December 28, 2009

Your Best and Worst Moments of 2009?

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Forget the ball in Time Square.  My favorite part of New Year’s is talking stalk of the past 365 days.   I’m curious about your best and worst of 2009.  A fan of delayed gratification, I’ll save my best for last:

#1 Sucky Times: My worst moments of 2009 were around illness.  But not only mine.  I spent a lot of time in the hospital with a close family member.  It was totally new for me to be a caregiver instead of a patient.  They both suck.

#2 Pissed Off and Outraged: In 2009, my blood boiled over the slanted reporting about the public option, and watching the cancer community totally skirt healthcare reform issues, doing next to nothing to advocate for us.  How are any of us going to answer to our grandchildren about sitting by and watching tens of thousands of cancer patients die each year because of lack of access to care?

#3 Ass Kicking in Congress: My friend Lisa Friedman and I spent a day pounding down the doors of Congress this past spring, meeting with legislative aides, and having a fantastic talk with Kennedy’s folks.  Young adult health care was our focus and we rocked.

#4 Mission Accomplished:  I spent five years researching and writing Everything Changes.  In February it hit the shelves of bookstores throughout the U.S., Canada, Australia, and the UK. I especially loved walking into Barnes and Nobel in Union Square in New York City and seeing it prominently displayed as a special pic read.

#5 Dream Come True: I don’t really have idols -well,  except for Terry Gross. I’ve always dreamed of being a guest on Fresh Air.  I soared with happiness after spending an hour and a half in an NPR studio recording an interview with her about young adult cancer that aired in September.

#6 Everything Changes:  Two weeks ago, I had one of the best check ups out of my entire nine year career as a thyroid cancer patient.  I sometimes have a hard time trusting good news.  (Note to self to write a post about that.)  But this time I have really soaked it up and am incredibly grateful. Though I hope I don’t jinx myself by writing this!

What were your highs and lows of 2009?  Gimme your laundry list.

If you haven’t yet read Everything Changes: The Insider’s Guide to Cancer in Your 20s and 30s – you don’t have to go to Union Square to get it.  Go to any bookstore or just click here!

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Comment(s)

  1. charissa Says:
    December 28th, 2009 at 6:10 PM

    oh wow. im afraid if i give this too much thought itll just be a long list of “worst”s.

    worst- march 17- when my husband died after living with hodgkins lymphoma for nearly 10 years

    best- october 16, when my organization was awarded its first grant to produce a booklet of young adult cancer stories and resources

    im really looking forward to leaving 2009 behind me. i have high hopes for 2010.

    congrats to you, kairol, for such a wonderful year. lots of good news up there. i AM glad that 2009 brought you into my life, even if it wasnt under the best of circumstances. xo!


  2. Anonymous Says:
    December 28th, 2009 at 9:55 PM

    You’ve had a productive year Kairol!

    My 2009 has been a complete contrast. Easily the worst year of my life – ever. So many ‘worst’ moments that I could write pages – but one of them includes realising that many of the people I formally called good friends are strictly of the ‘fair weather’ variety. Amazing how me getting cancer for some reason gave them a licence to discuss my personal details and pass on my contact information to strangers, tell me exactly what treatment I should and should not have and, most hurtful of all, tell me my life before cancer was worthless and selfish (because I don’t conform to the get married and pop out sprogs version of what a good life is). I honestly wish I’d kept my diagnosis to myself!!


  3. ALK Says:
    December 28th, 2009 at 10:09 PM

    2009– glad to have it just about over.

    Bad winter with business. I have my own biz so that can be hard cuz work helps me keep my mind off things. That’s one reason I don’t like being that slow. Roller coaster of thy hormones all year long. Felt like crap, pretty much most of the year and really really tired most of the time. Sleep? what’s that? Then over the summer, I switched epilepsy meds (that process is near torture). Then right after that was over, I did the fun diet and scan…Family drama and stress throughout the year, just to keep things interesting.

    The good? I finally bought my own condo…..A slower market where I live (but no bargains here, just a bit down) and the Obama tax credit are things I am grateful for. Who says health issues means you cannot be successful? Biz has since picked up since the summer, so ended the year OK. Sleeping a bit more. That makes me hopeful.

