Designing My Experience
At the end of 2023 - or when it's time for me to go into the next major treatment, whichever comes first - how do I want to remember my experience?
As I looked at my list of activities in progress, and the considerations I need to make going into 2023 - I made a few decisions:
- Since my health is THE priority - activities that support my body will be the first thing scheduled and all other activities will be placed around that. This means that yoga, meal prep, and medical appointments go on the schedule first.
- Cancer administration, whether I like it or not, has to be the second priority. I'm lumping financials into this bucket since paying bills and submitting taxes have to be addressed to stay out of bankruptcy. I'm also trying to keep things tidy enough to be able to pass on to my partner or brother if I have to. I'm grateful I'm healthy enough to deal (most of the time) with the administrative aggravations of chronic illness.
- Family and friend time is the third priority. If I'm going to spend time with people this year, I'd rather spend time with people I like.
- For the remaining time, I'm going to slot in art and creating. I have some activities and projects I'd like to do this year. If they don't happen - fine.
I plan in quarterly sprints. This is a discipline I used when I ran my own business. Twelve weeks is enough time to get something done but not so much time that I feel I can push it off.
This year, I am finding that looking at my life in quarters discourages me from getting too far ahead of myself.
I currently see my oncologist every 8 weeks. I use these checkpoints to see whether I need to set my plans aside and prepare for the next hospitalization.
Every plan I make outside of "cancer administration" needs to be easily discarded. Once the Zanubrutinib quits working, everything goes towards preparing for the next treatment. Travel, classes, projects, goals, obligations are all flexible and disposable. If any of it gets done - great. If not - that's fine too.
I'm currently not planning much further than 6 months out. Ideally, anything I start can be finished within 6 months - or at least be in a place where I can pause, consider it "done for now," and pick the project back up easily.
I can't afford to waste energy fretting about unfinished projects.
Historically, I've started my annual planning process around my birthday in November. I like to hit January running and get some quick wins for the year.
If there are classes I want to take, I schedule myself for one class. If there is a new habit I want to establish, I put together my resources and start the small steps to build it. If it looks like I can travel and have the money for it, I plan the trip. Seeing the quick wins at the beginning of the year keeps me motivated.
I was this way before cancer, and it is a strategy that has been serving me well as my health has improved.
I am well into some activities that are on my "goals" list this year.
- I took a trip by myself to New Jersey in January to attend a cancer retreat.
- I just returned from a trip to Florida with Mom to see family and friends. Amtrak's East Coast Auto Train is awesome!
- I completed a painting class with the local Art League and am regularly posting my work on Instagram.
- I managed to navigate the annual insurance transition with only one day's worth of phone calls and meltdown.
- I have re-established my yoga practice such that it almost looks the same as it did in 2021 (minus some stupid human tricks and hand-balances).
- I went to some orienteering events, did some hiking, and am over 100 miles of walking for the year.
- I transitioned my website to a simpler and less expensive platform.
- I even managed to get 10 hours of PDU credits in to maintain my PMP certification. Thankfully I have until 2025 to get the 60 I need to maintain my cert.
Not bad for someone whose career has changed to "professional cancer patient."
Still on the docket for this year:
- I am participating in A Fresh Chapter's Ignite program starting in April.
- I am joining my brother on his 50th birthday trip to Kentucky - also in April. He wants to do the Bourbon Trail. I have spent little time in Kentucky since leaving in 1996 - so it will be interesting to see what has changed.
- There is a 4-day Plein Air workshop in Lexington, Virginia I would like to attend in July/August. My oncologist has been loving how my labs have been looking and is optimistic that the meds will continue to work for a while - so this is looking like a realistic possibility.
- Because I have been travelling at the beginning of this year - I've started to learn how to use watercolors. I find watercolors easier to travel with than acrylic paints and less messy overall. SkillShare and YouTube FTW.
On my radar for the back half of 2023 is getting a first draft of a new book written, creating a new planner, and getting to Touchstone for a ceramics workshop. These activities are "nice-to-dos."
Admittedly, I feel internal pressure to "get it all done now."
My challenge is to do the things I want to do without over-doing.
To be willing to let go of my fun plans and focus on the necessary work when I need to without resentment.
To not get too far ahead of myself, even when it looks like I have more runway than I thought I did just 3 months ago.
The slower I go - the better off I am.
I just don't want to stop moving.
I'm still wrapping my head around all that.