I’m ending this year so tired, really tired, very tired, but in a lovely way. Not in the so-tired-and-weak way of February right after the end of chemo when I didn’t have the energy to walk to the mailbox.
No, a different tired. One that says I’m still not recovered from eight weeks of chemo then surgery then eight more weeks of a different chemo then 33 days of radiation . . . but that I’m on the path to recovery. One that says, “You and your body have endured so, so much in the last 16 months, and I’m going to remind you to rest so that you don’t jump right back in and not appreciate your body and healing and all that a cancer treatment journey includes.”
So today I rest. At least part of the day, this part of the day.
My sister and I have had a wonderful few days together, starting on Christmas afternoon. We had Christmas dinner and a nice evening then went to the Hunter Museum in Chattanooga to enjoy some art the next day.
Then I got a stomach bug, which changed our plans for the rest of that day. It hit me just as we left the museum. But, luckily, it wasn’t the throw-up bug, and I was able to travel on Thursday and felt better in 24 hours.
We drove to Savannah on Thursday, taking the route through our mother’s hometown to look at relatives’ gravestones and find our grandfather’s store building and look at our grandparents’ home (from the street) and their church (from the outside). We drove the rest of the way in the dark and stopped off in our hometown for dinner, where we ran into high school friends we haven’t seen in many years. And we drove into Savannah, full and happy and feeling especially blessed.
Which we are. She has a kind, considerate husband and supportive, fun friends, a great house, and a good job. I am blessed beyond measure by her and my many and varied friends and extended family. I have more freedom than most people and am learning how to live in new and more meaningful ways. I have a warm-in-the-winter and cool-in-the-summer home, and I share it with an old black cat (and lately I share the porch with a young tuxedo cat who seems to have adopted me and the old black cat).
And even though I still have seroma (fluid sac) problems where the surgeon removed the cancerous lump from my breast (the seroma has been aspirated five times and continues to refill), that’s not a big problem. It’s not cancer but is just fluid (apparently my body is very good a producing fluid). I feel stronger and healthier each month. I’m shifting my diet to reflect what I learned during my cancer treatments. And I can do more and more physical activity. And my brain is clearer (chemo brain is real – and I’m grateful that it has mostly lifted).
So, back to the beginning of this post, I am tired after this last week or so. My sister and I have walked the squares of Savannah, strolled down streets lined with live oaks trees and their arching limbs with the Spanish moss hanging down. We’ve had delicious meals. We even went clothes shopping for me (that’s not something I typically enjoy – but we had success). We were with some of our cousins last night at our aunt’s 85th birthday gathering. We had a full and happy few days together. I took her to the airport this morning for her to return to her home.
My tiredness is a rich and full tiredness. I know now that feeling like this is a real blessing. I didn’t used to know that. But I’ve learned so much since my breast cancer diagnosis in September 2011.
And now 2012 is ending. It’s the year in which I completed cancer treatments. The one in which I looked for a new path, a path that is not at all apparent. Yet.
I’ll end this post with an excerpt from Anne Lamott, something she posted on Facebook from one of her writings 15 years ago:
Broken things have been on my mind as the year lurches to an end, because
so much broke and broke down this year in my life, and in the lives of the people
I love. Lives broke, hearts broke, health broke, minds broke. On the first
Sunday of Advent our preacher, Veronica, said that this is life’s nature, that
lives and hearts get broken, those of people we love, those of people we’ll
never meet. She said the world sometimes feels like the waiting room of the
emergency ward, and that we, who are more or less OK for now, need to take
the tenderest possible care of the more wounded people in the waiting room,
until the healer comes. You sit with people, she said, you bring them juice
and graham crackers. And then she went on vacation.
“Traveling mercies,” the old black people at our church said to her when
she left. This is what they say when one of us goes off for a while. Traveling
mercies: Be safe, notice beauty, enjoy the journey, God is with you.
Besides the big brokennesses in people’s lives this year, I’ve noticed
all sorts of really dumb things breaking lately. Since Advent began
at the end of November, I’ve had a dozen calls reporting broken cars,
water heaters, a window, even a finger. So I was on the lookout for something
wonderful to happen, because of this great story I heard recently about dumb
things going wrong: Carolyn Myss, who writes about healing, went to Russia a
few years ago to give a series of lectures. Every single aspect of getting to
Russia that could go poorly, did. Then in Moscow it turned out that her
reserved room at the hotel had been given to someone else. She ended up
sleeping on a stranger’s floor. Two mornings later, on a train to her
conference on healing, she began to whine at the man sitting beside her about
how infuriating her journey had been thus far. It turned out that he worked
for the Dalai Lama. And he said gently that he believed that when a lot of
seemingly meaningless things started going wrong all at once, it was to
protect something big and lovely that was trying to get itself born — that, in
other words, perhaps it needed for you to be distracted so it could be born
Here’s to the birthing of something new in your and my lives in 2013. Something beautiful and precious. Something that will help our world become a better, brighter, more beautiful, more kind place.
But as we do that, I won’t forget the blessings of 2012, the year that is leading into this birth, a rebirth. Of something bright and beautiful. Something full of blessings. For you. For me.