Joy to the World

  • 5 January 2014


It’s no mystery to anyone who knows me that I tend to be a joyful person, to look at the cup as half full. What might be surprising is my going to the hairdresser about a month ago and emerging as an elfish tomboy with a gamine cut. This chick no longer hides behind her hair, now that cancer has cruelly stripped me of the girly-girl image.

The new ‘do shouts boldness and confidence ala Jamie Lee Curtis. I’m no Jamie Lee Curtis, mind you. But I think it’s time to lose the charade of trying to cut a decade off my age when no one is fooled. Plus, who wants to pour Clairol over her scalp when she’s had cancer three times and is living with the Stage IV variety? Haven’t I been exposed to enough chemicals?

I admire Jamie very much, not because she was a shock queen, but because of her spunk and bravery. I haven’t lost friends because of my new look, and that shows the quality of my friendships. In college I might have lost a few if I had had a radical cut, superficial as they were. But now my friends are made of solid-rock material, with a soft center that speaks volumes.

Life continues to be good to me, however you define good. My definition varies dramatically from that of the average American. Good means encountering little chronic pain on a given day, being able to change the bedclothes without much effort and using my Swiffer® mop to good advantage around the house. Dust bunnies don’t make cuddly pets, and spindly spiders only darken my mood. A good life to me also means parties and friends, church and family.

I’d love to make long-term travel arrangements, requiring a different kind of boldness than wearing my hair ultra-short. But these days any plans tend to be shorter-range. Right now I hope to cavort in Hawaii in May, a month not so far away that I would feel uncomfortable making reservations. Thank God for good cancellation policies and travel insurance for the just-in-case scenarios.

Don’t misunderstand me. The targeted therapies I receive in the clinical trial at Stanford are nothing short of a miracle. These meds work overtime to blast any cancer cells lurking in my bones or pleural cavity, just as my Dustbuster® vacuum sucks away those pesky spiders lurking in hidden corners of my precious abode. I trust the drugs to do their duty for a long time. But as an optimistic realist I know that cancer cells can become resistant to any kind of therapy, and they know my body far better than I do.  It’s wise, therefore, to make plans with the understanding that circumstances can change.

In the meantime I forge on into 2014, not having known at this time last year if I would even be around to start watching Season 4 of Downton Abbey. But here I am, anticipating it just like so many Americans who don’t struggle with Stage IV anything.  Life always has uncertainties; I’m just reminded of that more frequently than most. The key is to find joy in the journey.

What do you think will bring you joy in the new year?