Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Recuperation or recovery?

Dana Jennings, a New York Times reporter who has been writing about his treatment for an aggressive form of prostate cancer, has, at two years out, been writing about survival.

A week ago, he wrote about the small ways in which he has been feeling like himself. He wrote that his post-treatment depression is lifting, he goes for days without thinking of cancer, and his mood is generally brighter.

Today, in a piece headlined "Healing Physically, Yet Still Not Whole," he looked at survivorship from a more somber perspective, as though he had hit a pothole when taking one of his five-mile runs. Talking about the difference between recuperation and recovery, he wrote, that recuperation is just physical, and that in our fast-moving culture, a sign of recuperation is jumping back on the treadmill, never admitting weakness.

But for Jennings, true recovery is taking longer, involving excusing himself from the daily grind, taking a deep breath, retreating into "a chrysalis of healing." He wrote that he couldn't bear the thought of answering the phone. "I didn't want to hear my own voice. I wanted to sleep, wanted to be in the wind," he wrote.

Been there. But with a little distance (and better weather), I feel like Jennings does in his earlier piece: brighter, more hopeful, less focused on the whole ordeal.

I guess everyone defines "recovery" differently. The definition may even vary from day to day. For most everyone, it involves time. If you're hit once, it's devastating. There are more layers for people with "special circumstances." What about someone who develops multiple cancers? Or people who relapse? Or someone whose cancer is followed by multiple blows, such as the death or illness of a family member or friend?

I put myself in that "special circumstances" category, because when I was three-and-a-half years out from my first bone marrow transplant, I really thought I was going to be OK. I almost shrugged it off when people asked after my health, as though I couldn't imagine why they'd even ask. Then came two relapses and three more bone marrow transplants.

It might be harder to recover if you've been hit more than once, but you still have to try. If you don't, you'll probably stay under a dark cloud, and nobody will want to play with you.


Marilyn said...

I, too, have been following Jennings and enjoying his candor, but you've mentioned an important aspect that is part of many people's journeys (not that it's a competition). For those who've felt the shoe drop repeatedly, the word 'recovery' takes on a slightly different meaning and it may actually be something each person defines for him/herself.

PJ said...

Time heals all wounds but not necessarily the emotional ones, at least not as quickly. Who knows if the recovery is ever complete?

Paula said...

People will play with you, Ronni.
You are fun and interesting.

Recuperation vs recovery are both means to an end.

You are so much more than a means to an end.

Diane said...

As with any life-changing circumstances, you will probably never be the same person you were pre-2003. Recovery may not be the exact word because you can't go back, exactly 'recover' what you were. I like to think that you are rebuilding, reshaping yourself. While you are of course building on your core being, I would guess that you are forever changed by these experiences.

I of course have not been in your shoes so maybe it's easier for me to say. But you seem to the best place possible - vital and alive w/ new perspectives, hopeful about the future, enjoying what's in front of you.

Ann said...

I struggle with my own definition of recovery these days. If you don't look too hard, I can pass for healthy superficially. As for everything else, I'd be honored to be a part of your play group.