Right around the four-week recovery period, I was offered the opportunity by Vital Voices to go to Israel and the West Bank to train Palestinian businesswomen on advocacy. I would be traveling the first week of May with two other businesswomen from the U.S., both of whom I know, and one is a very close friend and my mentor. Both of these women knew about my surgery so they would know that I wasn’t 100 percent recovered — and would understand the need to walk slowly, not lift heavy suitcases, etc.
Please note: this is what I do. I travel around the world, doing communication training. Since the beginning of this year alone, I have been to Indonesia, China, and Kenya. I also speak and do trainings throughout the U.S. I am home less than half the time (so being home the entire month of April was kind of a treat—minus the recovery part!).
One of my friends in Sedona reacted very negatively about my upcoming trip to the West Bank. She didn’t think I was physically ready to go. I finally burst into tears and told her that there was more to recovery than just physical. And I was at the point where I was beginning to emotionally struggle with “how do I go back to my life?” She gave me a big hug and said she couldn’t help being a mother hen.
This surgery and recovery had really rocked me. The last two recoveries from surgery had been quite easy by comparison. I wasn’t expecting, in advance, anything quite this difficult.
During this time I had also gotten an e-mail from my older sister (who I am not close to), blasting me for worrying mom (she’s 87 and healthy) with the details of my cancer, rather than keeping it to myself. My mom (who lives in Iowa) and I have a pretty open line of communication. I can’t imagine keeping something like this from her.
So the emotional ups and downs became even more exaggerated. But here is a string of messages I got from friends when they found out about the trip to the West Bank:
"You are truly amazing."
"You are amazing woman!!! Good on you keeping busy and doing good work in the world."
"You my friend are like no other and you inspire and amaze me - and so many others as well."
"You are truly an amazing woman!"
"You are one amazing woman - you are my inspiration."
"You are an inspiration to all of us. I cannot tell you how much I admire you."
"You are an inspiration to me. Lots of love - will keep you in my prayers. Travel safe."
My friends came through again.
Then I got another e-mail, from a friend who I had had a disagreement with in April. It wasn’t our first disagreement, and we decided to go our separate ways as far as a friendship. I try to avoid drama in my life — as owning a business, being a cancer survivor and having a disabled child (Erika) is ENOUGH on its own. I told her I needed to get rid of the drama. She wrote me the following in an e-mail, which I got when I was in Israel:
"As for drama, you accuse me of drama but you are the very definition of your own terms. You run around the world like some crazed woman instead of taking care of your health so that you will be around for Erika for a little while. She will be lost when you are gone! That is high drama, as I am sure will be the day you are finally so sick no surgery will save you."
I obviously made the right decision to end the friendship. Those are probably the cruelest and most cutting words that have ever been said to me. That’s when I went back to my e-mails and put together the string of other comments — because I needed to remind myself of my real friends.
The lesson from this is we all have to live our own life. We will get input from people, but nobody knows our bodies, or our psyche or emotional states, as well as we do.
Being a high-energy person, and a hard worker, my friends were worried from the start that I would try to do too much too soon. I told them that it was an impossibility, as my body would not let me do too much. The first few weeks I would have to rest 10 to 15 minutes just after going to the bathroom. Taking a shower shot my energy for half a day.
Although I am now at a totally different level of recovery, I am still not 100 percent and still need to listen to my body when it says slow down. I am sleeping long hours at night. I am still fighting the big “D” due to the intestinal surgery.
And my true friends are still there for me and still asking me, “How are you today? Anything I can do for you?”
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