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The Resolutions I Made for What Could Be My Final Year of Life

“Every new day is a gift, it’s a song of redemption/Any expression of love is the way to return/To that place that I think of so often, but now never mention/The one the voice in the back of my head says that I don’t deserve…”

— “Jejune Stars” by Bright Eyes

Looking back on journal entries and resolutions from years past, I can’t help but think of cycles and also growth. Every year the promises are similar. Every year I have fallen back into familiar patterns. And yet every year I still grew in some way, and learned in some way. Every year was one of transition. Some years more than others. Tremors and growing pains.

While each year the plates shifted a little, 2018 brought a massive earthquake. The ground split wide open. I stood at the end of the year looking over the divide and realized,

“Things will never, ever be the same again. There will always be a ‘before cancer‘ and an ‘after cancer.’”

Nothing changes you like suddenly staring into the abyss of death, and living with the reality of a shortened life every day. I am cursed and yet at the same time have never felt so completely blessed. I have never felt so much fear and I have never felt so much love.

My first CT scan since starting chemo has brought me a stay of execution. It is working!… for now. The tumors have gotten smaller. I still have to get past an MRI next month to determine whether there is additional cancer in my abdominal lining. And then there is the small matter of the extremely high recurrence rate for this type of colon cancer. The final prognosis hasn’t changed.

But this news has brought some desperately needed rays of sunlight. I have time. And time gives me the luxury of reflection. Although there are no guarantees, I now feel confident I’ve got at least a year. And hopefully — aside from chemo and recovery from surgery(ies?) — it will be a mostly healthy year as well. After that, it gets murkier.

So, for the first time I am heading into a new year and wondering whether it will be my last full year ever. I’ve written the resolutions of someone who is planning her last year ever… with the hope, of course, that it will not be. As I look them over, many of them are the same as previous years. Some of them are new. Some of them have dropped away completely.

Here they are.

Body:

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat more nuts.
  • Walk, do yoga or some other form of exercise every day.
  • Get better about staying hydrated, especially on chemo weeks.
  • Try to get on more of a consistent sleep schedule (chemo insomnia and post-chemo fatigue make this challenging.)
  • Come up with a system to track symptoms.
  • Advocate and be proactive with doctors and research medical options.

Mind/Soul:

  • Try to feel and then let go of my negative emotions. Especially when it comes to emotional reactions to the things and people I cannot control. This includes worry, anger, fear, guilt and impatience.
  • Meditate every day.
  • Journal every day
  • Hug the people I love every day.
  • Spend more time with friends.
  • Have deep conversations and say how I really feel.
  • Spend more time outdoors and get out into nature as much as possible.
  • Travel.
  • Go to concerts.
  • Play (at anything), laugh and have fun.
  • Learn something new.
  • Stare at clouds.

Family/Legacy (some crossover with above):

  • Make special time with each of my kids.
  • Make special time with my husband.
  • Leave a record of who I am (blog, letters, etc.)
  • Tell people I love them.
  • Find ways to show others that I care.
  • Mentor and assist others (at work, or elsewhere),
  • Find ways to give back.
  • Prepare for the ending.
  • Decide end of life plans (hospice, etc.).
  • Decide and communicate plans for my body and service after I am gone.
  • Read books, talk to a professional and/or join a support group to help mentally prepare.

I’ve done away with weight goals. I no longer care about losing “x” pounds. I just want to keep my body as healthy and warm as possible.

This is the first year I’ve written no career goals. Yet I still plan to give my full self every day to my job, and to mentor and assist others as much as possible. However, I no longer have no plans for advancement and when I leave work every day, it will stay there. This has been true since my diagnosis. I am no longer leasing mental space to my career outside of working hours. Those hours have become far, far too precious for me to waste.

Thinking about death is something I should have done long before this year. As humans we put up a strong mental block to it. However, it’s important to note no matter what you plan, they might still change when you find yourself staring directly at it. Some of mine have already.

2019 will bring many dips and peaks. I have hope for more peaks, but at the same time doing the deep work to help me through those inevitable dips when they come. Here’s to a year of the best of everything I have control over: Health, happiness, peace and above all — love.

This story originally appeared on thenorthsea.blog.

Photo credit: IpekMorel/Getty Images