Reframing for the glasses-half-empty

You may or may not be interested in last week’s empathy talk. Here is my quick synopsis of how things went: I have no idea. Nonetheless, I’m glad I did it, and I’m glad it’s over. The audience seemed exhausted–it was late on a Friday afternoon–so I could not tell if people were listening, let alone taking anything in. Normally I would leave a situation like this assuming I had messed up but this time I decided to let it go, for the sake of self-preservation. Old dog, new tricks, who’d have thought it possible?

I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had a chance to tell you about my checkup at the Cancer Centre Tuesday. Rather than Dr. Blood, my favourite nurse practitioner, Stephanie, assessed me. Stephanie’s presence is always reassuring because: a) Stephanie is so nice; and b) Stephanie’s assuming my care means Dr. Blood doesn’t feel she needs to.

After a full rundown on Stephanie’s recent vacation, we talked about me. My platelets are proliferating so my blood is getting stickier, thanks to my recently lowered CML chemo, but not so sticky that I need to worry about clotting. My red blood count continues to rise too. I asked Stephanie why I was not feeling more perky since my blood was so red. The gist of her response: “Your body is so compromised, there are infinite reasons for you to be tired.” Oh well. Then she informed me, hands on my belly, that my spleen has indeed shrunk of late. Will wonders never cease. Funny, though, my girth has not shrunk with it.

This led me to wonder whether Stephanie might be more sympathetic than Dr. Blood to my need for larger yoga pants. Stephanie is highly attuned to all that quality-of-life stuff because of her nursing background and her general supportive nature. She suggested, in her best psychology-speak, that rather than focussing on weight gain, I should instead be revelling in my healthy appetite.

She had a point. The times I’ve been sickest have been the times I’ve had no appetite for anything. This first experience of unhunger games, aside from the odd fever, I refused a chocolate chip cookie. I never turn down a good cookie. But on this day, I could not fathom putting anything into my mouth, let alone something sweet. The change in my appetite was so alarming that I went to the doctor, who sent me immediately to the ER. (She made that decision based on other factors in addition to my cookie aversion.) Who’d have thought refusing a cookie could be such a good indicator of wellness? Perhaps a cookie scale of wellness would well complement the Truck Scale of Holistic Well-Being.

But back to Stephanie, who had adopted one of the oldest psychology tricks in the book: cognitive restructuring, a.k.a., reframing. She took my usual negative interpretation of events and transformed it into something positive. I always knew she was smart, but she outdid me that day. I’d never have arrived at that reframe on my pessimistic own.

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