There was a time when math was one of the only things that could shut off the anxiety in my mind and take all my concentration. It was the fall of 1994. On a sunny, warm evening in September I was in a car crash that left my body virtually unscathed but emotionally totaled me. I was a student at West Valley College then and dropped all my classes except for the math class, which was a surprise because before the accident I was terrible at math. And now, again, I'm terrible at math. But during that window of time when time stopped and I was trying to get over the accident -- at that time, math was my savior. I liked that there was a definite answer. The numbers were calming.
When I was diagnosed with cancer, I wondered if I'd find the same kind of solace in my work as a conference producer. In some ways I have, but it is different now. Now I find distraction and solace in my conversations with friends, in Joe's embrace, and loosing myself in play with Nia. It nags at the back of my mind that I want to spend my time with these people whom I love, and who love me. I don't want to look back and wish I'd been more present.
But sometimes, knocking things off a to-do list, or cleaning a messy bookshelf can be very therapeutic. I can't sit around all the time. Sometimes the compulsion to make something tidy is overwhelming. Yesterday I tackled Nia's art shelf in the kitchen and it was both relaxing and restorative. I took it slow. Listened to the radio. And selected with care each item that went back on the self. Once neat, my mind felt more orderly, too.
Work is often that way for me, too. Though "chemo brain" and the fog caused by some of the anti-nausea meds make work challenging at times. So I've been taking it slow. I'm still working, but there are days when I don't make it to the laptop. My out-of-office email responder mentions that I'm busy fighting cancer, and when I invite people to speak at my conferences, I mention the cancer. It is a little weird mixing the personal with the professional, but the last thing I want is for clients to think I'm just flaky when I don't return an email for 5 days. And for the most part all of them have been very understanding that I'm multi-tasking.
My bosses have been unbelievably supportive and my colleagues are the best I could hope for in a time like this. Besides being understanding and available to take up my tasks if I can't do them, many of them are also participating in a fund-raising run for women's cancers (I have my colleagues in New York, a friend in Oregon, and a friend in Sacramento all carrying my name over finish lines this spring -- how awesome is that?!).
I'm writing this post because many of you have asked if I'm still working through my Cancer Year. I am, but as you can see, it is very much on my own terms. I work when I can, and don't when I can't. My laptop travels around the house with me. Sometimes I'm on the couch, sometimes at the kitchen counter, other times I'm lying in bed. My little home office is frozen in time: the calendar still shows March (and probably will all year); I haven't worked at my desk since March 12th, when I was diagnosed... But this feels right: to work a little here and there. I have absolutely no work-related stress eating up my precious white blood cells!
And it feels really good to know that when this is all behind me and I'm cancer-free, I'll have my conference schedule and a team in New York waiting to welcome me back to full-time. (Thank you, guys, with all my heart!)