Overambition

9 Sep

 

I find that new cancer patients’ biggest pitfall is overestimating what their abilities will be once they begin to follow a course of treatment.  I’ve seen it in friends who thought they would be able to continue teaching school or working at the library, and even I fell in the trap.

I suppose it’s natural – after all, it is helpful for cancer patients to stick to a routine of sorts during their treatment.  It lets you keep track of time, get out of the house a little bit and have a sense of purpose in life.

For the six weeks after my cancer diagnosis, I was working a 20-hour week, taking Hebrew classes at the university, researching and writing my thesis and singing in the synagogue choir.  Many people told me how amazing it was that I was taking this whole cancer business in stride and staying upbeat and positive.  While I was handling myself fairly well, I do have to admit that I was really grumpy at the time.  Mostly because I overdid it at Rosh Hashanah, so I hadn’t been getting the rest I needed.  Not to mention that we’d been holding all sorts of extra activities to prepare for Yom Kippur.

I should have known I was taking on too much when my oncologist remarked, “Wow, you participate in even more activities than I do!”  My reply was that that should be normal, since he worked 80-hour weeks and I only worked 20-hour weeks.  But in truth, I was pushing myself too hard to be normal and succeed, and I was ignoring my failing health.  I started having low-grade headaches at the base of my skull, and soon they would become serious enough to land me in the ER.

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