Monday, January 10, 2011

Learning to Navigate the System

Today I thanked Columbia University's School of Social Work for my expensive designer MSW degree. I relied on my training to navigate through the bearacrtaic health care system, and rested heavily on my familiartity with cognitive behavioral therapy to get through some very difficult situations.

I woke up at 6am to go for my first ultrasound since I started fertility treatments. Being overeager ( and yes anal) I got to Northwestern 10 minutes before they opened officially at 7am. I got into the elevator, pressed floor 14, and was trapped.  I was in an enclosed space for what felt like an eternity with another man around my age who was just as anxious and bewildered.

I closed my eyes and breathed. Slowly, concentrating on my breath, telling myself that I would get out and that I would need to calm myself down in order to do so. A minute later I pressed another button that magically relieved us of what could have been a tandem panic attack!

I ran out of the elevator, and again took another deep breath. This time I took the escalators up to the third floor to see if maybe there was a problem with the elevators in the lobby. I got into another elevator, only to be trapped again. This time, I felt like a pro- I knew exactly how to get out and maybe more importantly manage my anxiety of being stuck.

I managed to take an elevator half way to my destination only to then be forced into taking the stairs the rest of the way. Finally I arrived at the 14th floor, but i was unable to enter! After walking up flights of stairs, I was forced to walk down 14 flights and start over.

I am not looking for these metaphors but they seem to be constantly emerging. Today, I felt helpless, anxious, and stuck. By training myself to breath, and slowly walk myself through the options, I was able to manage my anxiety.  I hope to rely on these tools in the days to come.

Ethan Zohn, the winner of Surivivor Season 3, and more notably a Survivor of Hodgkins Stage 2b CD-20 (my exact cancer) has become my angel. Jonny Immerman ( who is a tremendous force and a g-d send) helped connect the two of us a few days ago. Since then, Ethan has been there walking me through every step of this process, coaching me, and helping  me make sense of this crazy Cancer train. Ethan's journey with Hodgkins was nothing short of a marathon. His cancer came back three months later and he endured an extensive course of treatment. His recovery made me think of my hike up to the 14th floor, only to fall down the same flight of stairs and start over from scratch. I hope to learn from Ethan how he managed to fall down and continue to get up again and again.

I have questioned my desire to go public with my disease- because in many ways I am a very private person. My fb profile may show you otherwise- but in general issues relating to my family, health, and love, I have been very protective of. I have found in the last three weeks, that by exposing my illness I feel that I am giving Cancer the finger. By being private about Cancer- made me feel like I was playing into exactly what she wanted. I am not  I am not ashamed that I have Cancer. I am not ashamed to show you that I am scared. And I am not ashamed to share with you the joy that I am finding in living day to day- moment to moment.

1 comment:

  1. Inspiring Jenna, and so many truths! We get faced with so many challenges and hurts in life and we have to learn how to navigate them. Sometimes we fall flat on our face, but it's finding the inner strength to get up again and again that makes us a winner...and you are, if nothing else, a winner! Be scared...that's ok, but don't be ashamed. Share yourself and you will constantly be surrounded by love and support to give you just the strength you need to continue to navigate your way through!