It has been a ridiculously long time since I have posted. I’ve even debated taking the site down. I wanted to focus on life and made a conscious decision to step back from advocacy and the cancer community for my own mental health. One can run away from many things, however they cannot run away from themself. In the gap from my last post, a lot has happened. One of the biggest events was celebrating my 10 year cancerversary. It’s a bit crazy to think that I have lived with cancer for a quarter of my life! You can read a bit about my thoughts here. This year marked 11 years as of April 15th. It’s been so crazy that the day came and went without pause.
A great deal of 2019 was spent persuing a dream I have wanted for the good part of 20 years, something that was a desire long before cancer ever entered my life. I had been close once before, but the timing wasn’t right. So, armed with more life experience and burning desire, I set the wheels in motion for a big change. Initially, it was a pie in the sky idea that given the complexity of my situation seemed impossible. What is impossible anyway?
You’re probably wondering, what is this monumental life change?! I’ll tell you. I have always had an interest in Japan and Japanese culture, ever since I was a kid, I joke that I might have been Japanese in a previous life, I mean who knows?! Anyway, when I graduated from university, I had planned to go there and teach English. I had job perspectives lined up and was ready to go, until my head betrayed my heart. You have to realize, these were the days before FaceTime and Skype, and I would have been very alone, I was fresh out of school and young. As adventurous as I was, I wasn’t ready for that kind of isolation, and it would have left my mom alone after losing my dad, so I began to doubt. Then it so happened that I landed a full time job. The last nail was in the coffin. I didn’t go. I blinked and life happened, so Japan was put on the back burner. After being diagnosed, I thought it was an impossibility, until it wasn’t. I literally have two regrets in my life, the first I can’t do anything about (thank you Euro), the second was Japan. So I decided to change that and fulfil my dream.
I spent the better part of last year working to achieve this goal by learning Japanese (I’m still terrible!); convincing my oncologist that this was a good idea; finding a Japanese site for my clinical trial and arranging my medical care, and getting a teaching job to support myself while I was there. It was a huge mountain to climb, an almost Herculean task. Surprisingly, as time went on, the pieces of the puzzle began to fit into place. My oncology team (mainly my superstar nurse Nicole) got approval to include me in the Japanese branch of my clinical trial, I got a job, I was slowly learning how to read Japanese, my Visa was approved, and I was set to go there in March. I was looking forward to seeing the blossoms in the spring, Kyoto in the fall, Osaka for the food, oh man the food!
Then COVID-19 happened. Suddenly, the sand had slipped though my fingers again. I was so close! It was devastating having to turn the opportunity down. The teaching team in Nagoya, where I was to live had been so gracious and kind, they were even looking for apartments for me. Saying I couldn’t go was a knife in my heart. For weeks after, I was severely depressed. Then COVID really happened. They say in life, you don’t always get what you want. But, sometimes you might just get what you need. If I had gone, I likely would have been stuck there, so in hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t go. It took a global pandemic to stop me, but you had better damn well believe, I will get there one day.
That pretty much brings us to present day. Not a whole heck of a lot is happening, considering that the world is shut down. So, in typical Gemini fashion, I have been keeping myself occupied. Music has been my saviour, art has been an outlet, curiosity is being fed by learning new skills. I am painting, writing, learning not one, but two new instruments, and I’m still learning Japanese. I am setting new goals, like being able to play a Tool song on bass. It’s a heady goal, just listen to one of their songs and you’ll hear why. It also brings me back here. Life these days are as surreal as a Dali painting. I was thinking that it’s almost as if the world has been diagnosed with cancer. I see so many parallels between this experience and the one I have lived through and with for the last 11 years. The isolation, anxiety, learning a “new normal”, being hypervigilant, being scared. But, I also see the good. Neighbours helping neighbours, parents spending time with their children, people cooking and learning to appreciate the simple pleasures of life, learning something new, pursuing hobbies that they couldn’t do before because there was no time. Now we have no excuses. All we have is time. How we choose to spend it now will shape how we live later. As someone who has experienced this awakening before, it is my hope that we come out of this better, as individuals, and as a whole.
I leave you with something I wrote as a reflection, I didn’t intend to share it, but it seems appropriate here.
Beneath the routines of life lie the eternal and temporal.
Forces that march on even when we are paused.
Time waits for no one, yet it is fleeting.
Wrapped up in the details of life we forget to live, and time ticks on.
Time waits for no one and soon time has passed on, grey and old.
We look back with regret.
We did not LIVE, life at work.
Slaving for money and the spoils, the shoulds and woulds of routine.
Did we spend our time well? Squandered on monotony.
Not invested with those we love and cherish, until it’s too late and they are lost.
Our time spent on frivolous things, grinding away.
Moments slipping by until they become years.
Yet, all we have are moments and memories, in time.
Stay home, stay safe.