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Finally feeling like I'm back to being me

The e-mails started trickling in 11 weeks ago here at the Citizen, usually about five or six per week. Somewhere near the end of May, they started coming in with greater frequency, two or three a day.

The later ones would say something like: "Haven't seen your byline in the paper for a while, hope everything is OK."

Truth is, 11 weeks ago, I wasn't doing well, but I was happy to be back and doing something other than watching television, surfing the Internet or reading.

After two surgeries and about nine weeks away from the office, I was ready to be back here at the Citizen, or at least I thought so.

But my body told me something totally different. The first several weeks back were a struggle, mentally and physically.

After working for about four or five hours, I was exhausted every day. However, I'm not even sure exhausted is the right word to describe how I felt. I was totally wiped out.

That was then, but now I'm happy to report I feel much better.

My physical strength returns a little more each day. Truth is I have to remind myself now that there are certain things I'm still not allowed to do.

While physically I was getting stronger, mentally I still felt weak.

I remember sitting at my desk one day in May and thinking how did I ever keep all this stuff straight in my mind before I had surgery. Naturally, my next thought was, "Will I ever be able to do it again?"

The medical professionals all told me that my problem stemmed from four doses of anesthesia in a three-month period. It takes a lot of out of you, they said, but it will come back over time.

I wasn't so sure the anesthesia was the whole problem. I think television, too much that is, had a little something to do with it. There's only so much ESPN, NFL Network, NHL Network and NCAA basketball a person can watch before the brain gets a little numb.

Although I never worried about being able to write again, it's like our boss, Alice Queen, told me a couple of years ago: "Writing is like riding a bike. Once you know how, you never forget. You just have to get back on the bike."

She's absolutely right, however, it was rough at first. Stories that I used to crank out in about 20-30 minutes started taking 40 or 50.

In the last few weeks, though, my mental focus has returned slowly but surely.

For example, as my wife Linda attests, I'm a voracious reader. But right after the surgery, I hardly picked up a book, and ones I did were a great labor to finish.

In the last week, I can report I've knocked off four books with numbers five and six close to being done (I usually read two books at the same time and alternate between them).

And no, we're not talking about comic books. They were fiction and non-fiction books and all were at least 200 pages.

By this point, I'll bet you're wondering where I'm going with this column.

Nowhere really other than to give you a health update that says I feel good right now, although my battle with cancer continues at this time.

With my newfound strength and focus, I'm ready to tackle some things here at the Citizen that require some attention.

So starting with the wrestling team in today's edition, we'll catch up on our All-Area teams from winter sports. We considered not doing them at all because they were so late, but we decided it wouldn't be fair to those athletes. The basketball teams will follow over the next week, and then we'll launch into the spring sports.

You know, it's good to be back, but it's even better to feel like you're back.

Jeff Gillespie can be reached at jeff.gillespie@rockdalecitizen.com.