Three Years Add Up

It ‘s been three years since I was declared cancer-free! Three years and I’m still left speechless by the thought. Did I really have cancer? Am I in remission now? Am I sure about that?

Don’t worry. I’m still cancer free (got the clear from the doc back in April). I’ve been trying to plan what I was going to say for this post for, I don’t know, months? A year? Every step I’ve taken forward has taken me in a new direction that changes what I’m going to say, what I want to reflect on and even what I want to share with you.

And I know. It’s been a very long time since I’ve shared anything at all. And I know, I made a promise before that I was going to be back. No more promises. I’m not a perfect individual and I can’t promise anything. I use this platform as a way to share my own life experiences so that I may be able to help the next person down the road who finds themselves in my shoes. Regardless of the impact it makes on the universe around me, I want to write right now for my sake.

So, I’m going to write.

Here I am, sitting in my bed, staring at my screen wondering how I’m going to explain what I’m feeling. For the last couple years, Halloween has haunted me. And not in the cool, hipster “yeah I was totally haunted by a ghost,” sort of way. I mean in the “gross, waking up from a nightmare and vomiting in my toilet at 3 in the morning” kind of way. I mean in the “having an anxiety attack while sitting in a classroom learning about the naumachia in Ancient Greece and excusing myself to the hallway so I don’t have a public meltdown” kind of way.

For me, the treatment process is done. Chemo is done. It’s been done for a very long time. But healing is a lifelong process that I’ve been actively working on day in and day out. Each day is better, but I would get to those anniversary dates and all of my work reverts and I feel like I’ve taken 15 steps backwards in the process. And I can’t place my finger on it, but this year is different for some reason. I’m not reverting the way I typically expect.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still struggling- I won’t lie about that. Do I still have some nightmares? Sure. Do I still catch my anxious, wandering mind drift to the insane idea that a cold I have is covering up more severe, underlying symptoms? Absolutely.

I’m also really, really, REALLY proud. I look back at the last three years and I think about all that I’ve done. Come with me for a moment in my small time capsule:

I got cancer, underwent chemotherapy, and SURVIVED.

I went from this:

To this:

And now to this:

My love and respect for my own body has never been so strong.

I went back to school, during which time I stage managed two dance productions, assistant directed a fringe festival and a mainstage production and directed my senior project which I received grant funding from the university for. AND THEN I GRADUATED. Even more I graduated with honors. This past summer after college was a bit weird. Long story short: I moved home, did an internship at a library, a directing residency at a theatre and worked at a retail store for… kicks? (Money. It was for money.)

Then my super cool residency and internship ended and I was stuck in that lost sensation of not knowing where my life was headed (side note: young adult life is just a cyclical process of feeling lost, finding your bearings, getting yourself in order, then getting the rug pulled out from under you. Rinse and repeat).

I felt this way, that is, until I got a call asking me to come work for a local theatre and I said yes. I would walk into a beautiful building with such historic grace and elegance every day and I was getting paid to do it!

And then I made the decision to walk away. A decision that is heart-breaking, but I don’t regret. I’m eager for what’s to come and who gets to come on my little life journey with me wherever it may take me.

If there’s anything I can offer to you it’s this: YOU are so much more than one event in your life- good or bad. You aren’t loved for what you’ve done or what you’ve experienced, but for who you are. You are loved because you exist.

So has it been three years since I was diagnosed? Yes. Did I really have cancer? Yes. Am I in remission? HELL yes.

When I get those nightmares or I feel my breath quicken, I look at the apartment that I’m now living in, or the office I work in and I remember I am more than that singular experience. It’s one piece of a very confusing culmination that is me: Dana. A young individual learning how to be an adult and maintain a loving soul in a world that forgets it’s okay to be happy.

But if there’s anything that I could have possibly learned from my cancer experience and from the cancer experiences of people around me is that I cannot live in fear of a date or an anniversary. I cannot live waiting for the next bad thing to happen. I know I didn’t mention them, but the last three years have brought a lot of negative experiences as well.

But they don’t matter. They don’t matter because I processed, learned and moved forward, carrying it with me to the next experience- good or bad. I lived through them. I lived.

I’m living.

Until Next Time,

Dana

Dear Bookshops,

I love bookshops. I love what they’re about, what they contain and who roams their aisles of endless adventure and self-discovery.

More than that, I love that they help me to feel and embrace my romantic side because it’s only in bookstores that I completely and unashamedly embrace romanticism in any capacity.

There’s opportunity for us to fall in love with the community a bookshop can reside in. I love falling in love with bookshops where the owner gets to know you and your book preference so well they have a stack of books ready for you before you even walk though the door. I kid you not, I went into a random bookshop in an unfamiliar town and ended up having a 45-minute conversation with a man about a book I happened to pick up that he happened to love. Turns out he was the owner and went to the back room to make sure I had a fresh copy to take home. It was the most genuine moment that I can’t forget.

I love the idea of falling in love with an author’s writing style and not being able to get enough of their creative outpourings. Their heart and soul were stirred into this concoction of a book and here it is, in my tiny town for me to read and absorb under my covers in the middle of the night. Or in a coffee shop. Or at the park. Or sometimes at the dinner table because trying to get this book into my brain takes priority over food in my stomach.

I love that bookshops are pockets of universe both preserving years of history and creating it themselves.

I love being a story keeper. Every book that is added to my little library is now one more story I’ve collected, maintained, loved and shared.

This is my love letter to bookshops. I love you. You’re amazing. Thank you for it all.

Until Next Time,

Dana.

A Year of Me Figuring it Out

If you’re not into swear words, I highly recommend not reading the next year’s worth of content because I’m pretty sure it’s going to be full of swear words. Sorry not sorry in advance and for the impact my words have on your eyeballs (Sorry mom. Love you!)

I am tired of structure. I think because of how much structure I’ve incorporated into my life after college (meals, finances, work, etc.), there’s nowhere for my chaos to go and it leaves my brain very cluttered and filled with some straight nonsense making it quite difficult to sort what is what. I’ve decided that since I originally wrote this blog for me I’m going to keep to that theme and start creating whatever it is that drives me.

If you go back and read some of my old stuff, you’ll see that I try to have some sort of header, main content and a feel-good ending or some theme I’m trying to get across that day. Even now I’m still sub-consciously writing this post in a “blogger’s voice” or whatever it’s called.

And you know what? That type of content is BORING ME RIGHT NOW. I don’t want to write tiny essays on the 10 ways Cancer Impacted My Life or How I Got an Internship I Forgot I Applied For (both of which are sitting in my drafts. Maybe I’ll publish them. Who knows).

I want some weird content that’s all over the place. I want poems that might be love letters to a stranger or 3am thoughts that mostly make sense but probably not. I want to write posts that are all of a sentence long but make me think about its purpose for HOURS. I want to put up my art that’s really not great but I’m proud of it because I made it. I want to create videos and talk about my favorite plants while sitting in my bed eating some popcorn.

I want to look back on this and think, “Wow. 24-year-old Dana is learning and growing and falling in love with being a creator again.”

I want to allow chaos to reign control over my blog because it’s more fun for me to be creative in an open structured environment rather than feeling the pressure to follow a cookie-cutter structure that every 20-something blogger has.

I like freedom in my art. I’m not in college anymore and I’m not making this blog for a grade or to please anyone.

Perfection is not the game. But joy is.

So I’m going to have some fun this year (wherever it can be found) and share. You get the pleasure of seeing the unscripted and unedited Dana brain unfold on your screen. Have fun! And honestly? Good luck.

Until Next Time,

Dana