    Looking for brighter and better things in the new decade. I was sick in one form or another since 2001. Glad to be out of the decade so new things can come my way. New good things. Fresh start.
    oooh wouldn’t that be nice!

    Wishing everyone out there a bit of ease, a good day here or there, or some moments with peace of mind. Thanks, Kairol, for your blog. I really do appreciate it.


  4. Karen Says:
    December 28th, 2009 at 11:13 PM

    I’d like to say that I’m the kind of person who can find a silver lining no matter what the circumstances, but looking back at 2009 it seems nearly impossible to see even a glimmer of something shiny and bright. I was diagnosed with rectal cancer in August 2009 at the age of 46. The call from my doctor was horrifying and even more unbelievable was receiving the call on my last day at a job at which I’d worked for over 9 years. So I found myself with cancer AND unemployed. I saw all four walls closing in on me. As I went through all of the invasive and humiliating tests to determine the extent of my cancer, I was also dealing with my 87 yo father who has Alzheimer’s. I make all of his financial and medical decisions. I’m in the process of selling the house in which I was raised, and so I spent more time worrying about who would take care of all of that than whether or not my cancer was going to kill me. I had surgery in September and I’m still trying to get my life back. I had another biopsy in November and face yet another one in two weeks. This will be my life for the next several years – rectal biopsies every three months. Two of my closest friends have abandoned me. They just walked away. That was a huge blow. But despite all of the fear and anger and rage and sadness and disappointment that I’ve faced this year, I do, finally, see that one little hint of light in this tunnel of darkness:

    - I have a sister who upended her own life in California to come to Boston and live with us for a month. She took care of me after my surgery so that my boyfriend wouldn’t have to take more time off work. She is paying for my health insurance. She sends me cards and little gifts in the mail. She’s taken over helping with some of my father’s affairs. My sister is a gift.

    - My boyfriend has been a rock through all of this. The other day he was on his hands and knees washing the kitchen floor because I’m too tired to keep up with the housework. His large Irish family has rallied around me. When the Irish find out you are sick, you can expect homemade dinners to arrive at your door and lots of handwritten personal notes to arrive in the mail.

    - I’m no longer at a job that I hated, working for people who treated me badly.

    - A dear friend whom I hadn’t seen in several years is in my life again and she was with me at the hospital the day of my surgery holding my hand. She brought me Hello Kitty pajamas so that I wouldn’t have to wear a hospital gown.

    - I’m finally about to launch my blog, after several years of promising myself that I’d start writing again.

    2009 may have delivered some very difficult news, forcing me to deal with having cancer and all the horror that comes with it, but I can see now, today, that 2009 delivered a lot of love and kindness, and renewed the desire to pursue my passion to write. 2009 gave me the courage to let go of circumstances and people who don’t bring light into my life, as painful as that is. And 2009 brought me to your blog Kairol. I heard your interview on Fresh Air – it was just a couple of weeks after I was diagnosed. You gave me hope, made me cry, and helped me find the strength to face my new life with cancer. I come to your blog several times a week, and only today did I find the courage to finally leave a comment. Saying the words, “I have cancer” is so scary. Today I’m facing my fear.

    I’m learning, from you, that there most certainly is a silver lining. You just have to push your way through the dark clouds. Thank you Kairol Rosenthal. All the best for 2010.


  5. Anonymous Says:
    December 29th, 2009 at 3:22 AM

    Karen – your story sounds familiar. Except I’m not going to make it to 46. Same diagnosis but I’m 16 years younger (no FAP or HNPCC or family history either) and by the time I was diagnosed, it was already advanced so most likely outcome is that I’ll be dead in the next 1-2 years. Oh, and I lost my job too. Gosh, isn’t life just great…


  6. Kairol Rosenthal Says:
    December 29th, 2009 at 4:09 AM

    Karen et al.,

    Sometimes there is no silver lining to cancer and that is what sucks so much about it. I’ve actually had a lot of good things happen during and around my cancer, but I don’t really call them silver linings. I feel like that phrase justifies this whole nasty disease – like there’s gotta be something good about it all. And there doesn’t!

    I know it is utterly cheesy but I do have the Facts of Life theme song running through my head as I type this. ‘You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of life, the facts of life.’ For me, I let the good and bad exist side by side and don’t try too much to let one cancel out the other, tally up a balance sheet, or find the good in the bad. When the crap hits the fan I let it hit hard. And when there are pockets of deep love, like what Karen described with her family – then I dwell in them big time too.

