I haven’t written on my cancer blog in almost a year. My last post was about Arya, Game of Thrones (WHAT A BUMMER THEY DID NOT END WITH THE EPISODE I WROTE ABOUT, AMIRITE?), and cancer. When I wrote it, I was suffering pretty heavily from PTSD, which I knew a little bit about, but not much. If cancer was a thunderstorm, PTSD was the sunny, windy, deceptively cold day that follows it, where you go out in shorts and freeze. I was terrified of dying from cancer, of what that would mean for my family, and I thought I was in a short time of wellness before it returned. The pressure to remain vigilant, and get ready for the next storm, was unrelenting.
Now, almost one year later, things are a little different. Our entire family has put in the work of healing through therapy, and today my PTSD is mostly under control. This morning, I had my fifth clear PET scan since I finished my last treatment in 2018. While each clean scan has been a blessing, this one is especially liberating, because it means that my family and I can undertake some pretty significant POSITIVE life changes in the coming months. In February, I successfully defended my dissertation on teacher learning and makerspaces. Call me Dr. exclusively from now on. And, last week we visited the University of California-Irvine, where I’ve accepted a job as the Associate Director/Lab Manager of Creativity Labs, a research body dedicated to studying how people learn through making and the arts. So, in June, Matty, Henry, Vivian, and I will make a new home in Irvine, CA, about 10 minutes from the coast. We are beyond ourselves with excitement!
Readers of this blog know that I think happy stories about cancer are incomplete. There is no “reward”, there is no neat story of triumph. Because, eventually, I am going to die- that is still true. I’ve beaten nothing. Instead, I look at this period of my life as a time of great struggle, and also of growth, when things were really, really hard. And, right now, they’re not.
I’ve been listening to this podcast and meditation series by Tara Brach, a buddhist psychologist based in Washington, D.C. While I never agree with everything anyone says ever, I have found comfort in her work throughout this past year, which was, in some ways, harder than the years I was in active treatment. Tara Brach talks about approaching life as if we are the ocean, as if we are both the water and the waves. The tumult I’ve experienced over the last six years isn’t outside of me, it is me. I have suffered mightily, but the juxtaposition between that suffering and the hope I feel now feels like inhabiting myself in a way that I could never have imagined. This is not a question of my suffering have “caused” this joy, nor does my joy validate my suffering- they are two different states of equal value. I am grateful for the joy I feel now, and I am sad for how I have suffered. Both. At once. Always. I recognize both as temporary, and this is what brings me meaning.
I plan to rebrand this blog in the coming months- maybe I’ll write about moving to California, when I’ve lived in the midwest most of my life! There will be so much to learn, so many bad days, so much schadenfreude when it snows in April here in Wisconsin. My children will grow, and annoy me senseless, and surprise me with their beauty. My husband and I will continue to find each other out. Our lives will be this weird version of new and normal, calm and unfamiliar. My social media feed will become a parade of all of us at the beach watching work week sunsets. And I will continue to live knowing how short our lives are, trying each day to be grateful for the small trials, to walk with compassion, to let myself be struck with awe.
Thanks for reading my cancer blog!!!
Before I go, I must acknowledge folks whose support helped me to reach these milestones. Thank you to: my children, Henry and Vivian, to Matty, my husband, and to my folks, Ann and Bob. Thank you also to my group at UW, the folks from the Design, Informal, and Creative Education Research Area in Curriculum and Instruction, especially Erica Halverson, my advisor. I love all of you and always will.