As I teeter between festivities and full-on hibernation,
there is much to reflect on as 2016 comes to a close.
Here’s my attempt to succinctly recap the year.
When I started this site back in June the year was halfway over, but my ability to fully live had just begun. After learning I would need further treatment right before New Year’s Eve 2015, my second adventure through cancer became my only focus at the start of 2016.
During the first week of February I went through my second abdominal surgery, and a new form of heated chemotherapy. I spent two weeks in the hospital recovering.
Tubes, IV’s, pain-medication-administering-buttons, and more!
I was out of commission until well into April as my incisions healed, all apparatuses were removed from my body, and I watched more television than I ever thought was possible.
Thankfully I had a furry copilot at all times.
I got used to the new look and feel of my midsection.
Scar Watch 2016
I also had to get used to my new symptoms in the post-hysterectomy world of menopause, and wrap my head around the fact that there’s no more lady parts within me. Still strange.
I switched to an all plant-based diet somewhere in there too, and have never felt better.
And my meals have never been prettier.
I had a post-surgery scan in the spring, which revealed a clean bill of health.
…and an opportunity to showcase a favorite hospital look: socks + Birkenstocks.
Once I was very nearly 100% again, I took a celebratory trip to Amsterdam, Utrecht, and London with my sister in late May.
What a difference three months make.
From carrying my Foley Catheter to a bucket list checking trip to the Van Gogh Museum.
She climbed those letters. I did not.
I hadn’t been to Amsterdam in 18 years. It felt like home.
It was hard to feel anything but grateful for my ability to enjoy this trip where I could reconnect with my roots (I’m 25% Dutch), explore new places, see new and old faces, and begin to feel strong, yet again.
Getting to hang with Father John Misty in Utrecht wasn’t so bad either.
London was new, and it was incredible.
This Leo loved all the lions, and was clearly tired of smiling by this point.
I was probably thinking about when David Blaine spent 44 days
hanging in a box under that bridge.
The trip was life-affirming, exhausting, and utterly inspiring.
Ready to hit the ground running, I continued the momentum of my reemergence to life and published my first post here on Cured Life the day after I returned to Pittsburgh.
You look damn good from above, Steel City.
I had certain ideas of how Cured Life would evolve, and of the content I intended to share, but I never could have foreseen how sharing my stories would blossom into so many other projects and opportunities. As the year progressed I grew busier and busier, perhaps as an intentional distraction from my lingering diagnosis. But I’ll get to that later.
Back to the highlights…
I grew more flowers than ever this year.
It was magic.
And more vegetables.
Which required lots and lots of chopping freezing.
And lots of great photo ops.
There was no place more healing than the gardens.
On the 10th anniversary of my move to Pittsburgh,
I fell in love with the city all over again.
These two provided more joy and love than I could ever quantify.
I mean, seriously…
…just look at these faces!
And there was yoga…
But not enough (never enough).
I spent more time at the local lake with my beloved turtles than ever before.
I got to flex my #aunting muscles and put my re-found (literal) strength to the test.
I soaked up a lot of sunshine.
And a lot of golden hour walks (in the style of Sasquatch, of course).
And even more sunsets.
I changed my hair a few times.
Blonde? Brunette? Long? Short? Ugh.
I even wrote a lot about my hair …but I’m still figuring it out.
I had another scan, which also went well.
And I got to wear these massive hospital pants! Complete with cargo pocket.
I started making pottery again.
And am making hand poured candles with this motley crew of creations.
And some of the pieces I am just damn proud of and really, really love.
I discovered the paw paw, and my life has never been the same.
I ran a 10k, something I hadn’t done in 8 years.
I pressed a LOT of apples for cider, the batches of which are still happily fermenting away in the basement.
I got some really bad news. But kept on livin’.
This tree fell on my house, requiring a lot of work to fix (that was pretty bad news too, I suppose).
It was a monster.
But I still have a soft spot for trees, especially ones like these in a secret autumn oasis.
My sister lived with me for a bit until I helped her move to Brooklyn, and enjoyed a weekend in NYC with her and my BFF. The perfect distraction from the news that the cancer was coming back.
Hi, Brooklyn! Take care of her, please & thanks.
Then it was Thanksgiving.
Then soon it was this…
Until next year, sweet snow-coated garden…
Before I knew it, the end of the year was rapidly coming into view, and my 2016 had started and ended with an active cancer diagnosis.
