A few years ago, I spoke with a woman at the gym about the time she had to take off from work for cancer treatment. Upon her return, some of her co-workers treated her as if she had been on vacation, which infuriated her. As she explained to me, and I know first-hand, there is a big difference between using vacation time and going on medical leave.
Spending all day on the couch watching television might be fun and relaxing when you do it by choice, but being forced into it because there is virtually nothing else you are capable of doing is an entirely different matter. My first week home from the hospital was the slowest seven-day span I can remember.
As that first week came to a close, I made the decision to focus less on what I could not do and to instead emphasize the small indicators of progress that came with each passing day. Each evening right before going to bed, I wrote myself a quick note about what I had accomplished that day.
My whole perspective shifted. Powered by a more positive outlook, I have nudged myself to do just a little bit more each and every day, and the results have come at a rate so accelerated that I never would have expected it. Just one week ago, for example, I went outside for the first time after my operation and slowly shuffled around the block with Joanne’s help. Today, I walked six miles by myself.
Yesterday was my first post-operative appointment with my surgical team and they could not believe how well I am doing. They were floored that (1) I am already off of all of my pain medications, and (2) that I have been off of them for a week already. My baseline fitness going into the operation and my generally-healthy diet, they said, are likely significant factors into why I am recuperating so quickly.
That is probably true, but I like to think that my resolve to get off the couch and do something productive with my days also has something to do with it.