0045 Thrive and Connect: Jennifer’s Cancer Journal – Part 2

Today, Jennifer wants to continue talking directly about her experiences with cancer and the chemotherapy and the impact they are having on her life.

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She is in remission and has 2 courses of chemotherapy left plus radiation. The nausea can be so great that her focus is, at times, just sitting still to avoid throwing up. What makes this especially challenging is that nausea and vomiting are her kryptonite.

Her perception of every day activities has changed. Just trying to get off the couch can be difficult:

  • The chemo weighs her down making getting up extremely strenuous;
  • She can’t stand up;
  • There is a big struggle dealing with the helplessness;
  • She can’t power through the situation, one of her go-to tactics
  • Ben has to get her water when she is only a few feet from the refrigerator.

Another uncomfortable side effect of the chemotherapy is the constipation. It feels like she’s pooping razor blades.

Perspective-wise, Jennifer sees how normal day-to-day activities can be taken for granted.

Another physical aspect is hair loss, something she has been documenting and about which she’s gained a new perspective. Her hair has always been a challenge because it is so curly. When it grows back in she won’t complain.

Physically, in addition to the weakness caused by the chemotherapy she can taste and smell the chemotherapeutic drugs for the first few days after they’ve been administered.

After listening to the first entry in this cancer journal podcast Jennifer saw how she was initially naive as to the toll it takes. She says this feeling some comfort over the fact she has a cancer with a high remission rate. As in the first podcast, she looks for moments of joy and celebrating being with her partner, Ben. He is an archeologist and they will be traveling next year to Italy and Greece. They spend time looking at the places they can visit.

In line with visiting new places, she will be glad when she can eat more than some rice. Although, Jennifer isn’t complaining when they get out of the house and go out to eat. It feels good to get off the couch.

When asked about the possible humiliation the cancer can cause she responded with:

  • Helplessness, for which Ben supplies support. His behavior is humbling for her, which helps keep a positive frame of mind;
  • She feels like she is losing her womanhood. Ben looks past that.
  • On really bad days, Jennifer also worries that Ben is just sticking around until it is over and then he’ll leave. She has learned to take a step back on those days and think, “It will get better than this.”
  • Vulnerability. Jennifer is used to being her own person and doing for herself. The cancer and chemo challenge that way of being which rolls into a feeling of not being worthwhile if she can’t be attractive.

With regards to the above, Jennifer offers some advice:

  • Avoid “Why me?” Yes, the situation is unfair but dwelling on that question can destroy you;
  • Watch out for self-pity. There can be times where it is felt for a moment but avoid living in it;
  • As an Extrovert, she’s learned to occupy her mind as best she can when she has the energy. She spends more time doing deep thinking – an Introvert activity – and is writing “The Lymphoma Diaries;”
  • Use levity, even if it is dark humor. It helps reduce stress;
  • Work to let your care-givers have time to be themselves.
  • In terms of going out in public, it is important to accept yourself as you are, where you are, and just go about your activities. This is easier to do when she is with Ben. When by herself there is the urge to feel self-conscious.
  • Jennifer lacks the urge to hide. She’s learned it is better to think, “Wow, I have the energy today to get out of the house!”

Well, that’s about it.

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0044 Thrive and Connect: Jennifer’s Cancer Journal – Part 1

Our co-host and the General Managing of both Aurelius Press and Center for Managing Change, Jennifer Rojas, has cancer – Hodgkins lymphoma, to be specific. This is the first in a series of podcast cancer journal entries she has agreed to make.

62159817 - drugs for hodgkin's disease treatment

She remarks that up until this disease she has been relatively healthy and feels fortunate for that having been the case. Also, that asking “Why?” doesn’t really go very far. No causal effect has been found.

A small episode of self-pity surfaced because she hasn’t been able to “go out and play” like others due to her chemotherapy.

Nausea is her biggest fear – hating to vomit.

Fortunately, she and her partner, Ben, are within walking distance of the Mediterranean Sea, about which she is very appreciative. It reminds her of the reality that there is still joy, goodness, and beauty available. It’s a choice to see it. Gratitude is present for 2016 in spite of the Hodgkins. She can see abundance in her life and views herself fortunate to have a highly curable form of cancer. This being said in spite of the fact uncertainty is present.

She continues to “look for the gold” in life in spite of the sh#t that happens. Denial and refusing to see ALL of life just leads to misery.

Jennifer reminds those who are listening and have to deal with cancer that, without being pollyannish, it is important to look for what is good in life.

Medical marijuana is discussed. Gary and Jennifer joke about medical marijuana, referencing Cheech and Chong. On the serious side, Jennifer talks about being in a study of the effects of medical marijuana on the side effects of Hodgkins treatments.

The benefits of having universal health care in Israel and what it has meant to Jennifer and Ben is also discussed both in terms of timeline and quality of treatment. It was a big determinant in them not returning to the United States.

The poison associated with being stuck on the question, “Why me?” is compared to the benefits of saying, “I have cancer AND I have the rest of my life” vs “It’s cancer OR the rest of my life.” Jennifer is not naive in terms of thinking everything is going to turn out well. What she sees is the ability to set an example for those who are suffering, an example that shows one can stay in the present and experience life.

She does discuss the realities of chemotherapy and how it knocks one down for a period of time. Listening to one’s body is critical. It allows her to focus on periods of feeling well and being able to get her work  done.

Carl Jung’s description of his successful patients is brought into the discussion, i.e., using the pain felt as a tool to see parts of life that otherwise were invisible and help others in a constructive way. An opportunity is created from the pain and suffering. This is all stated based on the belief joy can be found in the middle of the difficulties.

Ben, Jennifer’s partner, and all he has done is brought into the podcast and looked at through the lens of being vulnerable.

This includes the need to find a balance between empathy and sympathy and how the boundary with regards to “self” in a relationship moves with the ups-and-downs of the disease.

Jennifer also shares how important it is for care-givers to find a sense of balance and maintain it.

The conversation shifts to maintaining a sense of balance by sticking with the slogan, “Make judgements without being judgmental.” Life is a balance between the good and the bad that is present. It’s all about establishing and maintaining balance when having cancer, experiencing chemotherapy, and having a job to work.

Well, that’s about it.

Your feedback is important. Choose from the following options:

  • Click on “Send Voicemail” over to the right,
  • place a review in iTunes,
  • click on “leave a comment” below,
  • send any comments along with your name to comments@thriveandconnect.com or
  • call us at 614-388-8917 and leave a message including your name, the podcast number and show title.

Listen to future episodes for our reply.