I am writing this entry from the comfort of a big, beautiful, empty house while the owners are off basking in the Mexican sun. Smart folk. Me and Zeus the cat (aptly named as he is a somewhat brawny fellow) are curled up listening to CBC and contemplating life. At least I am. He kind of looks like he is...but he always looks like that, so really, who knows.This is the first time in about three months I have been truly alone, and for an essential introvert like myself that has been way too long a time. I have been shuffling to and from one busy household to the next inwardly pining away for some serious privacy, and finally, thanks be to the Gods, I have it. Sadly it is about to end...but I am so very thankful for the alone time I've had - and for the break in my nomadic, vagabond life.
During this distraction-less week I've had some time to take stock of the past year, and the tidal wave of change its brought with it. I have the tendency sometimes to forge ahead, full throttle, and completely forget about significant past events. When I actually stopped to think about what I've come through over the course of the past 12 plus months it was somewhat staggering. Sweet mother of God, what a year! So I have been doing some re-membering, literally gathering up the dismembered, floating pieces of my experience and trying to piece them back together into some kind of whole.
January - May 2012:
I was undergoing one of the things people fear the most, outside of death (and maybe public speaking) - cancer treatment. The first three months of this year I was continuing in the land of chemo, getting needles pushed into me so often I stopped feeling it, having poison injected into my veins in a big cushy chair hours at a time with a whole bunch of others, watching nurses decked out in full protective gear run around administering vomit inducing drugs to every sector of the population! I was taking so many pills I thought I was 95, feeling like an Olympic champion if I could manage to walk down my street and back. By the end of March of this year I was a constantly nauseated, bald, almost bed ridden, slightly yellowish, weak, with shrivelled veins (this is still a problem), utterly exhausted and afraid to leave my house since I looked like a cancer poster girl at the time (having no eyebrows will do that). Then April brought with it the joys of radiation - every freaking day for a month. Radiation was it's own brand of cancer weirdness. I have only noticed over the past month that I have a radiation burn on my neck which will never go away, and to make it worse...it looks like a dirt stain on my neck. Awesome. Anyway, when I started thinking back on all this two words came immediately to mind: Holy. Fuck.
The big question being: How the hell did I endure all that? In some ways the whole experience feels light years away, bu I can remember some details vividly, as though it happened this afternoon. I wonder if some part of me always will.
June to August 2012:
The summer of post cancer aftermath, bizarre misadventures, life re-evaluation etc. This basically boils down to - life kind of falling apart! I realize now how much more prepared I was for the daily routines of treatment, as difficult as that was, than the after effects of having gone through the experience. The after - shock was , in a strange way, much harder for me to deal with. Going through treatment felt like being suspended in time. Every single other thing stopped in life and the only thing that mattered was survival. Everything revolved around that. Then suddenly the doc hands me the "get out of jail free" card and was like - "Congrats - this is over! You may still look like a bald infant with Jaundice, but your normal life is back! So get to it!". At that point normal life had vanished along with any trace of hair on my body. All that to say that the months following treatment were some of the most disorienting of my life to date. And a lot of changes followed in their wake. Changes that I believe were ultimately good, but extremely difficult.
Sept - Oct 2012:
Camino! Spain, you saved my life:
This is something else I look back on in complete wonder. First of all that I had the physical strength to walk so far, and second of all that I was OK to walk across a chunk of northern Spain ...by myself! I've always been a solo traveller, but I realized that I'm the only person I know (other than those I met on the Camino itself) who decided to do it alone - and a week before hand. And I didn't even think twice about it at the time?!? And it ended up to be the most rewarding travel experience of my life. There are times in life you have to give yourself a pat on the back...and I have to say how super impressed with myself I am with this one. Ha!
Oct - Dec 2012:
The move back to the hometown - Ottawa:
There are times you look at where you are and go - what the hell was I thinking?? I have had moments of that exact sentiment since making the move back to Ottawa. And I am still looking at it as a temporary 'experience' in order to keep my sanity intact. It is hard for me to conceive of putting down roots here after spending 10 years in the big smoke. But it has been fun re-connecting with Ottawa people, being closer to the folks, and seeing the town where I grew up with new eyes. It definitely is not the place it was 10 years ago, and it's been neat to observe those changes.
So the year has ended with me somewhat stupefied with everything that has happened. And hoping that 2013 is not half as eventful. I feel like I could use a cabin in the woods for a year to recover from it. This week I head back to the big smoke to work, and to go to the dreaded oncology follow up appointment. There is always that hard nugget of fear when going back, having to walk through the doors of a place that brings back strong unpleasant feelings, and hoping like hell your doctor will look at you reassuringly and tell you you are fine. No more chemo awaits you. You have your whole life ahead of you. Not to worry.
Most likely this is what will happen. But if this year has taught me anything it's this: There is no such thing as certainty.
"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change."