear. And I have to admit, I am “going on”. I don’t feel terror, I just have twinges of anxiety, and I’m not using bad coping mechanisms. So I think things are pretty good.
I did call my mother this evening, but she wasn’t home. I left her a message to call me. Ugh.