This is a collection of writing about having stage IV breast cancer, and having retired to take the best possible care of my health, as I adapt to the conditions of treatment. Since being at home more, I have a renewed interest in homestead lifestyles and want to write about and photograph the knitting, cooking, and sewing projects I am working on. Three day-old chicks joined our household in May, 2015, and I have also begun growing both vegetable and flowers. Each of these interests have helped me focus outward and on concrete ways to make the most of things, given the uncertainties with which I live.
I am fairly new to WordPress, the host site of this blog. New readers might want to make commenting possible by registering as a reader with WordPress. It took me years to figure out that a simple email address and user name, (real or fictitious), would allow me to participate more actively with the writers that I followed.
I am a long time rural Maine resident with husband (spectacular), home (small and a bit shabby) and grown sons (definitely above average), living in a post-industrial, passive solar house that we designed and built in 1977. Both of us have been gainfully and, at times, stressfully employed in education and the non-profit sector, and we have developed a deep certainty that our home and relationship have been central to our fairly successful run through the American economy of the past four decades. By successful I mean with no layoffs and no crushing financial set backs. Granted, we have accepted a modest standard of living in return for that success..
I retired early and precipitously in April of 2014 to treat the advanced breast cancer that was destroying the vision in one eye, and taking root in my lungs, bones and lymph nodes. My health going into this episode was very good, something the oncologist called a strong performance status. Months of weekly Taxol infusions arrested the growth of the eye tumor, and lead to being established on an oral chemo called Xeloda since September of 2014.
My first episode of breast cancer happened in 2003. I had just turned 52. A certain amount of energy was generated from that encounter with cancer, and I immediately enrolled in grad school, something I had been postponing for years. I completed the three year program in 2006, adding a counseling psychology master’s to my resume. In 2008 I hiked half of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Virginia with my twin sister. We were 57 at the time, the same age as our father had been when he died of heart disease. We wanted to take a firm stand for keeping active and for doing long dreamed of adventures. In 2010, I plunged into agency work full time, giving up a small private practice and focusing on rebuilding my financial stability. I took three months off to treat a second breast cancer occurrence in 2012, but as before, picked up my work life and continued on as soon as I healed from surgery and radiation.
When hiking the AT, I kept a daily journal on Trailjournals.com (Trailjournals.com/auntiemame08) to keep friends and family informed and to have a record of the trip. Writing on a daily basis, usually at night, was unexpectedly rewarding to me. It gave me a home for my thoughts and photos, and created an anchor to the day.
I am taking a different kind of trip now, one that was unplanned and unexpected. The reality of early retirement and suddenly being at home with a diagnosis that may well compromise my life and life span is unfolding in remarkable ways. I want to write the blog that I would have liked to have read over a year ago, and to form as strong a connection as I can with myself and with my beloved family and friends through the days ahead.