About That To-Do List…

Now that I’ve already described the chemotherapy and hospital experience in great detail, I feel like I also need to describe the experience of being home when the dust finally settles.

Living at home with my parents (or dad, in this case, although my mom lives a 5 minute drive away), being off work, dealing with the side effects of chemo, and emotional aspects of having cancer, well it’s a lot!


Archie, on "Cancer Guard" at the end of my bed at home.

The biggest thing I have noticed since being home is that my to-do has been drastically slashed. I used to be that girl who liked to schedule every free minute of her day with something to do. How do you think I managed to blog every day? My days were quite full! Geez, in my last year of university I took full-time classes, worked two jobs, and did one internship. It’s like I’m allergic to being bored or something.

I think a big misperception about being sick is that people assume the sick person sits at home all day in their pyjamas with nothing to do. This is kind of true, but I know anyone who has gone through chemotherapy will agree with me – I just can’t do as much.


Each day, I do the normal things I want to do every day – blog, exercise, make meals. Then I choose one thing to do on top of that. Some days it’s going out to lunch, maybe visiting my mom, have a friend come over. Other days, a load of laundry is all I can muster. Some days I can’t even do anything beyond blogging.

Chemotherapy just takes it out of you. Plain and simple. Even on days when I’m not nauseated or experiencing bone pain, I am still always fatigued and tired. The kind of tired that doesn’t go away with sleep. The kind of tired that isn’t cured with caffeine or “breaking through” to get a second wind.

I have to be wise about it as well. For I have over-booked myself in the past while on chemo and felt like walking death after. I am always having to remind those around me that “no, this is it for me today.” As much as I would love to go from location A to location B, I think it’s time I go to location Home to rest.

The one thing that I miss the most since beginning chemotherapy is the ability to schedule my days full of fun activities. I miss having a healthy immune system that allowed me to go to farmer’s markets, concerts, busy restaurants, and bars. I miss having the stamina to spend the day baking and cooking in the kitchen.


Baking chocolate beet cake on my birthday, 2010.

With all this said, I will assure you that I surprisingly never get bored. Between puttering away on my writing projects, reading, watching the TV shows and movies I never had time for before, and visiting with family every day, I don’t have a whole lot of time for much else. It just takes a loooooong time to do anything because I can only do so much over the course of one day.

Back in my prime exercise days, when I was training for triathlons, running races, or weight lifting programs, I dealt with regular injuries like anyone else. My mom would always tell me “Susan, an injury is just God’s way of slowing you down.” I always knew it was true, because without the injury I would have just kept going and run myself into the ground. The sore hip, stubbed tow, achy achilles, they all served their purpose of forcing me to sit on my butt for a week and take a rest I never thought I needed or deserved.

Well, I’m not sure what cancer says about my need for rest, but I am certainly taking the time to listen. And plan to continue listening once this cancer experience is over. I’ll definitely be more careful about over-booking myself in the future, and maybe take more time to read those books and watch those movies I always wanted to see.


I am back to the red sands of the North Shore of Nova Scotia at my family cottage for the weekend. The perfect opportunity to rest, read, and go for a long walk on the beach. I wish everyone on chemo had a cottage to go to. Whatever you do this long weekend, be sure you get a little rest and relaxation too!!

Posted on September 2, 2011, in Cancer, Lessons Learned. Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. I’ve heard that same phrase about an injury being God’s way of slowing us down…whatever it is, there are things in life that affect our lifestyles – even a healthy one like yours…obviously. Healthy food, exercise, friendship, work we love…all those are wonderful, but the ability to get quiet-er and reflect on gratitude and our inner landscapes can be a part of a healthy lifestyle too. You alluded to it – once you’re back to full health, maybe you’ll take a little more time to on being, rather than just doing. I’m 58 and just learning this! I suspect you’ll get more amazing life lessons from this experience than you could ever have imagined.

