Clearing the Confessional or Ringing in a New Year?

In the Psychiatrist's Chair with Self-Knit Hat

How  about both. I find it hard to believe, and hard to admit that this past Saturday marks one full year since my initial cancer diagnosis. One year ago I went for that dreadful MRI which had to be done in two segments because my back pain was so bad. My back pain was that bad despite pounding Ibuprofen and Percocet. I took as much as I could, more, and could still not tolerate lying on my back. Well later that day I would not have to worry about pain for awhile.

It was one year ago, about an hour after I returned from the MRI that my Doctors’s office called. Can you come in today? As soon as possible? Can you bring someone with you? Ha! I’ve seen enough TV to know this is bad news with or without company, and so it was. About one hour later, alone (why not),  I knew that my pain was the result of a fractured spine, and the fractured spine was the result of metastatic disease, Cancer. I went home armed with some serious narcotics and my good news, while planning the final stages of my work for an arts festival two days later.

My husband took the news well as I recall. In his mind there was no Cancer without a biopsy, but I knew. What I didn’t know was where this would take me, and it has not been where I originally thought. Thus my confessions, and my celebration of starting over, again. I consider December 8th my Cancer Birthday. I am alive!

When I first got diagnosed I jumped right on creating this blog and started making art from my body scans. My first post here was December 27th one day before the excisional biopsy that would confirm my breast cancer. I was ready to take on the world with healing art and brilliant blogging. In my own words last December 27th:

I am not by far the first person to be diagnosed with cancer, or even to blog about it. I don’t consider myself unique or special in that, but I think something unique and special may come from it. What I have discovered in this early phase of the journey is, I feel strangely liberated. As if I am being given a free pass to let myself shine, tumors and all.

Well, that enthusiasm did not last, or perhaps more accurately it has taken a few turns, quite a few. By chance this one year milestone also leaves me feeling like I have reached a place of some normalcy, or what they call my “new normal”. In reality there is no true stability in this new life, yet one comes to feel OK with that. OK with not knowing. I make plans  and often must break them because I feel poorly, am too tired, or forgot that I have yet another “appointment”.  The appointments are many!

So, what happened to all my great plans?

Well, for the most part they still exist, with modifications, and along with many new ideas. The first is I feel ready to talk about all of it. The art, life, AND Cancer, but that does not mean it is all about Cancer.

When things took a major turn was last May when I had a spinal fusion. The recovery was brutal and I am still adjusting in some ways. I am debilitated in ways I did not expect and I fear my guts may be scrambled permanently. I realize now that along with my slow recovery was a slow build of depression. While I have not been writing here, I have in my hand written journal. I’d like to share some of that with you as I get me footing here again.


Surfacing. I have let myself sink deeper and deeper into the abyss of cancer. Allowing it to be who I am rather than something I have. Starting treatment, losing mobility, losing my hair, fatigue. Yes, cancer has taken a lot from me, but I must not forget who I am. I have let cancer infiltrate who I am and what I love. I have turned my passions into obligations, into work. I must write that blog. I must make art.  If I write it must be deep, and meaningful, and helpful to others. I expect some contrived brilliance when my simple story is enough. If I create art, the same. It must be laden with a message of hope or despair, with cancer. When did trees stop being enough? Even when I knit. Cancer. I surround myself with it. Hoarding supplies and ideas and doing next to nothing. Steve waits patiently for my return, knowing I am in there with much left to do, to give without this burden I have created.

I have some signs that it is time.

I’ve met some people, seen some art. My time to rise from this well of self imposed helplessness. I am Gwyn, artist, woman, wife, and thinker. So many things I am. I have some cancer, and it does not own me. I am in transition. I will make my way back. I can see the surface!

And so it goes. I will continue to share my stories, my journal entries, even my knitting (I tell myself this is not a worthy task). Please stay with me.

From the Heart,

61 Responses to Clearing the Confessional or Ringing in a New Year?
  1. Laura Simms
    December 10, 2012 | 7:14 pm

    With you.

  2. Kimberley McGill
    December 10, 2012 | 7:18 pm

    Oh Gwyn! Beautiful, beautiful you! I am thrilled you are back in this space ready to share and be who you are.

    Oh, and that hat? Love it! It looks so soft. What kind of yarn did you use?

  3. Lisa @ milkshake crafts
    December 10, 2012 | 7:20 pm

    You are brave for sharing this with us, Gwyn. Wishing you some peace.

  4. Leslie Fuquinay Miller
    December 10, 2012 | 7:37 pm

    We hear a lot about those strong women who have made friends with their cancer, who have changed their lives in positive ways, etc. But they are not the only strong women. Strong women get angry and cry. They suffer from depression. They throw things and scream. They make too many demands on themselves and others, or they make not enough of them. They ask for help or they don’t.

    Those who sink are no less strong than those who appear to walk on water. Those who bitch and kick and fight are no less strong than those who smile through the hair loss and infusions.

    It is OK to be angry and sad. It is not only OK—it is UNDERSTANDABLE. It is PERMISSIBLE. You are no less brilliant when you have moments of defeat than you are when you have moments of victory.

    The only right way to have cancer is to surround yourself with as many people who love you as possible.


  5. Alison Gresik
    December 10, 2012 | 9:30 pm

    It’s so good to hear your voice, Gwyn. And your truth. Walking that line between accepting where you’re at and reaching for more. Whatever your artistic response is to your life, it is enough. It is perfect. Love and happy knitting to you!

  6. Elwyn Crawford
    December 10, 2012 | 10:20 pm

    Staying with you every step of the way as you ring in the New Year wearing an absolutely spiffing handknit. Great photo BTW

  7. Sharon Martinelli
    December 10, 2012 | 10:33 pm

    Here with you, soaking in the words.

  8. Kathy Butrica
    December 10, 2012 | 10:38 pm

    totally with you…i cant believe that you knew this last year at the festival. AND was standing there with a broken back. You are my hero. With you all the way…loving you and Steve for a very very long time..and always! xo

  9. Kathy Butrica
    December 10, 2012 | 10:39 pm

    BTW…you are soo lucky you are a hat person. You look really cute in your new hat. love it!

  10. Mr. Man
    December 10, 2012 | 11:01 pm

    Everything that you say and do is meaningful to me. Happy Birthday, Love Steve

  11. Lindy Ratcliffe
    December 11, 2012 | 1:45 am

    Gwyn, this brought me to tears. Here’s to this next year…one year, one day, one moment at a time. As always, you are in my prayers.

    Love, Lindy

  12. debe
    December 11, 2012 | 9:04 am

    Best of luck in your new year. Be strong for yourself, and your art. Please keep sharing.

  13. Emma
    December 11, 2012 | 11:44 am

    It’s good to hear from you here. And I want to hear all about your knitting!

  14. Kim Mailhot
    December 11, 2012 | 1:14 pm

    Reading your confession/ringing in has left me with so many thoughts and feelings, Beautiful Gwyn. The main one is how generous and brave you are to share your real and true story with us. It shows your shining spirit more than perhaps you will ever know. You are an artist and you are creating your mark on this world, one word, one image, one powerful moment of living this sweet life at a time.
    Sending you appreciation for what you bring to the world, love in all its sweet forms, and light to keep you on your beautiful path.

  15. Mookie
    December 11, 2012 | 2:10 pm

    Thank you for being my friend. Thank you for thinking of me. Thank you for that phone call. I really needed to hear it. Thank you for being such a kind and loving person that still has the energy to think of others. Thank you for being you. Love Mookie

  16. Mary Lee
    December 17, 2012 | 5:54 am

    With you:breathing love to you.

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