Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Late May Update: Quantum Change?

Entry for 31 May 2011 (61st Birthday):

After a quiet few weeks in April, things got very busy again and May has flown by with many trips and activities. I can’t believe that it’s been five months since my last update on the state of my recovery and how my life is going generally, but there you have it.

I saw the surgeon and his team at the end of April: They liked what I told them about my functioning, and were particularly impressed that I was once again running my full distance. Then the important thing: they had me tested for PSA again, and eventually, after a couple of weeks, I got a letter saying that my PSA score was still undetectable. This is a great relief.

I've been back to work full time since January, trying not to work too hard while still keeping reasonably on top of things. My colleagues, and indeed all my fellow academic staff members whom I’ve talked to, have also been struggling to stay on top of our workloads in an ever-changing, under-resourced work environment. After deliberately avoiding much in the way of travel during January and February, while we tried to sort out what to do about our immigration status, I over-did things in March, although April was more reasonable. I'd been running regularly, 3 times a week, gradually increasing how much of my course I ran as opposed to walking. As the weather improved and the days got longer, I began riding my bike to work, which turned out to be no problem at all.

My energy has been good and has continued to improve. At this point, it feels like I've got 95% of my life back. I made a big improvement in the incontinence at the beginning of January, but after that I didn’t see much change until early May. I was doing well enough to mostly function, but couldn’t handle standing for long periods of time, so all my teaching and presenting at conferences has had to be done sitting down. Walking quickly in particular was difficult, and I’ve found that overwork and sleep deprivation make it worse.

This was the situation at the end of April. Then, we had old friends from Australia, George and Joy, come for a visit, and we made a trip back to the Kilmartin valley, with its dramatic standing stones, cairns and stone circles, challenging me with hours of walking around and scarce toilets. I didn’t do so well, but got frustrated with my lack of progress … and made another big improvement.

In both instances, there was a moment of insight about how to handle my body: I suddenly saw that the muscles I’d been exercising and trying to use weren’t exactly the right ones but that if I just did it… this way, it worked much better. It’s hard to explain; my granddaughter Mizuki probably understands exactly what I’m trying to say, although she wouldn’t be able to put it into words it either. (She has a good excuse: She can’t really talk yet.) The closest analogy I’ve been able to come up with is the old game/puzzle we had as kids, called Roll-Up, where you had to a roll a metal ball uphill by squeezing it between two metal rods. When I was about 10, we got this for Christmas, and I spent hours and hours trying unsuccessfully to do it. Then one day, it just worked: there is something to it about using just the right pressure – not too much -- to keep the ball rolling up hill, but it is impossible to put into words. Anyway, this is very like that: just the right amount tensing of the just the right muscles, and voila’, I can stand and walk for 30 minutes or even an hour with little problem. Of course, it takes continuous effort and some degree of concentration, so over time it’s pretty tiring to do this, and it gets harder as I get more tired. But still: another big improvement. Quantum change!

This is of course a great relief, and I continue to feel extremely grateful for my situation. Nevertheless, I am determined not to take this lightly and will continue to act as though the cancer is still present but at very low levels. In other words, I plan to continue to take care of myself, take most of my nutritional supplements, get at least 7 hrs of sleep a night, exercise regularly, and generally avoid stressing myself out.

In general, though, I’ve been feeling pretty happy for the past few months. It feels like I have a new lease on life. I find myself whistling. Yesterday I ran 10K and saw a whole row of new 4-story flats along the canal near Firhill Stadium, built since I last ran that far, last summer. Diane and I enjoy hanging out with each other. Absurdly, we are studying to take a UK citizenship test this Thursday in order to renew our visa, and this has turned into a kind of adventure in itself, as we try to memorize ridiculous facts about life in the UK (example: Q: How many people under 19 in the UK in the 2001 census? A: 15 million). The EFT one-day taster workshops I’ve been doing all over the UK have been fun, as have the EFT Level 2 workshops in the Netherlands. The research here continues to be stimulating and interesting. It feels so good to be doing actual process research with recordings of sessions rather than always working with self-report. For example, one of my MSc students, Sarah Shaffner, has done a descriptive study of the characteristics of six carefully-identified Relational Depth events; she’s found that intense emotional contact between client and therapist appears to be the key to these events, but also that therapists and clients don't seem to be able to stay with them.

So the work is good, and so is the living. There is, of course, too much to do. I’ve given up trying to answer all my email, opting instead for a system of prioritizing it and letting the rest pile up. Some things will have to slide. I can only do my best within my limits. Trying to do more than that seems to make it all unpleasant and to take the life out of what I do. None of us knows exactly how much time we have, so it’s really important to take each day as a gift, to do the best with that I can. To quote TS Eliot: “The rest is not our business”.

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