  2. I was reading this and slowly scrolling. I got the first half of the last photo in my window & thought it was a macro shot of a chocolate cookie or the top of brownies. The starfish was a chocolate chip. Till I saw your feet, then I was quite amused.

  3. I really believe in what your mom said about our bodies asking for rest. Sometimes I think I push myself too hard, yet I often don’t listen to the signs that tell me this. Hearing it from someone else makes it feel a little bit more true, so I’m glad I read your post today. It’s always okay to rest! I need to remember this. I’m glad you’re getting good rest time, especially at your cottage! So beautiful. My thoughts are always with you, Susan! Let us know if you watch any particularly excellent movies. :)

  4. Everytime you post pictures of Archie, I want to go get a poodle. They are the sweetest dogs.

    Sometimes I think giving my celiac disease was a higher power’s way of telling me to start taking better care of myself. To focus on what makes me feel good and what makes me feel like crap. I can totally see what your mom means about injury being God’s way of telling someone to slow down. Rest, relax and take care of things until you’re feeling better. Makes a lot of sense.

    Hope you have a great time at the cottage. I agree, everyone on chemo needs some sort of retreat.

  5. I’ve given up trying to read my body’s signals! lol! A little extra rest never hurts and I’m so glad you have your cottage to retreat to! :) We’ve rented a cabin on a lake this weekend but it seems me and my daughter are coming down with colds! Still I guess it’s better to have a cold on a beautiful lake than in my boring house!

  6. lol, it does look like you’re standing on a giant brownie. ;) have a great weekend, susan!

  7. Lovely post, Susan. We could all learn a thing or two from slowing down.

  8. I’ve just started following your blog and I wanted to say, as a fellow Canadian, that I appreciate the courage and tenacity you’re displaying right now. Keep your spirits up and your optimism high!

  9. Every time I read your posts I try to put myself in your shoes exactly and this post spoke to me so much. I feel like sometimes I am “allergic to being bored” and I hate to give myself down time. I know when enough is enough when I get sick or am too run down to function. Last year my anemia was at an all time low and I was so lethargic and run down, I wasn’t myself. I had to go in twice a week to get iron-infusions at the Cancer Care center near where I live. Although I was not there for cancer treatment it just gave me a new perspective on the idea that even though you don’t perceive yourself as someone who is “sick” or “unwell,” your body may be telling you otherwise. I don’t know exactly where I am going with this just that I alway find myself engrossed in your posts and I want to somehow understand, as well as I can, your experience.

  10. Oh I really liked this post, Susan. It gives me a further glimpse to a patient’s life than just hospitals and surgeries. Whether the to-do list is long or short, I think you’re always doing something by living and breathing. Sometimes a fewer list allows us to do more thinking and learning.

    I hope you gain back your strength soon, but meanwhile, I’m glad you’re enjoying some downtime…man, 2 jobs AND an internship during college! I would die.

  11. So you can relate to my farming sister-in-law’s complaint to her oncologist, on her lack of energy: “I can’t toss the 75# hay bales any more, and I even have to pull apart the 25# bales …”!!
    The look on his long, thin face as he looked up from his clipboard and peered over glasses at her was priceless…

  12. Unfortunately for many, it takes something like this for themselves or another close person to them to slow down just a bit & smell the roses & coffee. It is a hard lesson to learn even if it does hit a person close to you as some just want to live life to the fullest just in case but sometimes that DOES MEAN slowing down & “seeing” and listening. Thank you!

  13. You can do this……cancer is not stronger than you are….you do not have cancer ….cancer is trying to take you over but you are stronger…do not say “I have cancer” you are giving it power over you….I love your strength…you are beautiful and you can win this battle

    Healthy Kaite.
    …I have a link for you to read about if you want to…you can google Philip Day or go to this link…
    and read about {Philip Day and the testimonies from the people who have given up meat and dairy ….like me…..
    Here’s to good health…
    God Bless You

  1. Pingback: Shoulder Strain | Fitness & Feta

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