"In the Bleak Midwinter"
Last updated: April 2023
Winter holidays are filled with miracles of birth and light. Although we sometimes overdo it, is it possible we all need a prescribed time to bring joy into our lives? Do we also need some respite from the pain?
Despite a diminished ability to participate, we often find a way to renew traditions. It is a time to look within, find joy, and capture the emotional stores of our hearts and soul. Many of us have the good fortune of being surrounded by those we love. Yet, some are even more keenly aware of the loss.
There is always choice
Living in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, winter arrives forcefully in the form of snow, rain, and ice. Days with blue skies suddenly diminish. The same beautiful mountain peaks provide glorious views most of the year. But, in the bleak of winter, they become treacherous and compromising passage of even the most courageous.
Ultimately, our topography mirrors the same sense of isolation and loneliness that occurs when facing the risks of a progressive illness. We know all too well while in treatment, tensions rise, and gatherings must be carefully planned.
Despite all this, we have a choice. I realize we can live in despair and melancholy or look beyond our current condition and anticipate the possibilities of a new spring.
Just when I feel burdened by the dull gray skies, I remind myself that our winter will only last about 3 to 4 months and that life will begin to emerge again.
All in all, this year, I especially find myself wondering about life. I understand advanced ovarian cancer, stage III C impacts the chances for the continuation of life. But, in truth, I am currently living past the time expected by my treatment team. Yet, each day I wake up and realize that I am still very present; I recognize that someone more significant than all of us has more for me to do.
Who do you want to be
As a freshman in college, my exploratory writing professor surprised us all with an assignment. He asked us to leave our classroom and head for Washington Square Park, just outside the buildings of NYU. The task was to "take in the environment" and ask ourselves, "What would you do if you knew what you knew about spending a day in the park?"
Yes, this is an odd exercise. But even some 50 years later, I continue to use it when I feel perplexed about life circumstances. The statement is meant to disarm. So I encourage you each to give it a try.
Embracing life with ovarian cancer
My "ah-ha" moment was when I realized I knew very little about the park or the people in the park. I walked through this area each day to get to classes. Yet I had no idea it represented many groups and cultures, all hoping to fill their lives with meaning. Most importantly, the inhabitants of the park wanted to belong and to feel accepted.
I suddenly realized that the park represented many unknowns. Although a little frightened at being the outsider. I was drawn to several groups and asked for their feedback. Today, I need to know my environment, its people, and my meaning and purpose. More than ever, I am sure I am not done yet, as there is a world to explore and change with which to adapt.
If I believe my life is over, it will become a self-filling prophecy. But, on the other hand, if I remain vigilant to learn and aspire to assist, life can continue until it reaches a natural end.
I close today with warm regards.
Do you have things that helped you cope through your ovarian cancer journey?