Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays / End of Year Mega Post

Happy Holidays!

Just got back from a quick holiday weekend getaway to Denver to visit some friends from my college days and from my years in Austin.  Good times.  Relaxing.  No real agenda other than Eat, Drink and Be Merry.  Denver's a great place that I've been visiting for 10-15 years and is on the short list of places in the country where I'd live.

Usually, I fly home to Wisconsin to spend the holidays with family.  I have a pretty good track record of getting home.  I think this is only the second year I haven't made it back since I left for college.  I was able to make it back twice earlier this year for family visits, so I decided to catch up on other travel and take advantage of some winter Pacific Northwest offerings. 

I don't have any Christmas Eve or Christmas Day plans, which is good because I need a little break between trips.  On Wednesday, I'm heading up to Winthrop, WA with a few friends for a few days of skate skiing.  Winthrop is a little town (pop. 200) nestled in the Methow Valley in Northeast Washington, on the dry side of the Northern Cascades.  The valley has 120 miles of groomed cross country ski trails, one of the biggest nordic ski areas in the country.  It's going to be an anti-resort ski get away and should be a lot of fun. 

Winthrop

Skate skiing (which I'm still trying to learn) in the Methow Valley

----

This will likely be my last post for 2012.  This is my second year after completing treatment in Dec. 2010 and it looks like I've written about 30 posts this year, up a little from about two dozen posts in 2011.  It's been interesting seeing how this blog has evolved.  I don't think it's surprising that I still have things to say about cancer even after two years out, but it's been interesting in seeing what exactly it is I have to say.  I think everyone who goes through this has something different to share because everyone's journey is different.

I think if you're fortunate enough to regain your health, as more time passes, you're more likely to return to who you were, warts and all.  For all the "cancer changed my life stories", I'm finding that my life is turning more and more to the way it was before my diagnosis.  (Even though there *are* things that have definitely changed because of cancer ... I've touched on them repeatedly before.)  I say this because I'm finding I'm having to deal with some of the personal struggles that I was having to deal with before I had cancer.  2011 was my "comeback" year and I did a lot of cool physical things, but this year has been my 'back to reality" year.  In some ways, there's a simplicity to life when you're battle cancer.  All you want to do is survive.  Anything not having to do with battling cancer is secondary.

And, in a way, I miss that.

Obviously, I don't miss having cancer or going through treatment.  But, I miss the simplicity of life during the battle.   There have been times over the past few months when I've tried to recapture that simplicity, if just for a few hours in the evening.  When I was going through treatment, one thing I would do for some emotional/mental/physical relief was to turn off of the lights, light a bunch of candles, and listen to some guided imagery CDs (some for chemotherapy, some for radiation, some for just general relaxation).  That always put me in a good place.  I would feel the stress that I didn't even know I had been carrying around just melt away ... and it felt great.  So, I've been doing that a little bit lately to try and recapture that feeling.  It's been helpful, and I've been thinking more and more about living simply as a way to reduce some of the stress of everyday "life-after-cancer" living.

Don't get me wrong.  In many aspects, 2012 has been a very good year.  First and foremost, the cancer hasn't come back.  I only had blood tests this year, but they all say "NED" - No Evidence of Disease.  And, all of the other health scares I had this year turned out to be nothing terrible to worry about.  Second, I had an amazing experience in New York at the Colondar photo shoot.  I met some amazing people and am looking forward to doing what I can to help raise awareness in the future.  Third, I traded my law firm associate position, which was unsustainable, for an in-house patent attorney job, which I can easily see myself staying with until I retire.  Fourth,  I had some time to do some serious hiking and backpacking.  I finally got to Yosemite, if only for a day, spent a week in Sequoia National Park, and finally returned to one of my sanctuaries, Olympic National Park, after being away for over four years.

But, this year hasn't been without its challenges.  My job really weighed on me the first half of the year, which kept me down until I was able to find a promising job, and I had a few injuries that kept me from doing a few things for which I'd been training.  Dating has really sucked too.  I could write a book on dating post-cancer, but to make a long story short, I've been dating a lot this year and have recognized some destructive behavioral patterns that I want to correct and plan to get some professional help to do so.  Cancer has a little to do with it, but that's just one layer of sediment added to many layers that have built up over the years, and I need to do some dredging.  So, I've taken myself out of circulation.

---


Some things I hope to be thinking of more in the New Year:

* There's no need to be productive with every second of every day.  Be a little less Type A.  Say "No" to people more often.  Don't over extend yourself.  Stop and smell the roses.  Simplify.

* Spend less time on-line.  I'm taking a hiatus from Facebook and haven't missed it.  I'm also planning on cutting the number of news sites I follow in half.  I want to make more time for maintaining the relationships I have with my good friends.  I'm also thinking of making a few weekday evenings or a weekend day "digital free" times.  I literally have 30+ books sitting on my bookshelves that I haven't read that I would like to get too.

* Exercise for enjoyment's and health's sake, not because you're training for a goal.  Too often I'll forego doing something I'd really like to do because I'm training for something else.  I don't hike, backpacking, snowshoe, scramble or do the things that really get me out into the wilderness nearly as often as I used to or I would like.  I played basketball for the first time in years last Monday, and it was great fun, even though I sucked.  And it's been even longer since I played volleyball, which I used to absolutely love. 

---

Have a Safe, Healthy and Happy New Year, everyone.

I'll leave you with one of my favorite You Tube videos of the year ...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbJcQYVtZMo

Friday, December 7, 2012

EOT Anniversary

Today's my two year anniversary of finishing up chemo treatment.  I'm terribly thankful that the treatment knocked out the cancer that I did have in me and that it seems to have beaten it back far enough that it hasn't come back.  NO way I want to do that again.  Just thinking of how I felt during post-op chemo makes me feel weak.

Eager to have my scans, so I can have a clean bill of health for 2013.  I'd do it now too if I hadn't just picked up a new insurance plans and had my contributions to co-insurance and deductibles reset to zero.

---

Passed through the cancer center yesterday after my meeting with the surgeon.  Took this picture at the patient resource center.  Despairing and inspiring at the same time.  So many cancers, but so many people willing to fight it and give 'er hell.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Melancholy

Feeling melancholy -- learned that some good friends of mine suffered a terribly sad loss.  In sharing the news, they eloquently shared their fresh appreciation of how fragile and precious life is, and their plan to honor someone who passed away by living and loving with purpose and meaning.  I wanted to pass their message along.

---

In lighter news, further bummed due to learning that a good friend of mine will be moving away from Portland.

---

Saw my surgeon today.  Regularly-scheduled six month check up.  My butt continues to look awesome! Scans coming up in January, after the new insurance plan kicks in.