Another year passed of blithely ignoring my blog! I debated closing down the account and chalking it up to yet another neglected hobby, but decided to log another birthday’s blather and put off the decision for another year.
The last year has been less dramatic than the previous two, a gift for which I am profoundly grateful. This year was less careening from one health crisis to the next and more the long, slow slog of healing. A slog that is not yet behind me, and perhaps never will be.
As I noted in my one-year-ago post, I expected that my post-chemo return to normalcy would be a few weeks or months at the most. That was what my oncology team indicated, and they are the experts, so who was I to doubt them? Even now, a year and a half out from treatment, they seem baffled that fatigue continues to be an issue.
I am baffled by their bafflement. Numerous studies—as well as the anecdotal evidence of their on-staff counselor—indicate that fatigue is a common and long-lasting side effect. According to a 2007 research study, “Approximately 30% of breast cancer survivors experience moderate to severe fatigue after completion of initial treatment, and fatigue in these survivors has been shown to endure for up to ten years post-diagnosis. The functioning/quality of life impact of this enduring fatigue is significant…”
A lot of my energy in the past year has been devoted to figuring out why I lack energy. The #1 treatment for persistent cancer-related fatigue is exercise. I’m no stranger to exercise, and have gladly devoted time to hiking, treadmill, yoga, and therabands, only to have my fatigue worsened by activity. This could be a result of pernicious anemia, that I am literally using up all the available B12 in my body between injections. The last month, I’ve consciously avoided exercise, gained five pounds, and felt much better than usual. I have no intention of sustaining an exercise-free life, but at least I can start from a basis of a functional energy level and see where I can go from here. I’ve convinced my doctor to give me B12 injections twice a month rather than the once a month protocol. She is skeptical but it seems to be helping.
The last few years have been difficult enough without having to worry about losing my job, so it’s been a boon to be self-employed. I’ve been able to adjust my work efforts to my energy levels. I’m looking forward to celebrating the tenth anniversary of my design studio in June. I’m happy with how the business is progressing. I’ve focused my efforts on providing high-quality, cost-effective services for small business and start-up companies. In the next month I’ll be launching a new website, with a package deal for a new business to get a logo, brand collateral and a website for one set price. I’ve been promoting the package under the radar and already gotten a couple of clients with the offer.
During the worst of the fatigue, I wondered whether it made more sense to give up and retire early. But I’m not done with design yet. I still get excited when I book a new client, launch a new website, or finish a new logo. I debate whether it makes more sense to spend my time doing housework and yardwork, or work more hours in the hopes of being able to hire someone to do those for us. I can tell you this: given the choice between sitting at my computer tweaking CSS, or vacuuming the carpets, I’ll choose Cascading Style Sheets anytime.
I have spent more time this year on creative endeavors, and hope—no, plan—to continue and increase that in the future. I’m too lazy this morning, but perhaps later this week I’ll take a few pictures of my efforts. I’ve done some beading projects, and have become especially enamored of beaded kumihimo, which is a technique for weaving beaded ropes. I’ve gotten a book on kumihimo with wire, but don’t have the equipment I need yet. I’ve started teaching myself calligraphy, beginning with the basic miniscule alphabet. I’m learning to draw Celtic knotwork. I’ve picked up my needlepoint here and there, tried my hand at ornamental knotting, and gone as far as getting some wreath-making supplies and a book, although I have yet to try my hand at that.
Most significantly, I’ve enrolled in the Botanical Illustration certificate program offered by the North Carolina Botanical Garden. I’m only in the Beginning Drawing class so far, and happy with what I’m doing…which is no small accomplishment, since I tend to be completely neurotic and self-flagellating about my drawing abilities. Maybe it just took me 56 years to be mature enough to handle a pencil.
The program will include another drawing class, as well as pen & ink, colored pencil, three classes in watercolor, composition, and color theory. I’ll be taking science classes, too: botany, taxonomy, and local flora. I’m hoping they will offer an elective in gouache while I’m enrolled. The entire program could take three to five years to complete. It’s not that I’m that interested in botanical illustration per se. But I have some artistic ideas that I’d like to develop which would benefit from skills in pen & ink and watercolor. And I’ve always wanted to simply draw precisely from life, which is the key skill I’ll be learning.
After cancer, a patient is encouraged not to get back to normal, but to find their “new normal”. I may never return to the energy levels that I had pre-cancer…by the time the energy-sapping, bone-decaying five years of hormone treatment are through, I’ll be nearly 60 years old. But I’ll have a successful more-than-ten-years-old design business, a certificate in botanical illustration, some artwork to my name, and some nifty beaded necklaces as well.
The carpets may still be a bit dusty, though.