    There is a lot in these posts about friendships dissolving or leading to disappointment. *Note to self to write a blog post about that. (My new tactic is to leave in the comment section my ideas for blog posts, that way when my cancer brain fog sets in, I’ll know where to find them!)

    Finally a note to the first anonymous comment – You cannot take back how you disclosed your cancer and to whom, but I am living proof that the longer you live with the mark of this disease in your life, the more you can tailor you approach to privacy. I was so out in the open with the details of my disease at first. Then while writing my book, I interviewed a great woman who told very few of her friends about her cancer. She really opened up to me the idea of being more private about my disease. Funny since I write a blog about cancer, but as you might notice – there are a lot of details about my own prognosis and medical dealings that I keep out of it. Best of luck as you figure out how to strike that balance and find the people who will stick by your side in the best way possible.

    xox

    Kairol


  7. Michelle Says:
    December 29th, 2009 at 9:37 AM

    I am more than ready to bid 2009 a not-so-fond farewell. The good about this year? Remission. The bad? Not having my husband around to celebrate the good news, because he had to move to NY to find work.

    Sounds like we all look forward to a better year. Here’s hoping, for all of us.

    Kairol – I was listening to NPR last week and listened to an author of a book I just bought – I will email you once I read it. I think you might be interested…


  8. Karen Says:
    December 29th, 2009 at 10:42 AM

    Kairol,
    Thanks for your response. I suppose “silver lining” was a bad choice of words on my part. What I was really trying to describe is that even in my darkest hour I’m able to see some of the positive things that came my way this year. I certainly don’t see my cancer as any kind of a blessing that opened my eyes, but I am learning that I can still have good things happen to me even in the midst of terror.

    So many difficult things have happened to my family in the past 18 months – I also had breast surgery to remove a tumor which was not malignant but we didn’t know that until after the surgery. My father broke his hip and ended up in a nursing home and it took me three months to fine a better place for him. My boyfriend broke his leg three days before we were scheduled to move into the home we had just purchased and he spent three months on the sofa and out of work – so when I read your post yesterday I was compelled to find the positive things that have happened.

    I agree with you re: the Facts of Life song. I call it the human condition. Illness is one of those things that most of us will face at some point in our lives. I believe that my two friends who walked away are simply unable to face the facts of life. They don’t yet understand that this is part of the human condition.

    There isn’t anything good about cancer, but I have a few people in my life who want me to feel lucky because my cancer was caught early. I do feel thankful that it was caught at an early stage, but I certainly don’t feel lucky. They want me to see this as a transitioning point, a new lease on life, etc. I guess that’s what makes them feel better about my cancer.

    Your blog is helpful to so many of us Kairol, and so I am grateful for your insights. I’m hoping that my own blog will not only help me feel productive again, but will also be helpful to others who are out here looking for that kind of connection.

    Anonymous – I’m sorry about your situation. I hope that you are able to find some comfort in connecting with others who understand what you are going through.

    Thanks again Kairol for all that you are doing.


  9. Kairol Rosenthal Says:
    December 29th, 2009 at 1:34 PM

    Karen, You get the 2009 When It Rains It Pours Award! I look forward to reading your blog.


  10. Pat Steer (Gaelen) Says:
    December 30th, 2009 at 5:07 AM

    Looking back, I’m not sure there’s ever been a year since my diagnosis (or before my diagnosis, for that matter) that was a complete downer, or ever a complete success either. But altogether, 2009 has been a good year.

    The worst moment of 2009? I was in Ohio at the English Cocker National Specialty, a week-long vacation in nowhere (literally) that I’d been planning for months. They were having a Town Hall back at work, a visit by all the suits from NJ – only this time, instead of the typical irrelevant pep talk about company-wide objectives, the suits announced that they’d be closing the research division at my site and relocating all of us to sites in Indiana or New Jersey.

    24 years of rumors suddenly were actually happening.
    I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, I couldn’t concentrate on my dog, I couldn’t concentrate on my friends or the dog show, I couldn’t concentrate on my vacation. I felt completely alone in my Red Roof Inn room. I spent four days hooked up to the free wireless and talking to my friends back home instead of enjoying my dog show and my vacation. I came home three days early…and started riding the roller coaster that is still stressfully careening around the emptying amusement park of my workplace. Sometimes I feel only barely in control of me and of my course forward.

