January. Such a weird time of year. Many of us have eaten, drunk, and spent too much over Christmas and are now expected to come up with an unrealistically long list of things to achieve in the coming year. We are supposed to be healthy, have big goals, and look forward with unbridled joy to the amazing New Year.
I have always thought the New Year such a disappointment.
Cancer hasn’t helped. For the last few Januarys, I have not wanted to look back and reflect on the past year, nor look ahead too far either. That’s the thing with cancer. It tries to steal your future, even if you have been given the ‘No evidence of disease’ good news.
I realised that it’s been several years since I haven’t either dreaded or ignored the New Year celebrations. For the last few years, it was thanks to cancer and the long list of treatments, side-effects (such as social isolation), and associated illnesses; and before that thanks to pregnancy or having a baby and not a lot of sleep.
The ‘Going-Back-To-Normal’ Year
Well, it’s hard to be too positive. This year was supposed to be my ‘going-back-to-normal’ year, when in fact it was a succession of illnesses and other unfortunate events. There were a few of highlights, such as having all of my family together; two cute arrivals; and Christmas, which I really enjoyed (and actually felt well on the day!)
Generally, I am feeling cautiously optimistic. I have a few Very Good Events to look forward to. Having a life-threatening disease is great at helping you value every celebration, every birth and wedding and new start. There were never any guarantees that you would be around to see them and you worry you might not be around for too many more.
Yet now that I can’t take having a long life for granted, I am able to live in the moment and not worry about the future. I can do this in a way that those who’ve never confronted their imminent mortality can understand. It’s a blessing in disguise, because it helps you chuck out the junk of life, while holding onto the precious much more easily.
I know that whatever happens next year, I will be glad that I am here to experience it, even the bad stuff.
Social Media, Be Gone
I went to a NYE party at a friend’s house this year. It was just what I needed -a chance to be sociable, be silly, with absolutely no pressure to look cool for social media (in fact, I’m pretty sure I was the opposite). I felt I didn’t need to get raving drunk to prove how much fun I was having.
If there was one thing that I could wish, it would be that others could see how amazing this gift of life is: never perfect, often surprising, and far too short to waste worrying about all the junk, like how cool you look on social media.
Alex Dixon is a Stage 3 breast cancer survivor two years past diagnosis. She writes a blog on faith, fiction and cancer-stuff.