The Big “C” – Control

C“Come on, you need to go to the bathroom. Let’s go.”

The command came from a compact woman with a set mouth and a helmet hairdo.  I was standing somewhere between the gurney and the hospital bed, supported by my husband and I could only stare at her.  I just arrived in a hospital room on an oncology floor that would be my existence for 5 more days. Between 6:30am and that moment, somewhere in the 3pm area, I had had a port for chemotherapy inserted, a bone-marrow biopsy, a CT scan, a PET scan a chest x-ray and an EKG.

I paused for a moment, gathered a little strength and said, “I’m sorry, could you ask me that a little more nicely please.”

Thankfully, six weeks later, I can tell you that awful woman was the only person I have met on my cancer journey so far who has been anything less than wonderful and loving.  And I only saw her for a few hours that day until she went off duty by 7pm.

But what happened next proved apocryphal.

Another woman in the room, a young-ish nurse named Jennifer, told the horrid woman that she’d help me get settled and she should check in later.  The horrid lady left.  As Jennifer gently helped me change a dressing and get a new hospital gown she said very quietly, “you have to give up control.  From here on out, you don’t have control.”

The words slammed into me like an out-of-control truck on a rainy night.  She is absolutely right.  From a medical standpoint, I have had to lie back a thousand times and let someone else DO something to my body.  Sometimes it hurts; most of the time it doesn’t.  Most of the time the inflicting nurse or doctor or technician is so apologetic and careful.  But it doesn’t change the fact that I am the object – my body is the object being acted upon and the actor in this situation is not me.  It’s all in the name of healing and getting well again, but it’s still completely out of my control.

I am only six weeks into this treatment plan.  I have a minimum of three months to go.  I go through all sorts of motions to grab control of what I can – which lab I use for blood draws, which chair I like in the chemo room, or even voicing that I prefer cranberry to grape juice, but it doesn’t change the fact that my control over my own body is all but gone.

As I came home from the hospital, I realized that there were other things over which I had no control as well.  My kids were being taken care of by other people; I was at the mercy of airlines in allowing or not allowing us to change around all of our summer plans; I relied on other people for meals.

In case you don’t know it, I am one of the most control freaky people I know.  I arrange my kids’ schedules within an inch of their lives. I am always the go-to person for the PTA or my pet charities if there’s something to be done. I don’t sit back and just take things – I dish them out. I have always said that I’m the good type of control freaky: at least I am aware of it.  Now, however, I am learning to let go of all control.  Most days I can do it gracefully, but there are some times when I just get so blasted mad about the whole thing.

So to me, “The Big C” as they say, means so much more than just cancer.  It means control.  I don’t know if I’ll ever accept it completely and I don’t know if I will emerge (God wiling) from this experience as a different type of person, but in the meantime, it’s interesting to think about as I sit in my chair in someone else’s home, reading a book generously put into my hands by someone else, and waiting for yet another person to tell me what’s for dinner tonight.

I’ll explain more as we go along. Come join me on my journey.

12 thoughts on “The Big “C” – Control

  1. This is my favorite part – ” I don’t sit back and just take things – I dish them out.” I’m the same way. I can’t imagine what this has been like so far, but know that your friends are with you on the road.

  2. This is my favorite part: ” I don’t sit back and just take things – I dish them out.” I’m the same way. I can’t imagine what this has been like so far, but know that your friends are with you on the road to wellness.

  3. Having working in an oncology department, in a clerical capacity, not as a nurse, doctor or technician, I had an opportunity to meet some of the bravest people in the world. Treatments for cancer aren’t just life-saving, they truly are life changing. There was one woman I recall always coming in with a smile. I didn’t understand it until she shared that being diagnosed wasn’t like other diseases that could be caught. You didn’t “catch cancer” then let it go away with a treatment of the symptoms. You fight cancer. You choose to live and soon grow appreciation for life or hunger for otherwise. She’d chosen to appreciate every second of every day so much more.

    I mention this because there are some things innate about who we are. I hope that if anything at all “changes” about you, that your own appreciation of life only deepens from this experience.

    And speaking as someone with a slight problem with control as well – patiently waiting for others to do what I need done is a bit of a bother lol! – my heart goes out to you. May you and your family grow deeper in love and enjoy whatever is for dinner tonight.

  4. Aimee, as a health care professional, I am so sad to hear of your added burden with unkind people. I would like to suggest you also take advantage of programs such as Y Me?, and volunteer programs for cancer patients I”m sure are available in the DC area. I know they are in New Haven at Yale. I’ll do some checking here for you. I am sending you a big hug from New Haven. Love always, Margie

    • I refuse to let one bad egg spoil the bunch. I’ve met some of the kindest, loveliest people on earth during this medical journey and I have to write about them, too. I’m open to any suggestions you might have! Love right back at you!

  5. Aimee-Don’t know if you remember me—-I am Charlene Lamanna’s Mom. We had lunch many times while I visited them in Japan. So sorry to hear of your health problem and will be praying for a full recovery for you. Hang in there in the coming months!

  6. Hi Aimee, – Remember me? Bev, Jennifer’s mum from Australia. I am very sorry to read of your conditions, you have joined the club. Just wanted to let you know that I am a surviver also.

    2 very large melanomas, one on the left leg, one on the right leg, a groin dissection, lymphoedema in the left leg. Still – life goes on and I am living it to the fullest as I can see you are also. We all send you our support and are thinking of you.

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