Early on in the publication of this blog, one of my friends described its overarching tone as ‘bittersweet.’ Regular readers may have noticed that I seem to be employing that tone quite a lot lately as I’ve been reviewing this past year since the Big Stalker came along. I can’t seem to help myself. And I’m afraid this post may be more of the same. And I started out trying to cheer myself up. I swear.
First, I picked out a photo that represents all the things there are to love about living in southern Rhode Island. We have the ocean, and cows, and farms, and flora, and sailboats. What else could you possibly need? It’s like being on vacation all the time to live here. The photo above was one I took on Block Island a few years ago on a glorious September day. There are cows in this photo, but they’re a bit too tiny to see. If you come visit, you can see a full size print of the photo, in which the cows are visible. Heck, come visit and we’ll go see the real thing. Block Island is just a short ferry ride from the south coast here, and September and October are possibly the two best months of the year to be anywhere in southern Rhode Island. Last September and October, I was recovering from getting half my breast cut off and getting the other half fried with radiation. If I had to pick a time of year to be out of work because of cancer treatment, though, I sure picked the right time. See? There I go again, putting that spin on things. Well, never mind. Suffice it to say that I am looking forward to enjoying this September and October without having to be treated for cancer.
I started writing this post in an attempt to remember what was on my mind before I was diagnosed. What was my pre-cancer “bucket” list? And what is my bucket list now? Let’s see. One of the things I was planning to do last summer was to take a flying lesson. Yes, in a plane. I love to fly and I’ve always wanted to learn to pilot a plane myself. I used to want to jump out of a plane in a parachute, but treating several folks with various injuries sustained while jumping out of planes in parachutes cured me of that desire. I had also planned to go up in a helicopter and do some aerial photography. Helicopters are not the big noisy things they used to be, I’m told. And a helicopter is really the way to go to take photographs. You just have to make sure to strap yourself securely to the ‘copter and to strap your camera securely to you. Still want to do this stuff. Up up and away.
I also wanted to explore more portraiture in my photography. And do more drawing. And start a blog. Huh. I’ve actually managed to do all three this past year. I’d like to finish stripping and refacing my kitchen cabinets and wallpapering my bedroom, but I suppose those desires are too pedestrian for a real bucket list. I would like to have a really wonderful flower garden inside of five or ten years. And I’d like to go to Ireland and Scotland. And back to southern France. And to northern Italy. And India. And Prague and….Okay, let’s just say I’d like to do more traveling.
Last spring, I purchased a very large, very expensive, very wonderful art printer, which will print anything you can put into a digital file, onto any flat pliable surface that will take ink. It will print stuff up to 44 inches wide and many yards long. Like billboards. I don’t know if I’d ever want to print a billboard, but you never know. It would be kinda cool to put my blog logo on a billboard: “The Accidental Amazon — taking aim at breast cancer.” Yeah!! I’d like to see that over Interstate 95 as I was driving to see my oncologist. Hah! Okay, back to this printer. I haven’t even gotten to play with it yet. How sad is that? It cost as much as my new roof, for God’s sake, and I haven’t even used it yet. It will print on all sorts of high quality photo and art paper, as well as adhesive, canvas and natural textiles like silk, cotton lawn, chiffon and satin. This was one of the main reasons I bought it, as well as the new, high-end sewing machine I bought some months earlier. I had this notion to start making my own textile prints and even wallpaper and to try designing and making artisan clothing. I even put together a website for this endeavor, bought a domain name for it and published it, even though I don’t have any products yet. You can visit it anyway if you want. The links and buttons work. Some of them. The ones at the bottom of the page do. There’s just nothing to buy yet. But there will be. So help me.
So, what new things are on my bucket list since the Big Stalker took up residence in my life? Well, I’d like not to be tired all the time. My housekeeping standards have certainly changed. Ha-ha. Not really by choice, but I do only enough to get from one day to the next because that’s all I have the energy for. I don’t know if I’d feel any better now if I had not returned to my job full time as soon as I did. What I remember thinking at the time was that a week of working as a weary physical therapist was better than spending five minutes as a cancer patient. Still true. But now, my immediate bucket list is very different. Now, I’d be thrilled to have the energy to hang that wallpaper in my bedroom. I happen to like hanging wallpaper. And it happens to be beautiful paper, a reproduction of a William Morris design from the Art Nouveau/Arts and Crafts Era. The company I bought it from has cut way back on the patterns they carry, no doubt in response to this economy, which is tragic because some of the most beautiful patterns are no longer available, including mine. Good thing I bought it when I did.
One way or another, I will figure out a way to get it on the wall. And in the meantime, if I don’t have enough energy for the house or for my artisan clothing venture, I can at least dress myself as colorfully as possible, wear as much fun jewelry as I can get away with, and bright colors, high heels, hats and scarves. I can decorate myself at least, maybe even get another tattoo. Eventually, I’ll redecorate the house and then perhaps even the world.
But first, I need to kick this fatigue to the curb. And when I figure out how to do that, you’ll be the first to know. Because one of the other things on my bucket list now is to make breast cancer go away, for everybody, and to make the journey for others with breast cancer more bearable until it does. Because I have the job I do, I will continue to get to do that in a very tangible way. And I’m very grateful for that. Makes it easier to crawl out of bed in the morning, even when I feel like road kill. And I want to get some grant money and come up with a way to get the health care system to ensure that anyone with breast cancer gets better preparation before surgery and more TLC after. And I hope to participate in more research studies as a subject (I’ve done one so far) and maybe conduct some as a clinician, to prove to some of these unnameable boneheaded docs that it’s much better to make sure your patients aren’t suffering from long-term fatigue because of the slashing, burning and poisoning you’ve put them through. That maybe if you give a rat’s derriere about a cancer patient’s continuing quality of life, she might turn out to be in a far superior position to prevent a recurrence of breast cancer than she is by having all her sources of estrogen shut off or yanked out, and thus destroying her bone density, and screwing up her thyroid function, and making her wake up with joint and muscle pain every day, and being so gosh darn tired that she can’t even bitch you out about it.
So, all right, maybe it doesn’t sound like a dream come true to some people. But hey, it’s my bucket list. You fill your bucket, I’ll fill mine.
Please click on the post title or the comment link below to post a response.