Quick health update for those who find this through my website rather than Facebook. While the beginning part of this week was dominated by after-chemo side-effects, since Thursday, things have been pretty good. The first cardiology visit put an end to the whole blood thinner debate that's been going on for almost two months and I am now on Eliquis. For those of you who didn't know about this part of the saga...just know, this is a good thing! This weekend I chased a bit of normal life with some photography Saturday morning (with the hubby's help) and put in an appearance at a goodbye party for a friend and fellow artist who is moving to Israel and also 3060 ArtWork's monthly "Hilltop Art Hop". Went to church this morning. A lazy Sunday afternoon nap and now a bit of computer work and laundry. While I still struggle with some of the less visible side-effects (some foods don't taste right, a bit of neuropathy in hands and feet, and not as much strength as I used to have), my hope is that things are now on a bit more of an even keel and while chemo treatments will always set me back, I can remember, it does get better after a few days.
At my first visit to the cardiologist, he looked through my medical record for the past 2 months and said something like, “well you’ve been through…well, you’ve had quite…quite a…journey.” The word “journey” had just a bit of questioning tone to it as if asking permission to call it that. I laughed and said that I too consider it a journey. The exchange made me think of a recent Facebook post I’d read about the insensitive things people say to people who have cancer or other life-threatening diseases. To tell you the truth, the article and comments made me think we just need to give each other a break. Most people don’t mean to be rude…turn that anger toward your cancer cells rather than lash out at the person who said something “stupid”. However, several comments on using the word “journey” took me by surprise. Many people don’t like the term in reference to having a disease, hence my cardiologist hesitancy to use it. I get it. In my earlier post, I explained I’m not fond of the battle/warfare analogies, but it doesn’t upset me if someone uses them.
I think many people equate journey with a trip, a vacation, something fun, which it can be. But, for me, a journey has a deeper connotation to it. There is an element of struggle in a journey. When I hear the word “journey”, it evokes the literary genre known as the “epic journey”. Before you start to call me a bit highbrow…did you enjoy The Lord of the Rings trilogy? Because that’s one the 20th century’s most well-known works of the genre. I see many parallels in a story like this to someone struggling with an illness. Ordinary people are called to do something beyond their daily lives. Frodo and his friends are ordinary hobbits living in the quiet of the Shire. There is an urgency to begin the journey because the danger is great. They rush to join the rest of the fellowship, the group of people united in this common cause. There is a danger or great problem that must be solved. The “one ring” must be destroyed to defeat the powers of Sauron in Mordor. There are mistakes and setbacks. Frodo is injured early on and later is captured by a giant spider. Both times the quest looks hopeless for a time. They meet new friends and they join in the journey. Merry and Pippen encounter the Ents and, after some reluctance, they join in to help them destroy the fortress/dam of the evil Saruman (a servant of Sauron) at Isengard. Many times, the fellowship travels and works together, but sometimes there are things they must do alone. Frodo, alone, must be the one who destroys the ring. Returning home, things seem different. Some embrace their destiny. Aragorn becomes king. Some remain stuck in the events of the past. Frodo writes memoirs and eventually goes to join the elves in their homeland. Others move on. Sam marries his sweetheart, has a family, and makes a life for himself in the Shire.
Cancer and other diseases often strike out of nowhere, your life changes fast. Doctors want treatment to start as soon as possible. The disease needs to be destroyed. There are setbacks (mass being bigger than expected, reactions to medicines, other health problems rearing their ugly head because of the stress). You have friends and family, your “fellowship”, helping you, and you meet new friends along the way that join in your struggle and help you defeat the disease. But it’s you alone that must have the chemo infusion, or the radiation, or the surgery. Normal life sometimes seems like a long-lost dream. Can you embrace a new opportunity, like Aragorn, or move on as Sam did? There a certainly other parallels that I’m sure you can see, and I hope I haven’t stretched some of the analogies too far.
Journeys don’t have to be unpleasant. I view my evolution as a nature photographer as a journey as well. As a scrapbooker in the late 2000’s I started to want better photos. I attended a nature photography workshop at a local park. I bought a slightly better camera than the little point and shoot I was using. I read books, I researched on the internet. I took classes. I started to go to workshops. There was almost an urgency to my quest for knowledge. I placed in contests, got published in a calendar and the local park’s magazine…and then I hit a wall, a setback. I was taking good photos. I had the technical knowledge, but there was something missing. I now know that was “vision”. In 2014, I was blessed enough to become plugged into a “fellowship” of photographers and other artists here in Columbus who have changed my life. I have done more, traveled more, and put myself out of my comfort zone in the last 5 years than in the 20 before that. I crave being out in nature taking photos. I miss it now as I write this hoping to get out this weekend for just a little bit as my strength allows. A journey like this doesn’t have a great problem to be solved or a danger to be destroyed. A journey like this is about finding yourself and your God-given gifts. There have certainly been struggles. Not on the “epic” scale of fighting the evil Sauron or defeating cancer, but struggles to learn, to grow, to figure out how to talk to people in galleries and other art events when you are naturally an introvert. There have been rejections by galleries and setbacks of having to cancel a show due to this illness, but I would do it all again if I had to in order to be who I am now versus who I was in ten years ago. I honestly think photography saved me. I would not be as strong physically or emotionally now if it had not come into my life when it did. I believe my journey as a photographer will help me with all the other journeys to come.
About the photo: These kinds of places remind me of the Chinese proverb, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." We never know what is on the road ahead of us, whether it's a physical road or the journey of life. AEP Recreation Lands, South East Ohio.