Dear Amy: The week the COVID lockdown began last year, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My husband couldn’t even be in the waiting room during my bilateral mastectomies.
It’s been a long slog of a year with chemo and treatments and losing my hair. I’ve had several more surgeries. I now must wear lymph sleeves.
Now we can once again go places, and I am returning to good health.
The problem is that I can’t get myself energized or excited about doing much of anything. I want to stay home and take naps. I look different and my confidence is low. I don’t know who I am now, but I do know that I’m not that person I was pre-cancer and pre-COVID.
Everyone seems to think I am cured, but I still have lingering side effects. I avoid people and feel anxious when someone wants to come over. I don’t know what to say.
I’m 50 years old but feel ancient.
Dear Surviving: Through your terribly challenging year, you have been cared for by others, and now the rest of your recovery will be about you attending to your "self-care."
Given what you have been through (multiple surgeries and chemotherapy), it isn’t at all surprising that your recovery would extend over the course of the next months.
Depression is a common occurrence after a cancer diagnosis – and while being depressed during the diagnosis phase might make sense to you – the rate of depression during and after successful treatment is also statistically high.
According to a two-part series published by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center (fredhutch.org), "15 to 25 percent of people with cancer — a rate two to three times that of the general population — develop a clinically significant depression that can affect their ability to function on a daily basis, including going through treatment."
And because depression occurs along a spectrum, as many as half of cancer survivors are estimated to be affected by depression and anxiety as a result of their illness.
Talk to someone on your treatment team about your mental health. Depression and anxiety are treatable, and you will feel better with time.
Perhaps your earlier post-pandemic outings should start with virtual (or in-person) support meetings. Check the American Cancer Society website for the Cancer Survivors Network: cancer.org.
If people query you, you can say, "I’m still recovering, and it’s going slowly."
Dear Amy: My husband and I are in our 70s. He is more extroverted than I am. Throughout our professional life, we entertained at home a significant amount.
I have probably hosted a thousand dinner parties, large charity events and family holiday parties with up to 60 people.
Additionally, since moving to our lakefront retirement home, I often host people more than half the summer days.
I am completely over it. I still enjoy having one or two couples for dinner periodically, but I am way past these big events.
Two years ago, we had a paella party, with three grills going and 40 guests.
It was exhausting for me. Even though he manned the grill, it was up to me to have the house spic and span, make sure the gardens were up to snuff, do the shopping, prep the ingredients, arrange for enough seating, organize the various beverage, appetizer, salad and dessert tables with proper supplies and table coverings, make sure there were enough cutlery and dishes, etc.
True, people brought dishes to pass, but I am dreading a repeat.
When I state that I don’t want to do this, he throws a fit. Can you suggest some ways I can cope with this situation and not lose my mind or end my marriage?
– Hostess with the Leastess
Dear Hostess: You have done yeoman’s duty over the years, and yes, the cumulation of all of that effort has probably been rewarding, as well as exhausting.
Now stand your ground. If your husband throws a fit, ride it out.
If he wants to host a large party, hire a caterer. Catered parties are still a lot of work for the hosts, but you would be relieved of the pressure of prep and cleanup.
Dear Amy: Regarding the middle-school teacher who held a contest to vote for leaders to get a pizza party, if 27 kids out of 30 in the class "won," my take is that 27 kids voted for themselves, and only three of them had the integrity not to do that.
Dear Steve: A plausible explanation. Those three should get the pizza prize!