Sunday, November 2, 2014


"We have permanently deleted your file, you will never again receive a call from us:" Direct quote from the nurse on the other end of my connection with the Canadian Blood Services line.  

They called me, as they do (well, used to do) every few months when a blood donation clinic is coming to town. I have always wanted to donate blood, I feel it is a mutually beneficial part of being a good Canadian citizen, I registered years ago and have attempted to donate a few times but never did get to as my iron level was too low or I was too busy, etc.  Regretfully, it is one of the items on my "bucket list" that is now scratched off, not because I want it to be, but because it is one of the limitations I have to come to terms with in my life. 

Don't get me wrong, the nurse who said those words did not mean any harm, and she was appropriately sympathetic when I told her of my cancer diagnosis and current treatments, but she determined from an internal list on her end of the phone that a stage three B Melanoma diagnosis concludes your eligibility to give your blood to other people. I don't blame them I guess, I don't want it either?  But it is not blood cancer, is it in my genes? Am I contagious? I had always assumed you couldn't donate blood if you have an obvious health situation such as HIV or other blood disorders, and I can see not donating while I am actively receiving my Pacmen, but forever no donate?  Hard to swallow that mixed message... "Everything is going to be okay Natalie," say my positive-thinking friends, but really I know inside, things are different. 

Not necessarily bad different, just different.  

Yet again in my life I have the task of adjusting to a new reality, a new set of limitations, and I challenge all of us to truly examine what we think our impediments, inhibitions, or restrictions are.  Challenges some may immediately say, they are just challenges - but that is not what I am talking about.  I have faced and conquered many challenges over the years, big and small, as we all have.  I am talking about the definite line being drawn in the sand, the words you actually have to digest that you can NOT do a particular thing.  Like a child with a slapped wrist, "you can't do that!"  I am not angry with the Blood Services thing, it just makes me ponder my new situation, therefore outlook, on life. 

I have long practiced seeing my challenges as "opportunities for improvement" (yikes, pulled that out of my project management training slash ISO education days??), so I am aware that I can overcome some of the stuff I am now restricted from doing.  I can't ride my bike or walk around my favourite 3.7 km block due to the condition of my right leg, but I am not quite yet six-months post surgery so I can work on that.  I am no longer easily insurable, that's a forever thing, hopefully I had that base adequately covered before April of this year!? I cannot work at my beloved employment position in the capacity I used to not that long ago, because of my physical limitations, my psychological outlook on it, and coping with constant appointments and still waiting for a second surgery date blah blah blah, but also because my heart is definitely not in it at the moment. Heart - that is a huge limitation. 

I used to think that my young family was a limitation, if things were different I would have that career abroad that I have dreamed of since high school.  I used to think finances were a limitation - I imagine most of us do - money not being plentiful enough to get that thing or go to that place. I used to think fear of the unknown was a limitation, sometimes I may have just been too plain scared to take that leap. Well not maybe that last one, my leaps have traditionally been impulsive. I do not regret the sky-diving, white water rafting, hot-air ballooning, the travel, the fantastic (if sporadic) career moves, the getting my ribs squished in the front row at rock concerts, the wonderful, amazing children I have the singular pleasure of calling my pride and joy. 

I had never considered the possibility of my health being a limitation. I am THE classic immortal being, bigger than life, immune to any real physical problems - so a broken nose here or a bad flu there... whatever! I'll recover and then get back to work or take that trip I keep annoying my friends about.

Now that is all different. The restrictions I mentioned a second ago no longer matter, and I am left with the biggest one, the one I cannot change, the one that no matter how hard I fight will end up being my final limitation.  My family is spectacular, finances are great, fear is not really a factor... it's all about the health. 

I encourage everyone to sit down and think about what truly matters. What are your limitations?  What holds you back and how can you overcome that?  What would you miss if you were told you could never do it again?  What would you regret not having done if you found out you no longer have the option to do it..?  Are you really happy?

I am happy, I just have bouts of pissed off, because though there are workarounds or "time will heal" to most of the impediments I am facing right now, there is still that final line drawn on some things I had planned to do in my life.  Or the deadline is moved up drastically.  I don't really want to talk "bucket list" as I find that a bit cliche, but I have had that mental list for as long as I can remember, and I feel a new sort of urgency to check those things off.  Blood donation gone, living in Europe gone, racy sportscar probably not because I can't physically get into the damned thing, trip to Edmonton with Scott delayed yet again, new tattoo has to wait until after my surgery and treatments, work a dubious indeterminate return date away. 

In the meantime I will live with the things I can do - thankfully I can still do at least some! I can trim the hedge along my garden, I just run out of steam before I can pick up and get rid of the trimmings.  I can't get on my roof to clean the eaves, but I can call someone to help.  I can't shop the whole mall with the girls, but I am getting pretty handy at  I can plan that trip to Italy, I just can't do it yet. I can clean my house, but just not too much at one time (hehe never really been toooo worried about that one).  

I can still host a surprisingly raucous impromptu party on a Friday night, I just have to be prepared to spend the rest of the weekend lying down.  (Speaking of which, the girls and I had our annual Halloween - a.k.a. CHAOS - party the other night, it was the best ever.  I was completely beat afterwards and have been hibernating in my cozy master suite ever since, but it was worth it. Since May when I very regretfully missed the girls' annual birthday sleepover bash due to surgery, I have been planning to do Halloween up right.  Given that we lost count of heads, ran out of food - and wine LOL - and there were so many kids packed onto the main floor of my tiny house that we literally couldn't even invite more trick-or-treating friends in, I'd say it was a success)  :-)

Every day I assess my limitations, and I recognize that they keep changing.  I am no longer on a period of mandatory bedrest staring out the window counting the spring leaves emerging on my maple tree, but I am trapped within a new set of lines that I have to colour in, the ones that will force me to ask for help with snow removal because I can't physically shovel that much.  I have to be patient, but obviously I have a bit of time to think about these things, which is why I encourage you to think about your limitations while you can.  If you are healthy, please check in with yourself about what it is you really want in life, and how you can set about achieving that.  Don't let the other stuff hold you back, take it from me - that is a waste of time.  And if blood donation is something you want to do but keep putting off..? Please go do it, even if just for me. 

1 comment:

  1. Nat, you are so right on examining your limitations. We call it "our new norm", on our melanoma medical journey!