My Little Bs Have the Big C

A Breast Cancer Blog For Young Women

The Never Enough Doctor


Two days ago I went to see my physiatrist.  He is the doctor who monitors my lymphedema.  When I first went to see him when I developed lymphedema, I liked him a lot.  I liked how he took a whole body and whole mind approach to my care.  He’s the one who helped me start therapy when he could see my distress and depression.  He made it happen.  He talked about helping me get a healthier lifestyle to help with cancer prevention.  But the last few times I saw him, I felt like he had an unrealistic view of my life and how I can fit lymphedema care and a healthy lifestyle into my every day.

To my young or youngish survivor friends, I don’t know if this happens to you as well but I have found that throughout my cancer journey there has been a lack of understanding of what it’s like to have cancer and be a working mother.  I know that the majority of patients that are seen are in their 50s, 60s, 70s and older.  50s and 60s is not old in my mind but these women are often at a different point in their lives.  They don’t (usually) have very young children.  They are not (always) building their careers.  To raise a small child and still try to define myself professionally and creatively while having cancer and lymphedema has been my greatest challenge.  I succeed sometimes but feel that I fail a lot.  That’s because I have way too many priorities.  I’ve written about this before.  What do I prioritize?  My health?  My finances? My career?  My son?  My mental health?  My emotional health?  My relationships?  My free time to be me?  I’m often overwhelmed by these questions.

Nevertheless, because I have gained a considerable amount of weight in the last few months, I have chosen to put my health front and center.  I’m unhappy looking in the mirror and unhappy with the way I feel.  I wrote two blog posts ago that I’m having a lot of difficulty losing the weight despite exercising 4-6 times a week and eating a plant based diet (not vegetarian, not vegan just way more veggies and fruits).

The last time I saw the “never enough doctor,” I was told that I needed to exercise more.  I couldn’t figure out when to find the time, especially with the work schedule my  husband had at the time.  I was only weeks out from my DIEP Flap and feeling like hell physically and emotionally.  He told me to “call on my community” to help me get it done.  What he didn’t understand was that my community is also made up of working mothers who have very little (if any) free time.  This pissed me off.

With that being said, in recent months my husband and I have discussed the importance of my health and what sacrifices we could make to help get my health back on track.  This means that my husband is not running as much (he loves to run) so that I have time to work out.  He has also put on weight because he is not running as much as he did previously.  I am also rarely putting my son to bed at night.  When he was in preschool only 2 days a week and I spent more time with him, this wasn’t a big deal.  But now he is in summer camp 5 days a week and will be starting full day pre-k in the fall.  My time with him is getting less and less.  With having to exercise at night, I’m sacrificing some of that time.  But I’m doing it not so that I have more minutes with him but more years.

I’m also sacrificing some major sleep so I can go out, get my work done, do the dishes, pump my arm and wrap it at night.  It’s a lot!

I’m also now seeing a nutritionist.  She agreed that my eating habits are healthy and we are monitoring my progress.

I have to say, I think I’m doing a hell of a lot here.  But according to the “never enough” doctor, I’m…well…not doing enough.

“How long are you exercising,” he asked me?

“35-40 minutes, 4-6 times a week,” I said,

“What exercise are you doing?”

“I’m run/walking and when I can’t get out, I’m doing a kickboxing video.”

He stopped, turned to me, looked me in the eyes.  “You really need to do more.”

“More?  More than 4-6 times a week,” I asked?

“No, not more times a week.  You really need to do 60 minutes.”


“You need to do more land based activities. Are you exercising in the gym?”

“No, I run outside.  I go to the park.”

“You really need to join a gym so that you can monitor your heart rate.  It’s more disciplined that way.”

“But,” I said, “I’m having a hard enough time finding the time to do the exercise I’m doing.  Back and forth to a gym is 45-1 hour plus an hour of working out, not to mention waiting on line for a machine…we’re talking at least 2 hours 4-6 times a week!  When am I going to do that?”

“Well, you do what you want to do but, if you really want to lose weight, this is the way you are going to do it.”

Fucking Asshole!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So, I’m finally figuring out a way to get exercise into my life, which is what he asked me to do last time.  I’m pumping my arm every night.  I’m wrapping most nights.  “You’re not wrapping during the day as well?”  WTF!!!!!!??????!!!!!!!  But instead of trying to find ways to get more exercise into my life (a pedometer to watch my heart rate and this thing called youtube which, I’m sure, has a lot of videos on how to do more effective work outs at home or outside), he just said I need to do the thing I can’t feasibly find the time to do.

It’s not enough.  It’s never, ever, ever enough.

His message: You can’t have cancer and lymphedema and still have a life.

What I say: There has to be a balance.  I can’t do it all and I can’t live for my condition.  What kind of existence is that?

He said that he doesn’t need to see me anymore but I can come back if I ever need anything.  I don’t think I would go back anyway.  I need to surround myself with people who will help me live with lymphedema and the side effects of cancer treatment, not for it.



