Tuesday, January 02, 2007

What's changed in me in the last 7 Months?

Mulling over the arrival of a new year on the calendar, and that I'm still alive as 2007 has begun, I've been mentally listing some of the things that have changed in the 7 months, 9 days and some hours since my diagnosis of gallbladder cancer. Working on writing this post, I also remembered that I called this blog "Life Changing Cancer" for a reason. Even in August, I didn't feel that I was the same person I had been. So how have I changed?

In no particular order . . .

1. I think we have too much stuff, too many material possessions. I think I do, my kids do, my family does, Americans do, and I wonder what we are thinking. And I continue to struggle with where to put everything. For whatever reason, I didn't particularly think this before my diagnosis.

2. In keeping with #1, I find it easier to let go of things. I've been a collector all my life, saving all my favorite books, stones and seashells, and the elements of my varied craft projects, thinking I'd get back to them when I retired. I have carried my quilting fabric, books and patterns for years, through many moves, thinking I'd make quilts again. And I have quilted occasionally since I first learned how in the 70s, but I've never quilted like I did then. Last August, Patty, my friend Bev and I went through my finished quilt tops, and Bev took one home to have it finished. (I had made her a quilt in the 1970s, but it burned in a house fire a number of years ago.) In the fall, my younger sister, Carla, and I went through my containers of fabric, and cut pieces for quilts, and she took home a big box of fabric and pieces to work with. (Thinking about this, I realize I didn't really have to wait for a cancer diagnosis to move on some of these things!)

3. As you can see from #2, I no longer expect to be alive and doing projects in 30 years. I might be alive, but I no longer have that expectation, and it makes it easier to let go of things, and to make other choices. And if I am alive, maybe I'll be choosing some new craft projects!

4. I've done my best to identify the stressors in my life, and to reduce them whenever possible. I resigned from some of my work responsibilities in the summer, and I think more carefully before saying "yes" when asked to take on something new. As a result, I find it easier to say "no" when that's the right thing to do. I'm meditating regularly, and working consciously on stress relief.

5. I've been working on strengthening my spiritual self these past months. I felt connnected with my spirituality when this happened, but the diagnosis broke open something in me, something that wants more, wants to be more, and certainly wants my life to mean more.

6. I have a new empathy for people with chronic, life-threatening or terminal illness. I have been healthy all of my life, had my first surgery (and it was elective) at 52, and my first broken bone at 58. It's not that I blamed people with physical problems, it's that I just didn't understand their journey in some deep way because that had not been my life's path. Now, my new experience with the medical profession, and my readings of the stories of so many people's journey with cancer, have shifted my lack of understanding, my lack of empathy, for those, like me, in this situation.

7. I'm less likely to postpone joy. Last summer when our family traveled to the southwest for a long-planned "trip of a lifetime" to many national parks, Patty and I began to say "If not now, when?" We were more extravagant on that trip than we'd ever been (and we were still saying at campgrounds), and we didn't spend our life savings, but we have different priorities. When we talked about vacationing in the Caribbean in March 2007, we said "Let's go!" (and we're still staying at a campground). We will go back to St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands in March, all of us, and if it's my last trip there, I will have gone to a place full of memories, and our family can make new memories. The last time there, Lucy was almost 5, and did some snorkeling while holding onto Patty, but now both kids can swim, and we suspect they will love snorkeling!

8. I frequently feel mortal. We all are, of course, but I didn't particularly feel mortal before this diagnosis. Some days I feel more mortal than others, but it's definitely a place I visit frequently.

Somehow, I think my list of changes was longer while I was washing dishes this afternoon, but this is what comes to me now. It's not an exhaustive list, but it's an honest one for the moment.

9 comments:

Lilli123 said...

Hallo, first i have to say, that is my deepest wish that u can overfight these illness.
I have not cancer, but i had a brother, who had epilepsy and later a brain tumor at age 17, and this illness was very hard for the hole family, especially for himself. He was very active - he played football, tennis etc. - and had a big, big fight with himself.
I hope the best for u in the future. I will come to u site, when ever i can to hear news from u.
Until later

Carrie said...

I completely relate to this. Mom has started letting go of things this year too. We had a basement flood so part of it was a necessary clearing of damaged stuff. But that seemed to get the ball rolling and we both dumped an amazing amount of stuff which was not worth hanging onto.

You seem very healthy Lynne and I don't doubt you can beat this cancer. :) Really. I do believe that for you.

You'll be glad to know I finally creating my blog using blogger. Yay!! New link is http://leafing2.blogspot.com/

amarjit said...

Lynne,

this is just to say, there is an unexplicable 'pull' that wants me to invite you to be my friend. come, lets meet up at my place :

chandrasart.blogspot.con

warm wishes

chandra

cori varjabedian said...

Lynn,
It does not surprise me that your blog is just such a wonderful read as you are clearly one of the most creative,gentle and insightful people I know. It makes it so much easier to be able to "listen" to your thoughts as you battle with this cancer. Never feel alone...by helping us to understand your feelings you allow all of us who love and care for you to walk the journey with you. I look forward to continuing to follow your blog and leave you my own thoughts and prayers and good wishes.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lynne,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts...this list especially. Many of these things have happened to me, though I'm not the one with cancer (I hope!)...it's my mom whose pancreatic cancer has returned after being gone for over 5 years. It's is back with a vengeance now, so we're not sure where it will go. I have felt intensely mortal...though I have gone through stages like that before. I would love to hear more if you do the dishes again later :)

crow

Karen said...

Lynne,
Please consider joining us at a women's retreat in late April on the beautiful grounds of Silver Bay on Lake George, NY. Should you be interested in more information, please go to www.cindysretreat.com for details.

blessings to you on your journey.

Karen

Jeanne said...

Lynne--your reflections sound so much like mine. I'm in the middle of a major sort-out of my house (it's been going on off and on now for months)--getting rid of things we don't need, sorting and putting away only the things I really need and will use. This means weeding the bookshelves of books I will never read again and giving them away or selling them; giving the boys too-small clothes to the school for homeless kids where I volunteer, and so on.

But the bigger changes have been, as you say, front-loading my life so that the joy and the fun come first. So more delayed gratification!

All the best to you as you make these changes,

Jeanne
www.assertivepatient.com

Jeanne said...

That would be "NO more delayed gratification."

Jeanne

Kaleidoscope said...

Thank you for sharing something so personal. I am in my internship year in Naturopathic Medicine, and your blog is a resource I'd like to pass on to patients. You probably already know about his work, but I also wanted to mention Bernie Siegel (MD, author of "Love, Medicine & Miracles", founder of eCAP (Exceptional Cancer Patients)). With love,