My Cancer Journey – Part 1

First, you need to know this. I am a person who is mostly unfamiliar with illness. I never get sick. Not a cold. Not the flu. Nothing. At 65, I was on no medications. Once in a while I’d take pain medication for a headache, but first I usually tried relaxation, deep breathing, and hydration. I know that painkillers only mask the problem; they don’t fix what’s wrong.

I was in the gym 4-5 times a week, usually in the pool. I could swim a mile non-stop. Other times, I’d lift weights, do 3-4 miles on the treadmill, drop in for a yoga or aerobics class. I felt good. I was strong.

All that was about to change.

Second, you need to know that I am not a doctor. My posts are, in no way, intended to be medical advice. This is my cancer story, my own experience. There are many different types of cancer, and many different treatments. Your journey will likely be different from mine.

My Diagnosis and Surgery

My cancer made itself known in late 2019. I say made itself known because it had been developing for some time – who knows how long – until it finally became something that couldn’t be ignored. What had begun as a discomfort, coming and going for no apparent reason, bloomed and stayed.

The scope that the ENT performed, revealed problematic lesions on my left tonsil. I saw them myself in the real time. The doctor described what we were seeing on the screen as the camera went up my nose and down my throat. He also showed me the right tonsil, the healthy one, so I could see the difference between the healthy tonsil and the problematic one.

He was a kind, experienced man who treated me with respect, patiently listening to and responding to my questions. He told me what his concerns were, and he admitted to what he didn’t yet know. He would also be the one to perform the surgery to remove my tonsil.

Continue reading “My Cancer Journey – Part 1”

Hello again. I’m back!

Thank you for hanging around and waiting for me. I’ve been away so long and so much has happened! I hardly know where to start.

But before we begin, a short quiz. Multiple choice.

When life gives you lemons you:

  • a. make lemonade, for the family reunion, perhaps.
  • b. make margaritas, for you and your friends at the condo on the beach.
  • c. cringe at the unbearable sting of them on your tongue, throw them in the trash, and curl up on the couch to cry.

I would never have chosen c. But we don’t always get to choose.

The past two years have brought cancer (to me), a pandemic (to the world), and a devastating Derecho (to the city where I live). There was a lot of other bad news too. We were all living it.

Yet, in the midst of the pain and turmoil, there were glimmers of light. There was kindness and generosity. Hope emerged when we least expected.

I am a person who mostly makes lemonade. Life happens. What we do with it is up to us.

Continue reading “Hello again. I’m back!”

Thoughts On Identity

roadSome years back I wrote an essay called Learning The Language. The piece reflected on my experiences living abroad, learning to navigate a foreign country and culture with a somewhat limited grasp on the language.

The essay wasn’t so much about learning to speak a foreign language, as it was about learning who I was (and who I was not) in the context of that new environment but also in the context of the world and my life.

I was in my twenties, recently graduated from college, recently married. I was trying to find my place in the world, as if my identity were a destination. But now I know that identity is not a destination, but rather a journey.

Identity is fluid, not finite. And that is very good news! It means we can change our minds, make different choices, and consciously move in the direction we want to go next.

In this age of accelerated change, our roles are continually shifting, sometimes without our permission, other times by choice. How much will the world change in a person’s lifetime if she lives to be 90 or 100? Quite a lot. So, in a sense, we will always be Learning the Language.

Three Artists

Since she was very small my granddaughter Evalyn enjoyed painting with me in my studio. Over the years I’ve seen her creations evolve from messy blobs of black and red watercolors to quite sophisticated sketches and designs.

One day when she was maybe four, I took her to visit a friend of mine at his art gallery. I introduced them, “This is my friend Stan. Stan is an artist.”

Evalyn gasped. “I’m an artist too! And so is grandma!” she exclaimed. The label artist was something that connected the three of us, a shared identity. Oh, the wisdom of children!

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Getting things done! Three tools to keep you on track.

It’s easier to meet goals when other people are expecting something from us – our boss, our work team, customers, family. We don’t want to let them down.

But when our goals are personal, it can be more difficult to get traction. We might put off personal goals because we think they only matter to us.

Implementing this simple three-step process can help.

One: Buddy Up!

Find an accountability buddy. Your buddy is someone who has their own goal to accomplish. They will commit to holding you accountable and vice versa.

You both agree to scheduled check-ins and complete honesty about your progress, or your lack of progress.

There will be times when you don’t make progress. After all, the whole reason you need a buddy is because you’ve been struggling to meet this goal on your own.

Continue reading “Getting things done! Three tools to keep you on track.”