23 thoughts on “The Never Enough Doctor

  1. Hang in there sweetie. Sending you lots of hugs~

  2. Sometimes I feel like life is one big project that is overdue and we can never quite finish. Sending you lots of positive vibes, lady. Wish I could do more. If I was still in NYC, you can bet your ass I’d be trying to help in a tangible way. Sometimes we have to stop and say, “Enough. I’m enough. This is enough. I didn’t do everything that I expected or that is expected of me, but that’s okay. I made it through today and that’s enough.” You are always enough! xoxo

  3. Yes I would definitely not go back there.

  4. Oh my word!! I’m one of those “older ladies” and I’m here to tell you…. to hell with exercise! I wouldn’t give up one single solitary moment with my child to go be some gym rat. So you’ve gained some weight! It seems to me, rather than exercising your body, you should be exercising your self-love. *hugs* Eat right, exercise WHEN YOU CAN, and know that your son doesn’t give a hoot about how much his mommy weighs…. all he wants is for you to be there with him. To. Hell. With. Dr. Never. Enough. Next time he says something so stupid, like you’re not getting enough exercise, tell him “Bite me, you asshole!” …. then stop at the bakery on the way home & get cupcakes for a tea party with your son. Love~ Andrea in Indiana xoxo

  5. The gym idea sounds like a nightmare solution to me. Definitely sounds like the doctor is out or resonance with your life song.
    Permaculture guidelines say make every effort serve more than one function if possible. How bout putting on some happy kid music and having daily 5 minute dance parties before dinner? Fun with your son and exercise for everyone. Focus on joy and love- joy is a huge health enhancer, connection makes you live longer than nearly anything else.
    May your week bring moments of sweet connection and wonder.

    • Thank you! I think my doctor is from the city so there’s a gym, like, on every block. The gym is not far from me but finding parking is a nightmare or I have to wait for the train. Then, once inside the gym, I have to wait on line for a machine. It’s too much. It’s ridiculous.

  6. Pingback: Weekly Round Up: Cancer Platitudes and Pet Peeves Edition | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

  7. I definitely think that Dr. Never Enough needs to become Dr. Never Again. Wow! I agree with Iridacea–activities that you can do with your son (bike riding, dancing, etc.) might help. I remember dating a runner and since I’ve never been, I would rollerblade while he ran. Maybe you can find ways to do family workouts?

  8. I do not have cancer. I do not have a child living at home. I have a job, I do not have a career I need to build. Yet somehow, I don’t have time to do the exercise I’m supposed to do. I don’t know how you do all you do. I am amazed at how you are trying to take control and as far I as can tell – you are succeeding. Do not let someone who knows nothing of your life tell you that you are not doing enough. You are doing all you can, and from where I sit, you are incredible.

  9. Carrie, I don’t have a child and I’m still feeling so overwhelmed with the amount of stuff I need to get done. Having cancer feels like a full-time job. I don’t have the same level of freedom I once had, in every sense of the word, really. It’s too much! I am proud of you for trying to exercise (and you don’t need a gym to do that). I’ve been trying to go biking but I am too tired by the time I get home from my stressful job. I completely understand your frustrations. And doctors should be able to acknowledge your feelings and your needs as a young mother. Like you, I believe because we were diagnosed at a young age, it has made things even more complicated for us – not saying we have it worse than those who are diagnosed at an older age. But yes, they’re at a different stage in their lives. I can’t imagine going through cancer while trying to raise a child, working, plus dealing with the everyday BS. But we do what we can. You set the priorities for yourself and you have to feel happy about your decisions. The career part of this is very hard. I am struggling with trying to set my goals when it comes to that while trying to stay realistic. Truth is, our health is now a major priority and we have to involve cancer in every decision we make, sort of. UGH. We keep on going friend, one day at a time. xoxo

  10. I was getting aggravated just reading this. I don’t know how you didn’t just punch him! It is REALLY hard to balance it all. You need to find the right balance for you, your husband and your son. I have found that I really needed to let some things go. So my house isn’t spotless. So my career isn’t getting 100% some days, and my family isn’t getting 100% other days. Learn to say “no” when you can.
    Personally, I have found that diet (I’m whole food plant based, no oil) and hydration is what’s best for my lymphedema. I really don’t exercise at all. It’s different for everyone, so find what works for you and your family, and everyone else be damned (figuratively, of course). I’m in the 50-something category, with a career that I need to keep up with to remain competitive, and a 15 year old. I’m fortunate that my lymphedema doesn’t impact my arm, so no wrapping. I just get swelling under my armpit. I don’t do any wrapping, but I do my lymphatic massage while I’m in the shower.
    Anyway, just wanted to say ditch the doctor (sounds like you have), listen to your body, enjoy your family, and don’t be too hard on yourself. Best of luck as you forge your way through this thing called cancer survival. Hugs.

  11. Hi Carrie,
    Good Lord, I am pissed off at the ass-hole, not enough doctor just from reading this. You are doing so much and balancing so many things… I am one of those “older” bc people you mentioned and I am struggling much of the time. Ditch that doctor. Having said this, I know ditching one doctor means you have yet another thing to do down the road. Finding doctors isn’t easy either. Anyway, I have no gems or any bits of wisdom that actually might help, but I say, you are doing damn well with the balancing act. Do your best. And if you don’t mind my saying, don’t set the bar(s) too high for some things. Easy for me to say, right? Good luck with all of it. Sending love and support. xo

    • Thanks, Nancy. I have ditched him. If I do need a new doctor, though, I know my amazing OT has some great connections. But, it was a frustrating experience, to say the least. I’m glad that relationship has ended. Thanks for your support!

  12. Hi Carrie – just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog. I finished chemo 5 weeks ago and am getting a bilateral mastectomy tomorrow. I have 2 kiddos, a job, a husband, just turned 40….it’s so much to juggle. Thanks for taking the time to write your blog and know that it is helping others.

    • Thank you! I’m so glad you like my blog. I was on vacation and am sorry this message isn’t reaching you before your mastectomy. I hope you are healing well. I know it is very painful at first. Keep up with the pain meds. For real! Juggling cancer with children is so difficult but, my son made all the difference in my outlook. Without him, I don’t think I ever would have gotten out of bed. I’m glad that my blog is helping you. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do for you from afar.

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