The Pain of Healing

Posted by Doc
Aug 13 2009

This one is more personal than most of my posts to this blog.  Still on topic, and personal.

Those of you who follow me on Facebook or Twitter or even LinkedIn will have seen my posts about my mother. In brief, she developed Primary Peritoneal Cancer, underwent two rounds of chemotherapy, had surgery (debulking, hysterectomy), and is home now in New York City. I’ve spent a significant amount of the last month with her, just to be with her through this last part – finding out whether the chemo worked, planning for the surgery, and the being here for the surgery and post-surgery.

As I’ve watched her over the week since her surgery, I came to realize that it’s all too easy for me to forget what it’s like to be recovering from major surgery, and to apply my own biases and beliefs to her recovery.  I have had a couple of major surgical events in my life, and yet here I am forgetting what that was like. Shouldn’t it be easy and exciting and rewarding to be recovering and healing? I forgot about my first walk down the block after one surgery – I made it one-half block, then was so tired I had to turn back. I was only 35 at the time.  My mother is 83.

The reality for the patient is that it’s slow and frustrating and annoying and frightening and frequently painful. In my mother’s case, they cut her open, took out parts, and sewed and stapled her back together again.  That’s what my wife refers to as “an insult to the body.”

So it’s not unreasonable that it hurts while it’s healing, that my mother is moving slowly, fighting to get the drugs out of her system, and struggling with getting “back to normal.” And that doesn’t even take into account the two rounds of chemo she went through, nor the four more she’ll undergo to make sure all the cancer is gone.

So how is this on topic?

I deal with friends and colleagues in work situations all the time, and all too frequently apply my own current biases and beliefs to them and their behaviors. Even when I know that something unusual is going on – whether personal or professional – I have, at times, tended to pay it lip service and still expect them to “get on with it.”

Recovery is work. Recovery is painful. Recovery is frustrating and discouraging. Recovery demands focus and attention, sometimes to the detriment or exclusion of other important things. Healing is a full-time job, in many cases.

I’m not saying that someone who is recovering from something gets an automatic free pass.  I am saying that perhaps I need to remind myself of these truths, and integrate them into my thinking, and into my behavior. Sympathy is a valuable tool.

3 Responses

  1. Twitter Comment

    a valuable lesson to re-learn RT @athought: The Pain of Healing [link to post]

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  2. Twitter Comment

    Insightful as usual: [link to post]

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  3. Twitter Comment

    RT @ellnestam: Insightful as usual: [link to post]

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