2011 was a year of discovery, adjustment, and growth. For me, the year always held an air of suspense. At the end of 2010, my doctor mentioned the 12 – 18 months life expectancy statistics. I wondered: would it be 12 or 18 months? Even during the worst bits, I never lost the urge to hang around to see what would happen next. So I did.
The saddest part of 2011 was losing people who seemed too tenacious to ever let go of life. The hardest part was facing and dealing with the reality of an aging parent in need of medical care. The most surprising part was finding help and caring where I’d given up ever finding it. The most triumphant part was when medical treatments allowed me to breath without pain for the first time in years. The biggest challenge was prying off and discarding old resentments I never had time to carry in the first place. Again, nothing like that statistics-imposed ’12-18 months’ deadline to shake a sense of perspective into stubborn old me.
The deadline thing has an up side: my lifelong stance of cheerful hedonism finally seems justified. While I may not indulge in the same pleasure-seeking activities I did at 27, enjoyment is still to be pulled from life with just as much gusto. Decadently long bubble-baths, the rush of endomorphins after a good workout, the sound and smell of the Pacific, the excitement of photographing places never seen before, love for my wife and friends; all enjoyed just as intensely as those riskier activities of yore. Better yet, I’m no longer ashamed of loving wonderful food; who criticizes a cancer patient for having a great appetite? And shopping? Ha! Let them think, “poor dear, let her splurge in what little time she may have left.” Luckily, my wife, who also serves as the family CFO, doesn’t subscribe to this; she still expects me to roughly conform to a budget.
So, I’m looking forward to seeing what 2012 will bring. My mid-December PET scan brought a moment of relief with an aftertaste of anxiety. Relief for how the chemo has knocked back cancer activity in the originally affected lung. Anxiety over a tiny new spot at the base of my neck. Will there be more radiation, more chemo? 2012 should provide some answers. Meanwhile, I get to stick around for the duration. Waiting to see what will happen next.