My ~Much Better Late ~New Year
Tomorrow, January 6, 2018, is my New Year’s celebration. Despite the fact that my family and friends celebrated on January 1, tomorrow marks the beginning of a brand new phase of my life, post-cancer. You see last year, 2017, was not one of my better years. In May, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. In June, I had a lumpectomy, followed by months of chemotherapy, four infusions every three weeks, beginning in August and ending in late October. Subsequently, in mid-November, I began radiation – 34 treatments – which end today. I realize that most of my online friends and many friends who live at a distance were unaware of these happenings because I chose to share only with family and a few friends. Readers and friends would have no knowledge of my situation unless they saw me with my chemo head covering or during the weak and difficult weeks after an infusion. So this is not only my New Year’s celebration, it is also my coming out party. Thus, as it is a tradition to make resolutions at the beginning of a new year, I would like to share my own.
Firstly, I will continue to savor and to celebrate the astonishing miracle that is life, along with the exhilarating recognition that through life we are all connected to the ever-creative spirit of the universe. Some of us choose to call that spirit, that prime mover, Creator God. As do I. Along with the cancer, I have been blessed with grace and gratitude for an intense awareness of my connection with our creator. It is a connection that wrapped me in love during some of the darkest moments of chemo and through the most painful days that visited me during radiation as the treatments progressed. Even with the deep depression that I felt in the depths of the inky, black, fog of non-feeling that would set in within a few days after each chemo infusion, I could feel that I was not fighting alone and that my suffering was shared. It was clear that my task was to transform suffering into an affirmation of life. Perhaps my readers on Facebook noticed that I endeavored to make nearly all my posts affirm the higher values of love, justice, and peace. In summary, I have a renewed reverence for the divine and the universe achieved through the lens of faith.
My second resolution is to never let go of the gratitude and the joy that I feel as I walk into the future. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the support of family and friends during the past eight months. Without my strong and loving husband, I am sure I would not have emerged from the treatments with the success I feel at being “bent, but never broken” (his words). Along with my joy is an understanding that I am tasked with helping others to experience joy as well. Thus, though a shy person, I find it so much easier to smile and greet those that I meet. I feel the bubbling of joy in my throat when I FaceTime with our grandson or talk to loved ones. I have rediscovered my singing voice. Even though it was once very good and its quality has deteriorated, I belt out the words and the melodies with gusto. I find myself breaking into song for the slightest reason.
The third and last resolution I share stems from my thoughts as I debated whether to undergo chemotherapy or not. You see, I had the choice of refusing it. My tumor was Stage 1 with no lymph nodes affected. Usually, those findings require only surgery followed by radiation. However, because of the type of tumor it was, it was determined that I was at high risk of recurrence and it was recommended that I undergo both chemo and radiation. My age, plus other medical conditions were factors that could have swayed me not to endure chemotherapy. However, phrases that kept popping into my head were, “My dear husband and my cherished sons are not ready to play by themselves yet,” and, “I need time to be sure my spirit is in the right place.” These thoughts became blessings throughout the process!
In response to my decision to proceed with the full protocol of chemotherapy, radiation, and hormone blocker, I began to simplify, to cherish each minute with my loved ones, and to organize our lives in a way that, when we do pass, our children will not be left with chaos. I’m not there yet, but will continue to work toward that goal. As for my spiritual being, the meditation and devotion time that my husband and I spend together each morning has a whole new dimension for me. As I shared earlier, I am much more keenly aware of being connected and blessed and spend more time in gratitude throughout the day. In many ways, my name – Joy – has become my being for the first time in a long time.
Happy New Year!
* Photo – “Ribbon of Hope” by Maf04. On Flickr, Creative Commons, Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).