For most people the New Year begins on Jan.1st, with the ensuing days acting as a time of celebration, reflection and perhaps; change. My New Year begins Dec.5th, the day (one year ago) I had a large (10cm) Cancerous mass and my right kidney removed.
So looking back on my year: A.C. ( after Cancer), what have I learned? Have I changed? Have deep and profound things/realizations happened or “dawned on me”? Have I learned to let go and just be? Yes, No, Maybe. It’s funny, I’ve been way more reflective and emotional about it lately rather than several months ago when it was first happening. That really does take me by surprise. When I run into friends who didn’t know I had Cancer, and I tell them; I tend to skim over that part. I’ve realized lately that I barely give them time to let it sink in and react. Perhaps it’s hard for me to see their reaction. Funny, as actors (I went to school for Theater) we are “trained” to pause for dramatic effect or in a comedy, give the audience time to laugh. Me, as Jen, not acting, I just skim over the most dramatic part of my life while telling the story. I spit it out as fast as I can with no room for response. It makes it more real doesn’t it. Squashing your feelings only gets you so far. Hell, I was walking today, enjoying the freakishly warm New England weather, listening to music on my earphones and I started bawling. Now it really hits me, the gravity of it all. My “life-saving hip injury”, a phrase repeated by more than one Doc including my Oncologist. Gives you pause doesn’t it? To hear that? I’ve also been told I’m awfully young to have gotten Kidney Cancer. Genetics counselors met with me and just like my main Doctors, cannot explain why I may have gotten Cancer. If my surgeon and my oncologist can let it go and be ok with not knowing why, then I can too.
So as I was walking and crying, I texted my best friend who recently moved away(yes, sad trombone) and she said she was sorry I was so sad but to stop, take a deep breath and realize that I’m fine(!), I’m still here. She’s right. My surgeon “went for the gold” got it, and now I’m not, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.
So this past year, have I changed? I’d like to think I’m calmer. Perhaps things/situations don’t bother me as much. Maybe I’m not as much of a control-freak as I was. But really, just because I lived through Cancer doesn’t mean the heaven’s opened and the meaning of life dropped before me or that life got “easier”. Life is still a tangle of roots.
As a matter of fact, a couple of months ago, I woke up one Thursday morning, my car wouldn’t start. Texted my boss that I’d be late( and why), when I arrived that morning, I was laid off( not because I was late), shaking as I walked back to my car, got in and the car wouldn’t start! At the same time, the guy I was dating texted me that he was having an awful week and needed to cancel our date and he wasn’t sure when he’d be up for rescheduling(!). Not gonna lie, I wanted to scream, cry and throw my phone out the fucking window right then as I looked up and said, “Really universe?! Are you fucking kidding me right now? This must be a joke, I’ve been thru Cancer, can’t I catch a break?! WTF.”
My car was jump-started, I then had to purchase a new battery and start job hunting. The hunt is still on, the love life fizzled out, Christmas is upon us and life still isn’t easy. It sucks some days to be honest. Money and jobs won’t fall from the sky, and I have a 12yr old at home who relies on me. So I pull up the bootstraps and keep on keepin’ on.
Before the actual New Year hits, I will reflect and share with you, some of the highlights of this past year for me. Friends and family who made or sent me yummy food and kept me company or invited me out. I’ll start with the highlight of my year; my trip to Aspen for the Food & Wine Fest. It was my heaven on earth, and an experience I’ll never forget.
So for today, and going forward; I’ll wake up, take a few deep breaths. I’ll be present. I’ll take care of myself. I’ll look up every once in a while and give thanks for all that I have and all of the possibilities before me.