Thursday, December 26, 2013

Making 2014 The Year Of Health

If I have learned anything from this entire, crazy year, it is this:  our time here is finite, our chances to make an impact are few and we have to seize them when they come along if we are to have any chance to work toward a greater good outside of our own, individual life.   Love and hope can get you through a lot of darkness, but when you get to the other side of it, you need to have a goal to work toward to keep you moving in a positive direction.

Or else you risk falling back into a darkness of your own making.  And that is simply unacceptable.

While you cannot go back and change the past, you can make changes going forward that may hopefully have a positive impact for years to come.  At least, that is my working theory.

As long time readers know, this past year has been quite a challenge for our little family.  Over the course of 2013, I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer, had numerous scans and tests, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and am now dealing with the after-effects of all of that and tamoxifen's impact on my already overly-taxed system.

One of the worst things about all of this was how it made me feel so out of control of my own life.  Things were scheduled for me, treatments were fashioned based on the chemistry and reactivity of my tumor area, daily doctor visits have shifted to "as needed" in accordance with treatment protocols, but they still come with a stress and exhaustion factor that isn't exactly nurturing after all of this.  Even though I was a very active participant in every single treatment decision and tweak, there were still things that were so beyond my ability to control, and surrender to the inevitable is not my strong suit.

After weeks and weeks and weeks of nothing but "cancer, cancer, cancer, cancer, cancer," suddenly I find myself on the back end of all of this wondering what it all meant and how to best move forward.  What I do not want is to spend the rest of my life holding my breath and waiting for the next shoe to drop in this "what now?!?" parade.

No one wants to be all cancer, alla time.

It isn't as though I asked for this to begin with, right?  But I refuse to allow it to utterly dominate the rest of what I hope will be a long and productive life.

The question isn't so much how to get back to normal any longer, though.  Instead, it is this:
What do I want for my new normal?  Where do I go from here, moving toward something better, some bigger goal, and not just away from cancer?

Very often at this point in the year, I sit down and take stock and come up with all sorts of resolutions that end up falling by the wayside midway through spring, plowed under by our crazy schedule and too many demands on my time and energy levels.  Lists of resolutions and improvements get me nowhere, especially when they are too long and impossible to manage from the get go.

So I am streamlining this year:  healthy choices.  Period.

Everything I do, my question will be:  is this the healthiest choice I can make?  If the answer is no, I re-evaluate.  But overall, my single goal is to finish the upcoming year in a much, much healthier place than I am now.

More vegetables and fruit on my plate with every, single meal?  Yes!

Exercise as a priority instead of an afterthought?  Yes!

Working some quiet meditation and journaling into my daily routine to clear out the cobwebs?  Yes!

There are so many areas of my life that could be improved just by making a better choice.  If scary cancer treatment and its aftermath isn't enough of an incentive, then I don't know what will be.  But I refuse to just let life steamroll me -- I am taking back my day to day control as of now.

So much of this year has been outside my control:  diagnosis, treatment, survival mode through a lot of it, utter and complete exhaustion throughout...worry and fretting about my family as much or more than about myself.  It has been a slog.

Next year, though, can be what I make it.

My prognosis is really good, and my blood work and subsequent tests have been (thus far, anyway) exactly what we have hoped they would be.  At some point in the next year, there will be scans and further testing to check for metastasis, but there is no indication whatsoever at this point that this is a worry, so I am putting it out of my mind to the extent that is possible and focusing on moving forward instead.

If, in the end, there is a problem, I want to be able to say to myself and my family that I have made all of the right choices to improve my health, to fight against this, and to improve my chances of a healthier, happier life.  This is one of those times where I cannot afford to leave anything on the table, for my sake and for everyone else's as well.

2014 will be the year of health for me.  And I am going to try to document, to the extent that I can, what I am doing and what results come of my better choices, in the hopes that if things go well it might inspire others to make some better choices in their own lives, too.

If any of you have suggestions or want to join in, I'd love to hear about it.  Now or along the way.

(Photo via Martin Cathrae.)

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