Type-A personality learns to let go, let others help

  • Published
  • By Maj. Carrie Clear
  • Tinker Public Affairs
Editor's note: October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. During this time it is important to spread the message that "early detection is the key." But, once that detection happens, what then? It took a diagnosis, chemo and other struggles for one survivor to learn she didn't have to handle everything on her own.

One of the hardest things I've had to deal with since my breast cancer diagnosis is learning my limits. I used to be a Type A, multi-tasking machine. My daughter called me the "Clock Nazi." I juggled a full-time job, serving in the Air National Guard, and on a non-profit board of directors, and being a single mom without skipping a beat. To top it off, my mother taught me never to pay someone to do something I could do myself.

I was diagnosed the Tuesday before Mother's Day and my lumpectomy was scheduled for the following week. My "summer project" for the house was to expand my patio, and knowing it wouldn't get done if I waited until after my surgery, I recruited my daughter, her boyfriend and my nephew to help me knock it out that weekend. We dug up the yard, spread 300 pounds of sand and gravel and laid 48 16-inch pavers in two days.

But wait -- that's not all.

After all, I was Superwoman and since I was going to be home, there were other projects that could be done.

While on convalescent leave I got estimates to replace the air ducts, renovate one bathroom and replace the shower in another, and hire a maid to clean up the mess.

We also needed some electrical work done, and I made an appointment with the vet to have our six-month-old, 45-pound puppy spayed so we could bond during our respective recoveries. I played the pity card and was able to schedule all of the work on days I would be home recovering from either surgery or chemo therapy. I could handle it. It's not like I would do the work myself. All I had to do was watch.

I have never been as tired as I was while watching others work. I have vague memories of a worker watching me from atop a step ladder, as I lay shivering on the couch after a round of chemo.

Looking back, it wasn't smart to have the dog fixed at that time either. During her surgery, the vet found and repaired an umbilical hernia, leaving her with stitches halfway up her stomach. She couldn't sit or lie down for three days, and I wasn't able to lift her. We were both miserable. The good news is that I am no longer Type A. I struggle to get anywhere on time and do well to focus on one thing at a time. Chemo brain is still a factor and my left foot is still numb with neuropathy.

I've had to be imaginative in dealing with these issues. I took a creative writing class to reintroduce my brain to words that used to roll off my tongue and I have occupational therapy to work on the neuropathy.

But, most importantly, I've learned that what doesn't get done today will get done tomorrow and I don't have to be the one to do it.