But looking back on all these wonderful in-betweens, it’s hard to focus on the devastating bookends of cancer. So I don’t.
And amidst all that…
I launched an online shop!
I created Patch Crafts after my trip to the Paw Paw Festival in September, and subsequent obsession with the previously unknown, and utterly enchanting indigenous fruit. Paw paws grow in patches (hence the name), and throughout the fall I began musing over various goods I could craft using the fruit as inspiration.
Paw paws = proof that you should never stop searching
for the next magical thing that could blow your mind.
After a light launch this fall (just a few pins I designed), I intend to sell more handcrafted goods throughout 2017 (like some of those ceramics turned candles).
The shop is also rooted in a mission to spread awareness, education, and inspiration on all things seed/nature/environment-related (10% of all sales go to relevant charities/organizations). A passion project indeed, and one that keeps me accountable as an artist and amateur environmentalist.
I also launched a podcast!
The gist? Well, I am innately curious, and believe that being inquisitive and open to learning is the antidote to boredom (and ignorance).
So, I choose a topic – anything, really – research it, then talk ALL ABOUT my findings in an effort to inspire, educate, broaden horizons (my own included), and begin discussions. Sometimes there’s guests.
Having this platform to hone my spoken voice has been a challenging endeavor, but one that I look forward to improving upon. Yesterday I talked about the Winter Solstice, and took this video of the incredible sunset last night, marking the occasion.
MY TOP 3 LESSONS FROM 2016:
1. The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago.
In other words, if you want to start or attempt any hobby/profession/passion you may be dreaming about, or planning to start some day, there is no better day than today.
Do it now.
I am not an expert writer, photographer, videographer, artist, poet, podcaster, advocate…. the list goes on – but I have taken action within all of those roles. Nearly every day I have done something, and whatever step I took only made me wish I had done it sooner.
2. The only person you can control is yourself, and if you can harness your ability to speak and act from a place of integrity and compassion, you will find peace.
I learned the tools for adopting this type of empowered and reassuring mindset in yoga teacher training. Throughout this year, it has been put to the test.
As much as we wish we could influence other’s decisions, actions, or behaviors – we can only control our own. It keeps me coming back to this quote:
3. Find a positive balance within the need for both certainty and uncertainty.
I have to thank Tony Robbins for this one. He has asserted that all humans have the need for certainty, but also uncertainty.
Certainty encompasses the need for comfort and security, while uncertainty is the innate desire for new-ness, excitement, novelty, or drama and chaos – depending on where your idea of uncertainty falls on the spectrum of positive to negative.
In the past I relished uncertainty in my life by partaking in dramatic situations or relationships, thus putting the more certain aspects of my life on the line. Also my sanity.
When I realized that I could redirect the need for disruption and uncertainty in my life into positive, energizing, and exciting creative pursuits… the game was changed. Balance achieved.
And what about those 50 goals in 100 days?
Well, I didn’t expect to find out I had cancer again.
I didn’t expect a tree to fall on my house and wreak havoc on the flow of everyday life.
And I certainly didn’t expect the devastating results of our presidential election, which has elevated my anxiety, disrupted my sleep, and left me scrambling to figure out what I can do to help.
Focusing on nature has helped keep me centered.
But with all that said, I didn’t completely abandon my list of 50 goals.
I merely stopped focusing on keeping exact records of my progress. My best estimate is this:
22% of my goals were completed
48% of them were started/in progress
30% of them have been shifted into 2017 Goals
I also realized I had bitten off more than I could chew (goals, freelance projects, jobs, and more), all with the best intentions of course. As busy as I wanted to be in an effort to distract myself from cancer, I only wound up more frantic and stressed – not the goal I had in mind.
So, as the year dwindles down I am simplifying commitments, delving into more personal/offline projects, and creating at my own pace.
I am reconnecting with beloved tactile pursuits from my past (like painting, pottery, and glass art), and working to really harness all of my self-care efforts so that I can manage the mental, emotional, and physical side effects of my diagnosis successfully.
Here’s to doubling down and embodying my aspiration of living a cured life.
Which can never have enough flowers.
The future remains more uncertain than ever, not just for me but seemingly our entire world. In 2017 I aim to do everything I can to make an influence that is positive and peaceful, starting with myself.