    The best moment? There have been many high points, and I wrote them down as they happened so that I could hold on to them and use their energy to get me through the stress at work.

    - the first day my survivorship blog hit 150 visitors, and the day beingcancer.net added me to their blog roll
    - the day my poetry workshop instructor told me I should take the advanced workshop, and should never stop writing
    - the day a post from my brand new food blog got retweeted by the chefs of Canvolution, and they added me to their resources page
    - the day I opened email and saw a message from Kairol Rosenthal ;)
    - the day I ran my finance numbers for the bazillionth time, and realized that I really *would* have enough money from severance and my savings to take my future in any direction I wanted to go.
    - the day I found out that I qualified for the retiree payment schedule for my current health care plan
    - the day I emailed my bosses, thanking them for and declining the relocation offer
    - the day I realized that however much time I have left, I am going to write. For me.

    2010 is going to be tough, and stressful. It’s going to be a year of ‘lasts’ – the last time I work with some people, the last time I do some things. But I’m also ready for it to be a year of ‘firsts’ – including the first time that I focus on my writing in a long, long time.

    Here’s to making out of every day the best time I can have!


  11. anonymous Says:
    December 30th, 2009 at 1:04 PM

    This year was decidedly mixed for me, so I’m afraid to examine it too closely.

    Best moment? I can think of a couple. One, a blog I write for my employer has sort of morphed into something worthwhile. After experimenting with it, I seem to have hit my stride and found the right formula, and the readership has grown surprisingly well, considering I am in a small market.

    Two, I had somewhat of a moment of truth with my doctor about an issue that needed to get out into the open. I have a ton of emotional baggage when it comes to doctors, mainly based on some extremely negative past experiences. So I wasn’t sure whether I could trust his reaction, but I decided to just close my eyes and take a leap of faith – and he responded so kindly and honestly that I felt the risk was totally worthwhile. In fact I think it was a big step in improving our relationship, and a good relationship with a primary care doctor is something I have not had since my cancer dx.

    Worst moment, hands down: having to put a much loved cat companion to sleep. She was my soulmate. The cat people out there will know exactly what I mean.

    Happy new year to you, Kairol – I really enjoy your blog and the voice you’re giving to us young adult cancer people!


  12. brigita Says:
    January 1st, 2010 at 2:24 PM

    My worst moment of 2009 by far was the 15 minutes I thought the cancer had come back. Turned out that the radiologist reading my CT scan had forgotten that my ovaries had been relocated. PHEW!

    Runner-up: shitting my pants in the lobby of the Ritz in Puerto Rico. Super classy.

    Best moments include my realizing in January that I was starting to feel more like myself since finishing FOLFOX chemo in August 2008, starting a neighborhood playgroup so I could meet other moms (and practice talking about things other than cancer for the first time in over a year), surviving my first post-surgery colonoscopy, taking my daughter to the ocean (Cape Cod) for the first time, finishing a 5K despite my lingering neuropathy (CIPN) despite not being in terribly good shape, and meeting one lovely and talented writer that came to speak at a cancer conference here in town… ;)

    On my agenda for 2010: traveling, adhering to the Drama Reduction Program, joining a rowing club, and sacrificing various small animals to the fertility gods. Keep hope alive. :)


  13. Julie729 Says:
    January 4th, 2010 at 2:42 AM

    My best things in 2009 were:

    1) proudly telling all about the great book you wrote!

    2) donning my cap & gown for my MBA

    3) spending the last two months of the year living with two amazing people who made me feel so special after the rough spent I found myself in

    4) ending the year with news of your cancer status!

    The worst parts:

    1) starting the year with my consulting job ending and on the unemployment line

    2) seeing my father’s Parkinson’s level deteriorate to another level

    3) helping my parents downsize their house into an apartment

    4) struggling with the decision to end my serious relationship

    all in all, I am glad to see 2009 and even the whole decade end.


  14. Jon Says:
    January 7th, 2010 at 4:41 PM

    my best was making good friends and family as well as bwing here still around still fighting when they thought i would be gone….

    so i still ahve my life…

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