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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Looking back and looking forward

It's now the second day of the new year, 2011, and I typically don't do new year's resolutions (seems like a set up for failed expectations) but leaving behind one year for the next does seem to be a chance to look back and reflect, as well as to look ahead with hopes and aspirations.

I know I haven't been writing much on this blog--truth be told, the last entry about why I chose not to do reconstruction seemed to be a place for me to pause in terms of my processing about cancer and chemo and surgery. Maybe I also needed a break from writing--which is funny since one could argue that all I've had since May 2010 is a break from writing and working (aside from blog writing that is, well, and some light editing and conference planning activity that I've been doing for the Association for Asian American Studies).

When I think about 2010, the last year of the first decade of the 21st century, I realize that it will be marked by my illness and cancer--that I will have spent more days of that year living with the knowledge that I have/had cancer than days not knowing--or to put it another way, that most of 2010 was occupied with being in and out of various doctor's offices (or more accurately, waiting rooms).

It'd be easy to say that 2010 was a horrible year and I'm glad it's over. But 2010 will also mark the year I turned 40, and most especially (and most significantly) the year I got married to Matthew. It will also mark the year I turned in my tenure file. And most recently, the year that Matthew and I expanded our family to include Bella--the newest addition to the Grady-Ho household:

[We've been debating about a second dog for a while now, but after we returned from our pre-Christmas vacation to Charleston--we decided to look in earnest and we found her through a rescue organization that takes dogs from rural shelters and fosters them in Wake Forest. So far Bruno is tolerating (just barely) his more energetic younger sister--we're hoping that in time, they'll really grow closer]

So there have been some important milestone and moments in 2010 that I'll look back on in fondness. And some of them, I must confess, have also been around my cancer diagnosis. Now, I still hold firm to the fact that if I had to do it over again, I would NEVER WANT TO HAVE CANCER OR GO THROUGH CHEMO AND SURGERY. But...I'd be lying if I didn't say that post-cancer diagnosis, I have been nearly overwhelmed and deeply moved by the love and kindness of people in my life. From near strangers to my oldest and closest family members, there have been random acts of kindness and love and support from people that have really humbled me. In particular, all the people who dropped off food--the food gifts were incredible and are most memorable, to me, as both a symbolic and material way for people to express their support/concern/affection.

Of course, there are moments that I will never want to relive. That awful feeling in the pit of my stomach upon hearing the initial diagnosis. The worry and concern, the anxiety and fear I could see on people's faces or hear in their voices when I shared my diagnosis. The entire experience of chemotherapy and surgery. The realization that I would more than likely lose ovarian function and be unable to get pregnant. The loss of my hair (which is, thankfully, growing back very quickly).

So 2010 was an awful year, health wise (and I should add, not just for myself but for my dear Aunt Teri-Ann and dear friend Jeff Cross--and there are other friends who have had health issues this year and who have had their own surgeries and experiences in doctors' waiting rooms & offices). Which means that in looking forward, what I most hope for 2011 is good health. For myself, for all my loved ones, for all of you.

What 2011 will actually bring is anyone's guess. I will be back in the classroom on January 11--which makes it the first time in a year that I'll be teaching undergrads (I only taught a single grad seminar Spring 2010, so this is one of the longest absences I've had from teaching undergrads). I'm still working on my book manuscript on racial ambiguity (I have 40 very rough pages on Tiger Woods that I'm not proud of ... yet, and I need to work on a chapter about transracial/transnational adoptees). I'm the conference co-chair for the annual meeting of the Association for Asian American Studies (yep, I've been doing conference stuff for the last few months while recuperating from surgery). And then there's my tenure file...I still need to be observed in the classroom--and then my department will vote on me (in late February I believe) and then I await news from the college and provost committees (keep your fingers crossed ladies and gentlemen). I've got a lot on my plate professionally.

Am I better? Yes. By which I mean, I've got my hair back (yay!), I'm no longer feeling so fatigued (although I still have bouts of exhaustion and my energy level is still not 100%--after walking Bella for 40 minutes the other day I came home and collapsed. Walking for 40 minutes should NOT drain me normally...I'm not sure how I'm going to train for this 4 mile race in April if this persists). I still have some tightness in my arms and chest post-surgery, but in general I have full range of motion. And most of all, psychologically and emotionally I feel strong.

But I want to clarify one thing about that last statement. While I do feel like my cancer is in the past--part of the memories of 2010 I will carry with me, I don't feel like I'm necessarily "over" it--I don't necessarily know if I'll ever feel the way I did pre-April 2010, mentally and emotionally that is (well, even physically since there's no way to get my original breasts back or to take away these physical scars). I have been marked by this disease, for better or worse, and I will carry those psychic scars with me, just as I wear the physical scars. They are part of my life now, and I am learning to live with them.

I'm not sure how much blogging I'll be doing in this space. I suspect that I'll still write posts from time to time. There is one about my gender identity, in particular, that I'd like to explore. But for those of you who were mostly checking in to see how I was doing, you probably won't be hearing much on the health front--you hopefully won't be hearing anything significant on the cancer or N.E.D. front EVER (that'd be wonderful, wouldn't it?). So this may be the last entry you decide to read, which is fine by me. I am grateful that people wanted to know what was going on with me and checked into the blog at all.

So Happy New Year! Lets hope that 2011 is good to us all, body and soul.

[Me & Bruno at Folly's Beach, SC -- see, my hair IS growing back!]

1 comment:

  1. It's so nice to hear you are doing much better! John and I miss you guys VERY much and look very forward to meeting Bella! Please let us know when we can visit AND drop-off the much belated wedding gift from John's parents.

    Love you,
    Bomly & John