2013 was hardly the best of times, but not the worst either. Here’s a recap of the highlights and low points that punctuate my 2013.
One year ago, a blog was born. I named it Woman in the Hat, although the only time I’ve worn hats was when I was stripped bald by chemo. I never, ever wears hats anymore. On the count of three, you may call me a fraud.
I committed myself to the blog for at least one year because I knew it took time to build a blog and its audience. The surprise in store was the many friends I discovered in the blogosphere. Those connections have truly enriched my life beyond anything I ever dreamed. I’m so grateful for you all.
After a couple of months of blogging, I found fulltime employment. Although the job is a major time and energy suck, the salary and benefits come in handy, especially when it comes to mundane things such as eating or paying rent.
My energy levels are not what they were pre-cancer, even three years post-treatment. A fatigued, brain-fogged mind does not always make for pretty words and terrific posts. A chemo-brained mind occasionally makes mistakes in the workplace that my pre-cancer self could not comprehend. There are days, and then there are days…
I never fathomed when I finished treatment that I’d still not be back to my old self three years later. In certain ways, I’m sure I never will. I’ll always have peripheral nerve damage — the gift of Taxol. While the fatigue is still an issue, it has lessened and so have the headaches. I do feel frustrated at not functioning at my pre-cancer levels, but the good news is when I look back on the year, I realize I’ve made leaps and bounds in my energy level. I attribute this not only to time, but treating with a good naturopath. I’m not done yet and am not where I want to be, but am thrilled to see upward movement in the direction of health.
Two joyous events in my family: My daughter got married in August and my niece married in September.
There’s a time to dance and a time to mourn. Starting with September, six people died in my small circle of friends and family. Of course, the one that hit me the hardest was my mother. I also had a close friend die a few weeks before my mom. The ages of those who died ranged from 44 up to my mother’s age of 80. In case you’re wondering, two of the six deaths were from cancer. It’s been a tough time, but I don’t regard death as tragic. The loss we feel triggers intense grief, which is the only appropriate response when separated from those we love. At the same time, from the moment we’re born, we’re destined to die. It’s natural and ultimately the finish line of the cycle of life. Still, we’re always in such shock when that day comes and never prepared to say goodbye.
Despite all the ups and downs, the joy and the grief, the end of the year finds me at peace and ready to resume new writing projects. Cancer brought a temporary halt to the novels and articles I’d worked on. I simply did not have the physical or emotional energy to invest in writing a book. The time out, though, gave me a change of direction in terms of genre and redirected my focus. It’s only been recent that my writing energy has been renewed. When I’m not involved in a book-length project, a part of me feels dead. I can’t begin to express how ecstatic I feel at having that part of me revived. It’s as if cancer took away an important part of who I am, but it rose up like the Phoenix from the ashes in a resurrected, deeper form. I’ll never regard cancer as a gift, but just as it chewed me up and spat me out, I’ve milked it for what I could. Those are the real perks of cancer.
Finally, today something occurred to me for the first time. I don’t think about breast cancer every single day. I don’t know how long this has been going on, but I’m certain not too long. What a moment when I realized I’ve gone whole days without thinking about cancer. For those of you who’ve been down this road, I’m certain you understand how pivotal this moment is. It tells me that healing has begun on a whole other level. It’s not at the forefront of my thoughts and emotions anymore. I think I’m starting to feel … somewhat normal? Imagine…
In 2014, I’ll still blog on a regular basis, but perhaps not as much, or maybe often but in smaller chunks. Smaller chunks go down more easily anyhow. My new book project will take time and I’m committed to plunging forward with it, but I’ll still be here. Writing posts and making connections in the blogosphere is hands-down one of the nicest things that’s happened to me in 2013. And it’s gone a long way in contributing toward my healing.
To all my friends, old and new, I wish you a happy 2014. And if it’s not happy — I’d mentioned that happy is fleeting and overrated — then I wish you a year filled with meaning and hope because those are two ingredients that keep you afloat when life gets tough and overwhelming.
Love and light and health and hugs,