2013: An End of the Year Review

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…

San Francisco New Year’s 2012
Taken by my son, Daniel
Click it!


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,



  1. Beautiful post! I love reading your blog. Amidst all the grief, there are great things going on in your life (isn’t that always the case — life is balanced by bad and good events). I’m so glad you have your writing energy back and aren’t thinking about cancer every day. I cannot wait to see what book(s) you are planning to put out into the world, but I’m a fan of yours and would be happy to buy them someday.

    Have a wonderful, happy, healthy 2014!!

  2. dear Eileen,

    I just love how your beautiful mind works , in spite of the chemo fog! the rhythm of your life and how you choose to respond to all it’s many challenges is inspiring and encouraging to me. I am thrilled for your new found energy to write again, and for the realization of the progress you have made since completing treatment.

    I know the losses of the people you cared deeply for hit hard – so many in such a short time. but I am glad your philosophy about death sustains you – and am glad you shared it with us.

    and how lovely it must be to think back on your sweet daughter and your niece getting married – both wonderful and happy kaleidoscopes you can play back in your mind to relive the joy of such happy occasions.

    I hope the new year brings you even more peacefulness and renewal in all aspects of your life, and all keeps right on rising like a Phoenix out of the ashes.

    much love and light to you, dear friend,


  3. Thanks so much, Beth and Karen.

    Beth, the fandom is mutual!

    Karen, you are also a shining example of one who rises to challenges and shines beautifully, even through your pain.

    And … I can’t believe I forgot one more wonderful 2013 thing that happened recently. My son got engaged! Very happy he found the right woman for him.

  4. oh, Eileen,

    that’s such wonderful, happy news! congratulations to you and your son – another wedding to look forward to!

    much love and light, xoxo


  5. I missed this when you first posted it Eileen, I can’t believe you have only been blogging one year – it feels as if you have been part of the blogosphere for much longer. And boy, what a lot has happened in those 12 months – I grieve with you for the sad times, and I am happy for the good times you had – here’s to much more of the latter in 2014

  6. Thanks, Marie. I also can’t believe it’s been only a year for me in the blogosphere. I feel like I’ve known everyone for so much longer. A good and healthy 2014 to you!

  7. That is just lovely. It’s been so good to meet you too this year. I’m glad you stepped into the world of blogging. And even if you don’t wear a hat, it’s nevertheless a very good way to be recognized! Very clever 🙂

  8. Thanks, Catherine. Always good thoughts of health and best possible outcomes for you.

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