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  • Radical Rituals at B ...
    This year I’m
    doing something
    different than my
    usual tradition of
    pithy punch list of
    lessons learned to
    wrap this series of
    entries up.
    I’m writing
    this last entry
    exactly two weeks
    after we got home
    from the burn, b ...
    Readmore...
  • Radical Rituals at B ...
    Monday morning I
    woke up early and
    decided that I
    wanted to do one
    more personal ritual
    before we had to
    break down and pack
    up our yurt and load
    the truck and leave.
    So I took my handpan
    and one of our
    little chairs and
    walked ou ...
    Readmore...
  • Radical Rituals at B ...
    Sunday is always a
    tough day at the
    burn because we have
    to strike
    camp—it’s
    tough physically of
    course but
    it’s also
    tough emotionally
    because it feels
    like the setting and
    the vibe we worked
    so hard to put toge ...
    Readmore...
  • Radical Rituals at B ...
    Saturday was my only
    day with nothing
    pre-planned and
    nothing I had
    committed to do. The
    burn was almost over
    and I was starting
    to feel nibbles of
    FOMO (Fear Of
    Missing Out) so I
    was determined to go
    see some more art
    (especially ...
    Readmore...
  • Radical Rituals at B ...
    Because I had
    actually gotten
    enough sleep, I woke
    up reasonably early
    on Friday morning.
    Josh was still
    asleep, but I wanted
    to take advantage of
    the relative
    coolness of the
    morning and go do
    something. So I
    decided to take my h ...
    Readmore...

Parentheticals

A blog in which Our Heroine records, reflects and wrestles with meaning. With lots of asides.
Tags >> cancer

I’m a few days late getting this traditional birthday blog post up this year, because there was a lot going on for my birthday and then I got sick (which I refuse to take as an indication that I overdid it around the birthday shenanigans...it is after all seasonally appropriate and I have been around a lot of people). Today I’m finally feeling better though and ready to contemplate this dual anniversary as I do every year and see what it feels like this time.

For those just now coming to the party, my birthday is also the day I got diagnosed with cancer...the first time, back when I was 23. That makes this year my 25th anniversary of the day my relationship with my body and my mortality abruptly changed. 25 years is a nice round number and worthy of celebration, though it would feel nicer (and more victorious) if there hadn’t also been this new diagnosis and cancer saga part 2 that I have been dealing with for the past year-plus. It’s become interestingly complicated to do this yearly philosophizing now that there are two cancer-versaries to contemplate, but I still like the dramatic dichotomy that this day of transitions from one state to another (from unborn to born, from healthy to ill) presents.

I do still feel a sense of victory, of having made it this far after the initial shock and upset of that first diagnosis. But that sense of victory is tempered now with the reality that life is complicated and the lesson that victory often comes at a cost (which sometimes takes a lot longer than expected to manifest). I can no longer see my life as divided into only three phases, pre-cancer, cancer treatments and post-cancer survivorship—my survivorship status is now no longer something I can confidently assume will not change, since it already has changed once, from cancer survivor back to cancer patient and then back to survivor again. Don’t get me wrong, I’m humongously grateful for and pleased at being back in the survivor identity after a tough second go-round, but the very fact that the pendulum has swung back and forth between having and surviving cancer an additional time makes me have to acknowledge that it could certainly do so again. (In fact, it is more likely to do so again than it once was.) I have to constantly be able to hold two possibilities in my head and heart: on the one hand, that I am free, that I have fought the good fight and triumphed and cancer has once again vanished from my body, never to return because we have salted the earth quite thoroughly (and will continue to for years to come, just in case); and yet on the other hand, that treatments for cancer can sometimes cause cancer, as they did in my case, and that my body seems to be a fertile ground for cancer (as evidenced by it popping up at least twice now that I know of), so even though we have done all we can to prevent recurrence, I cannot be certain that it won’t happen. Holding two opposite things simultaneously and being comfortable in that “gray area” of uncertainty is something I learned to do back in the first go-round with cancer, but now I’ve had a chance to repeat the lesson and it is even more nuanced and complicated. I would say that the ability to live in the gray is one of the hallmarks of maturity, so I guess I would also say “yay me” that I have made it far and long enough to even mature.


Year End Reflections: 2016 Version

Posted by: julia

Once again I am stealing some time away amidst the familiar familial hurly-burly that is our Stinson New Year’s tradition to do some reflection on the past year and record it for posterity. 2016 will definitely be a memorable year in my book, mostly for purely selfish and personal reasons (helloooo cancer! And also, goodbye!) but also because this past year has definitely felt like a turning point in history, especially with the election of Donald Trump and all the accompanying upheaval in American life. We are certainly living in some interesting times and I am doing my best to stay solid in my values and my determination to keep loving and creating and making the world a better place for everyone.

But before I get too far down the rabbit hole of predictions and solutions for what kind of looking glass country we seem to be dealing with, let me go back to the point of this post, which was to record and reflect on what happened to ME in the year just past (because after all this is my solipsistic storytelling space). With the able assistance of my calendar and my photo log, I ought to be able to at least remember the highlights in vaguely chronological order.

January started off quietly, which was definitely welcome after so much upheaval (cancer surgery and treatments, holiday hoo ha) in the previous months. For my birthday weekend Josh and I got all dressed up and went to the Edwardian Ball in SF for two nights with a bunch of friends and had a terrific time. A few days later we also went to see the Wood Brothers in concert but it turned out to be kind of a bummer show since the band was sick. The week after that I had my first chemo treatment, at which I did not have a terrific time but at least it turned out to be less horrible than I had so fearfully anticipated.


This bounty is no longer quite so largeA year ago today I had my first breast surgery (a lumpectomy and reduction). A week ago today I had what I fervently hope is my last breast surgery (tweaks to finish the DIEP flap reconstruction I had back in June). So I have been this new, smaller-breasted person for a whole year now. It still feels strange and unreal, though I’m finally getting more used to it. Being done with the reconstruction also brings with it a mixed set of feelings: on the one hand, “yay, that’s it, I’m done!”, where I’m happy to finally be through all the trials and tribulations and relieved to be relatively pleased with the results; and yet on the other hand, I also am feeling “oh, that’s it, I’m done?”, where I’m realizing that the form I’ve got now is what I’m going to have for—God willing and the creek don’t rise—the rest of my life. And it isn’t perfect, as it never is, but whatever my minor disappointments, now I must begin the journey back to body acceptance and self-appreciation all over again. Having done body acceptance work slowly but surely for decades already, it’s a little disheartening to have to do it again (and so relatively quickly). Do it I shall, with as much focus on the silver linings and bright sides as I can manage, but today is an anniversary where I mourn, just a little, the way things used to be back before I was a “modified” human.

The other thing that I’ve been mulling over the last few weeks (in between all the election hoo ha and the emotional rollercoaster that has created, which will have to be another post), is the “now what” feeling of existential angst that I mentioned in the last post. Other than the next 5-10 years of prophylactic hormone therapy, I am officially done with the active phase of my treatment. I'm excited about that, oh hell yes I am...but I am also feeling a little discombobulated and lost. I feel like a wild animal in a catch and release program—I got caught, I thought I was going to die, but now here I am thrust back out into the place where I started (more or less) and not sure about how safe it really is anymore or whether I truly belong there. Don’t get me wrong, I vastly prefer it out here to back in captivity, but I’m uncertain about what to do and where to go next. I guess I’m just going to have to put my focus on the first half of the “patient patient” moniker while I move away from the second, and see what this crazy, complicated, contradictory, unpredictable, and ever-interesting universe throws my way next.


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