Stepping forward and flashing back


I had a busy start to my fall that started with my trip over Labor Day weekend to visit my family in Alabama. After getting back from visiting them, I launched into weeks of work travel, hitting new cities weekly and spending more nights in hotels than in my own bed. It has been an exciting fall, because it is indicative of the growth for my company, career and life. This made the craze of frequent travel and very long days feel calm and quick.

Heading into these weeks of travel, I made it my goal to still carve out personal time to focus on my health. My first week of travel, I was “easily” able to carve out time for my health (at 5/6am) in classes and runs through the park. First up was a cycle class at Cyc, which I had been excited to try. It lived up to its hype. My first class was invigorating and inspiring with a theme of   “the best thing you will ever work on is yourself”, which seemed poignant given my goal. That idea resonated with me. It felt like it was one of the overarching lessons I learned through my battle with cancer and have continued to focus on being healthy and ensuring my body, mind, and spirit are strong.

But before I could even leave New York, I felt the first hints of getting sick with a sore throat. Instead of listening to my body, I pushed through numerous nights of 5 hours of sleep between hotel beds and planes over several weeks and getting up early to fit in quick workouts. I pushed myself over the edge, from New York to North Carolina to Arizona to  North Carolina to Atlanta twice in one week. I let myself become so consumed by progress I was making with my job that I forgot to care for myself. Finally by the end of my Atlanta trip, I had chills, a sore throat, runny nose, headache, cough, and the desire to crawl into my bed and not come out until spring.

I got back to Greensboro and went into the office instead of finding a doctor. I spent the day convincing myself that I wasn’t sick,  drinking tea and cringing in pain every time my keys hit the keyboard. I finally gave up and searched urgent care clinics. Through my googling, I used each doctor’s qualifications as the reason why I couldn’t go, because they weren’t specialized enough or didn’t have the requisite training that my hematologist did. Meanwhile, I felt a deep panic that the fever, aches, illness, and swollen glands were all an indication that I was relapsing.

I drove up to one clinic that was a part of the hospital where I had my excisional biopsy done. I walked in, looked around, panicked and used the wait time as the excuse to walk out. I walked back to my car. I looked across the road through a rainy window to Dr. Ingram’s office. I again tried to reason that I shouldn’t try another clinic because they couldn’t run a CBC with differentials to see what was really wrong with me. I knew that was a weak argument with myself (or Jason, as I was staging him as the countervailing point of reason in my moment of irrationality), and went to another clinic. The result of going to the clinic was essentially as I dictated it would be. I walked in and told the receptionist that I had an upper respiratory infection, then the nurse the same thing, and then finally the doctor, who agreed with me, gave me a few medications to combat what may or may not be that and a flu shot as a cautionary measure.

I spent the next 24 hours in bed, getting up only to shower, change my clothes and the sheets and get back in bed. Between the illness and the medication with hydrocodone, I was out of commission for days. I hated every moment of it. On Sunday, I tried spending time downstairs, and found myself curled up in the chair where I spent many nights curled up after going through chemo. It was all too familiar. I felt awful, and then felt worse in moments too close to familiar memories. I avoided the mirror for the weekend, because although my head has hair now, seeing myself with dark eye circles and no color in my face was too scary for me to face. In so many ways, I feel like I’ve come so far after having cancer, but this experience made me humble again. I am glad it’s only some version of an infection. This was a learning experience. My mind and ambition are larger than I can comprehend, but my body keeps me grounded. I found respect for the balance.

Both of the pictures below represent moments of insecurity and sickness, one obviously more sick than the other, but the doubt and fear the same.

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