2014. Of Bad Cheese Logs & Good Wine

11909055833_147fcd8c6e_zPhoto by Bob Shrader.

I was diagnosed in January 2014. For the last 11 months, every event – holiday, birthday, school activity – triggered a memory and a thought. “The last time this happened, my world was still normal. I didn’t have cancer, yet.” Of course, I likely did. And last year at this time, while I didn’t have my diagnosis yet, I was feeling awful, much worse than I am now, physically. But psychologically, I was in a different universe, one I can never go back to, no matter how good I feel. I’ve been ushered into the “living with advanced cancer” room, and I can’t find the exit. Well, not the exit I’m looking for anyhow.

As the anniversary of my diagnosis approaches, I find myself thinking a lot about life before and after. This whole year, I’ve waded through different emotions, traversed some deep waters, always feeling a little in shock at my predicament, remembering vividly what it felt like before my life took a sudden, shocking turn. I’ve felt a newcomer to the cancer world, looking to and receiving guidance from a handful of generous and kind survivors ahead of me on this journey. Now, this changes.

As I get ready to usher 2014 out and ride this rock around the sun again, I realize that it’ll be different this time. Memories of who I was before cancer are starting to fade. Cancer is present in my life every single day, most every waking minute, and even in my dreams. It’s fundamental to who I am now. As I push into year two of this journey, every time I celebrate an event and think back to the previous one, I will now have memories of celebrating as a person with cancer. The “new normal” I’ve been trying to adjust to all year is no longer new. It’s just my normal.

It’s tempting to curse 2014 as it exits, but I cannot. When I reflect on 2014, I feel rich with the love and support of so many. I’m not trying to put a shiny, happy face on for this public platform. Of course I remember the pain, the struggle for breath, the incessant nausea. I sit here typing with my feet propped up in a feeble attempt to combat the edema that strikes at random and is severe enough that I can’t cram my feet into my shoes. But the memories of the various physical maladies pale in comparison to the memories of the positive moments. 2014 brought so many moments of meaning, learning, and true loving connection. In many ways, I am a changed person for the better.

It feels Pollyanna-ish to type these sentiments, which isn’t me. I’m more sarcastic. I rolled my eyes at the sweet lady blathering on about the “gifts of cancer” the other week. But, secretly, I agree. There are gifts in this journey. The gifts only come as a package with the crap – like a gift basket with a nice bottle of wine wrapped together with a disgusting cheese log thing – the whole sh’bang is non-refundable, you must ingest both, which kind of sucks. The cheese log is even worse than it looks. But, there are gifts in there. The wine is surprisingly good; some of the best I’ve ever had.

11657524815_500e19cc73_k Photo by Ashley Rose. Cheers and thanks for all the love and support in 2014. xo