Posted by: Kate | September 17, 2010

Little by Little

“How are you doing?”

Ask me on any given day, and I’ll start with the flippant response.  “Oh, I’m hanging in there,” or “I’m surviving.”  Press a little harder and I’ll pause and reflect and give a more accurate answer, which generally ranges somewhere between, “Today has been really hard, I’m really not feeling well,” and, “Well, actually, I’m doing pretty well today.  Really.”

Push even harder, and I might realize that the answer I’m giving needs some clarification.  My recovery is happening on two separate, intertwined levels: the physical and the emotional.

Physically, I’m improving.  It’s hard to see it on a daily basis, but when I step back and compare today to a month or two ago, I can definitely see the progress.  On July 13th, I went to Nantucket with Gretchen, and I was using a walker.  And I mean, using that thing, to the point that my hands were numb from the vibrations of the cobblestone streets.  I was so tired that I was in tears by the end of the day, and the next say I was back in the hospital for yet another abdominal surgery.  Not doing well at all, no matter how you slice it.

By mid-August, the walker had been  moved from the back of the minivan to the front room of the apartment.  I’m pretty sure I’m done with it; not sure enough to throw it out, but now that I think about it, I believe it’s time to move it all the way up into the attic for long-term storage.  I also think I can safely remove the rail that’s on my side of the bed; when I first came home, getting out of bed took several minutes and intense willpower, because it was painful and difficult.  Without that railing, I simply could not have gotten up.  It’s still there now, but just out of habit, really.  Time for that to head up into the attic, too.

Those are two very tangible, visible signs of physical improvement, which is a huge, big deal for me.  I have a had time recognizing it when I’m hobbling out of my bedroom in the morning or whimpering my way into yet another nap… but the bigger picture is there, and it stubbornly insists on showing me that I actually am getting better.

Emotionally… well, that’s complicated.  I’ve been struggling there, lots more crying and anxiety, lots more dark, withdrawn sort of days.  I spend time thinking horrible thoughts about myself: I’m just a burden on the family, I’m not able to contribute positively in any way, I’m not worth the time and attention so many people give me, my friends are only spending time with me because they feel sorry for me, I’ll never be anything remotely like the vibrant and competent person I once was… and, the darkest of all, I never should have survived the illness of March.  I’ve never considered harming myself, never reached a point where I’m unsafe, but I do hold some pretty hardcore negative beliefs, and they’re very stubborn and difficult to shove aside.

On the one hand, of course, this is very negative and needs to be changed.  And I’m working on that; I’ve been seeing a therapist, and even though she doesn’t have any lightning-flash epiphanies for me, I find it helpful just to go and talk these things out, to hear out loud just how extreme and inaccurate some of it is, and to have someone else lay out very specific ways that I can work to change my mindset and attitudes.  (The most recent “homework” she has given me is to watch more mindless television and knit more.  Seriously.  Because these are things that used to bring me simple enjoyment, and I hadn’t been doing either one very much since March.  Now I’m consciously trying to do each at least once a day, and guess what?  It helps.  It’s not a cure-all, but returning to the things that used to be simple pleasures actually does evoke a sense of calm and contentment again.  Apparently this therapy stuff actually works sometimes, go figure.)  I’m also spending time with my friends, which is a post all its own… for now, it’s enough to say that I have such an amazing, amazing support network, and this handful of women, along with my husband and kids and extended family, can take full credit for pulling me through when I can’t do it myself.

But on the other hand, the psychologist in me realizes that these negative emotions are actually very important, vital things to experience.  Throughout my hospitalization and for several weeks afterward, I was just numb.  “Oh, they removed my uterus and ovaries?  Huh.  That’s interesting.  What’s for lunch?”  Just vague, almost sublimely unaffected by the enormous wall of information I needed to process.  I think that was both self-protective and necessary at the time, because it would have simply overwhelmed me had I really let it hit me all at once.  Now, I’m experiencing the anger, and resentment, and grief, and loss, and all of the other emotions that tag along with a huge and completely unexpected nightmare.  It’s hard, but healthier to have the emotions and let them out, instead of keeping them bottled up and festering.

And I am having good days, more and more as time goes on.  I’m able to experience and appreciate the simple pleasures of a sloppy baby kiss, a child’s laughter, an embrace from my husband, a day with a good friend, a nice skein of yarn…the things that might seem small but which are actually hugely important.

So… I’m getting better.  Really.  It’s a gradual process, and there are inevitable backslides and failures, but the bigger picture shows an upward trend.  I don’t know what my new “normal” will be, but I feel like I am getting there, little by little.



  1. So glad to hear it!

  2. I’m so glad that you are seeing those milestones, even if they seem small. I still marvel at all you have been through, and am so very glad that you are still making it, step by step.

  3. You’ve come a long way baby!!! I’m so proud of you!!!!!!!! You ROCK!!!!

    Love and hugs,


  4. Kate, I’m at a loss for words….your post moved me to tears, and I wish I knew the magical thing to say to “make it all better” as you seem to have done for me so many times in the past. Just know that I love you and think of you daily and so wish I were there to be part of that circle of friends that is helping your recovery. You have come so far, and I am so thankful you are still here. ❤

  5. I know you don’t see it, at least not usually, but you are freaking amazing. I love you and am so thankful for little steps toward healing.

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