Birthdays, Breast Cancer, & This Time of the Year

As October winds down, I am feeling relief. Relief that this month is done.

Every year since I had breast cancer (I was diagnosed February 2010), this month has been a bit hard for me. I don’t like pink, never have and never will. I feel kind support for those who walk for breast cancer, who shout about being a survivor, however I am not one of those people. I have found nothing to be grateful for, for having been through the experience of a breast cancer diagnosis. Mostly I find I have residual anger, residual PTSD, and residual everything surrounding this diagnosis. I am grateful to be alive and I would like to see this event take its place in the far reaches of my memory. As you might tell, I am still working on it.

Each year at this time I worry a little bit. Is my mammogram going to be normal? Will my surgeon and oncologist find anything? Is that weird pain in my hip cancer? Ay Yi Yi Yi.

Jim

Jim, my husband, died from cancer 6 years ago on October 17. Shall I mention that this is the day after my birthday? He went into the hospital the day before his 60th birthday (October 10) and died the day after mine. Well there is something to get through. I have not enjoyed celebrating my birthday in big bang up way. I like to be quiet now and contemplative.

I describe those three and half years between my diagnosis and his death, like a deck of cards. They were thrown up in the air the day of my diagnosis. Just as I was beginning to pick up the cards, boom, the next event happened and the cards flew into the air again. I have been slowly picking up the cards ever since. I still can’t find some of them, ergo, I remain living in my RV and drive to the next destination hoping to find another card. This has been an adventure, a painful process, a lonely one too, times of great fun and exploration and everything in between.

Here is what I am appreciative today.

  • My kind and wonderful friends from all over the world who call, email, text and contact me through social media. When I need someone to talk to, out of the blue one of these friends will call. They have saved my day, my life, my moment more often than I acknowledge.
  • I am financially comfortable. I could buy a cute and fancy RV and move in. I can afford the repairs (they don’t come often), the gas and everything that supports this nomadic lifestyle.
  • I am alive and able to go on grand adventures, both small and large.
  • Elsie the cat-what would I do without her? She is one of the most adaptable and loving companions I could have. We are into our fourth year of adventures together. She remains a delight.
  • I am glad to be able to see the sunrises and sunsets. Each day I wake, is another day to be grateful for everything.
  • The doctors, chiropractors, acupuncturist, massage therapist, myofascial release practitioner, and all those other health care workers on the broad holistic spectrum that keep me tuned up and moving.
  • My friends and acquaintances that offer me a bed in their home, whether it is a visit or house sitting. Sometimes I need a respite from my little living space.
  • I appreciate everyone waiting and giving me room to figure out what is next? No-one else is judging me. I need to stop judging and being hard on myself. You know that saying, “It is all about the journey, not the destination”-I still need to learn this.

    Jim & I flying to Baja for a week on a deserted beach.

There are three days left in this month. I don’t count them down anymore. I feel I have made progress in acknowledging this month and not feeling quite as sad or out of sorts. One of my friends asked me this month, how I felt about the “whole Jim thing”. Well there is a loaded question. Each moment of the day the answer could be different. I believe I have come to a softer acceptance of this month, of the events that transpired six years ago and I still miss by dearest and best friend. Jim saw things in me that no one else has ever seen and I will always miss this about his love for me and mine for him.

I bid farewell to October, thankfully doing a bit more than just getting through the month. I embrace and welcome November. I embrace and welcome each day I wake up in the morning and am able to figure out what small adventure I will take myself on that day.

Today I am grateful for all of my friends, acquaintances and all of the followers of my blog,  who send me messages of support and encouragement. Today I am grateful for people.

Another Year

Today is my birthday. As I have gotten older, I appear nonchalant about this day, not much ado, just another day. Secretly, inside my heart and mind I want someone to remember, to call, to drop off an unexpected gift, to remember. All of this changed six years ago.

My birthday is October 16, Jim my husband died on October 17. Well there is a heck of a marker for this time of the year. It took two years after my 60th birthday to celebrate my 60 years. How could I choose to remember a milestone when Jim’s death was a much larger milestone and has over shadowed this time of the year. Sometimes I look at October as a month to get through. This year is a bit different and it feels like I might be returning to honoring myself on this day, at least a little bit of me is shining through.

I always had to be careful what I wished for when Jim was around. If I wasn’t careful those wishes would show up on or around my birthday.

  • A four hour horseback ride in the mountains. Please don’t even ask about the trick riding that ensued.
  • Soaring in a Sky Plane above Warner Springs. It was good while I was upright. When they turned it 90 degrees to the ground, I broke out in cold sweats and told the pilot  to turn it back up or I was going to throw up all over the his back. Jim didn’t go on this one.

    A Janet Original

    He had a thing about heights. When I landed he put his had on my back and said “your back is wet”. After I told him the above story I think he was doubly glad that he had not gone up.

  • Water Color lessons. Jim bought me my first five lessons and supplies. I studied with Hannah for over a year. This small gift became a move into something I loved doing until Jim died. I believe I lost my muse.
  • Diamond Earrings. I used to tease him about not having a diamond engagement ring. Several years later the earrings showed up.
  • Massages for both of us at Esalen Instiute on the Big Sur Coast. What could be better than sitting in a hot tub looking out over the Pacific while waiting for our massages?
  • We both celebrated our birthdays rafting down the Grand Canyon with AZRaft. The river guides baked me a delicious carrot cake in a dutch oven.

I assume you get the idea. How do I find my own way back,  to celebrate this time of the year? Does it matter? Wow there is a loaded question. I believe it matters because I have now lived a full 66 years. In a human life span, I believe that this is worth noting. Not everyone makes it that far. Jim didn’t.

Continuing with the theme of feeling better around small groups of people, I am going to a movie with a friend of mine later today.

Currently I am sitting on the sun porch enjoying a leisurely breakfast, looking out over the pool. As I look down, here is Miss Elsie the Cat sitting by my leg and watching all the back yard activity. This house is huge, she could be anywhere, yet there she is hanging by my leg. I like to think we are both enjoying a moment of companionship. This alone is a very good birthday moment. I am glad for this little cat who has adapted to a nomadic life.

Today I am finding my way back to being grateful to be alive. Today I am thankful for Miss Elsie the Cat. Today I am thankful for all my friends and social media friends who have taken a moment out of their day to wish me a happy day today. Today I am thankful that I am still here. Today I am thankful.