Friday, December 17, 2010

When Balance is Lost

What a time for a "Work-Life Balance" topic - just as I begin picking up the pieces of my life again. I thought I was doing a great job of juggling everything, and even (finally!) finding time to build some friendships - something I previously viewed as too much of a luxury to maintain.

And then, not one, but two of my family members were diagnosed with serious illnesses within a few days of each other. When Husband was initially diagnosed, I remember thinking "Wait a minute - this is the kind of thing that people read about and think Thank God that's not us" - except it WAS us, and I wasn't reading about it, but living it. And suddenly, my carefully constructed house of cards was crashing down around my ears. Scrambling to find coverage so that I could be at his side for two surgeries (one to remove a cancerous tumor, one absolutely unexpected correction of a bizarre bleeding complication) within 10 days strained not only my extended family, but my work relationships. As he was recovering and we had received the fabulous news from his surgeon that the margins were clear and no chemo or radiation therapy would be required, I dared to breathe a sigh of relief.

Barely done exhaling, the next day I received a call from my mother (yeah, I wish I was making up this timing) who lives several hours away. "Can I send you a report from a test I had done?" The report described a biopsy of an intra-abdominal mass lesion, which based on the sample received, appeared highly malignant and possibly metastatic. Um, WHAT? When did this start? You've had symptoms for how long? Back onto the patient-advocate wagon I climbed, this time trying to keep track of everything from hundreds of miles away. And now, several weeks later, Mom is beginning to recover from her surgery, with a follow-up appointment with a radiation oncologist still pending.

So what did I learn from this about balance? For one, that it was remarkably easy to jettison areas of my life that I thought were "musts". A phone call here, a brief (or not so brief) explanation there, and I was able to rearrange paperwork, lectures to residents and even days of patients. The "extra" things outside of work that I used for relaxation and ways to build friendships - gone with the blink of an eye and the click of a "send" button heralding an explanatory email. Will I restart these? Absolutely - at some point in the future. Because although it was easy to dump them now, I know I'll eventually miss doing them - and ultimately, these "extras" are part of what I use for balance.

But for now, I'm focused on making sure that the pieces of my life that I hold dearest are intact before I start juggling again.
A

12 comments:

  1. Wow it's as if the things that whack us off balance are really what puts everything into perspective. I am hoping for sustained recovery and much health and happiness in your future. Thanks for sharing so beautifully.

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  2. In the midst of my tumultuous year, this post makes me grateful that everyone in my life is healthy. Sending lots of telepathic good luck messages your way. I'm sure you are navigating everything as gracefully as your writing. I also hope the new year brings health and recovery to your loved ones, Artemis.

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  3. Glad to hear your husband is recovering, and wishing the best for your mother.

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  4. Artemis,

    Thank you for your post. I'm sorry to hear of all the illness your family has been through but so glad your husband is doing well. Hoping your mother regains her health too.

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  5. That's an amazing amount to deal with in such a short time. Hope everyone recovers, including you.

    My 75 yo mother broke her leg last Christmas and had a complicated and protracted (8 months) rehab, including 3 months at my house when she hit 100 days of long term care. It's remarkable how disruptive the whole saga was-- not just the time spent traveling and providing care, but the time spent recovering and not keeping up with the rest of my life. Thankfully, my mom is now back to her old life and it is such a gift to hear all the things she is up to: work (she's an emerita prof), trips, friends... Now I'm trying to dig out from my own backlog. But I treasure the response of my friends and colleagues, who cheerily picked up the slack, checked in on me, and even spent time with my mom. It's nice to know I am surrounded by people who value the things that really matter.

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  6. Artemis - Sorry to hear about all the illness in your family. Hang on in there!!

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  7. Thank you to everyone for all of your kind thoughts and words; we are all looking forward to a really uneventful 2011!
    A

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  8. So very sorry to hear about the struggles this year. My thoughts and prayers remain with you ... frequently and always.
    I will keep your family in my prayers as well.

    Remember, in all of this to find ways to be kind to yourself and take care of you.

    Peggikaye

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  9. Artemis, I am so sorry that you all have been going through all this!

    Our balance is so precarious; it seems when just one extra thing gets added on, things get so much more difficult. It's like a logarithmic curve. Dealing with life-threatening health issues adds so much stress.

    Hugs and prayers for the new year! :-)

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  10. Sorry to hear about your husband's and mother's health issues. Wishing them - and you - well.

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  11. A- my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. And yes, may 2011 be ridiculously uneventful.

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  12. Can I simply ditto all the above comments? Best to you all

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