As I approach the anniversary of my three-year median survival rate, I realize I still have a lot I’d like to accomplish.
I’m rather goal oriented. I’ve spent the last week writing out my resolutions, filling in with action plans, reaching out to accountability partners and putting together an overall strategy for success.
My overriding theme is this: How do you accomplish big, hairy, audacious goals while juggling the interruptions of a chronic disease?
I started toying with this idea while battling cellulitis this past fall. I’d been humming along with blog posts and sticking to an editorial calendar when some rogue bacteria slammed me to the ground. All work ground to a halt as I tended to fevers and daily trips to a distant doctor for IV antibiotics.
When I finally overcame the illness I was stuck for a way to get my work life back on track. I know this isn’t unique. One of my mentors lost her job in October and spent the fall and early winter in a frantic search for a new one (which turned out to be a plum assignment at the New York Times). But for those of us with chronic illness, those life bumps are a constant.
Already I’m resigned that at some point this year my treatment will change. My tumor markers are starting to creep up again even though CT scan results from a few weeks ago show no progression. Still, each CT scan is a game of Russian roulette. The barrel may be empty this time, but one of them has a bullet in it. One of them will be treatment altering and with it a new round of time-consuming tests, procedures and new side effects to get used to.
On top of the fits and starts of chronic disease, I have the frustration of believing I deserve better outcomes for all the limbs I’ve climbed out on. I deserve success. I knew I was starting to get better this fall when my frustration turned to anger. And anger makes me want to do something different, make a change.
So I compiled a mini-MPA program- Masters of Philosophical Arts. Thanks to Coursera, a Web site that offers free college courses, I took classes on Resilience, Success, Becoming a Changemaker and Digital Storytelling. They were intriguing and helped me fill in the potholes that keeping me from moving forward on the road to success.
Now I’ve developed a cheat sheet of tools, questions, exercises I can do to refocus my thoughts, chase away the anxiety, regroup and reset. It’s a different approach, one that hopefully leads to different outcomes.
Because this year I do have big, hairy, audacious goals. I plan to finally finish and publish that novel I keep talking about and move on to writing a new one. I plan to launch a podcast, interviewing authors who will be appearing at local bookstores. I intend to launch a new toy on Amazon. And once I learn how to do that, I intend to launch even more products.
I intend to run a half-marathon with my husband, my sisters and their husbands. And in the summer, there will be triathlons – emphasis on the word “try.”
I intend to become an expert at a few things this year. One is options trading, an adventure that my husband and I have both embarked on learning. The other is digital marketing.
I intend to be grateful for the things I have, including good health and a stable disease. Statistically, my lifespan is only a matter of months and I have watched sister warriors fight shorter battles and lose.
Most of all, I intend to stay healthy despite what this disease and its side effects may throw at me. Because I still have a lot to do.