New Beginnings: One Year Post-Biopsy

Today is the one-year anniversary of my biopsy.

I had big plans for the blog these past few weeks: a post about anniversaries and milestones, a post about a coming name change, another capturing the weird world of living with tissue expanders (among other things, I now have a superpower: my boobs can predict weather changes). But then I got walloped with the respiratory virus/sinus infection/germfest from hell, and instead of writing prolifically, road-tripping to a concert, and enjoying daily walks on the local greenway, I’ve spent the week in a state of anxious exhaustion, worried about how long I’ll be sick, and angry that all my plans have been derailed by unexpected illness.

It’s a strange throwback to this time last summer.

I’ve been thinking a lot about markers and milestones lately. I attended my twenty-fifth college reunion back in April, and at our class meeting on Saturday morning, we went around the room and heard an update on everyone’s lives. As I thought about what to say, I realized just how eventful—and if you’ll pardon the cliché—what a crazy roller coaster ride the last five years had been. In the time between my 20th and 25th college reunions

  • I walked away from an on-again, off-again relationship that wasn’t working;
  • Met, fell in love, planned a wedding with, and married my now-husband Steve;
  • Created and wrote a regular blog about being a forty-something first-time bride;
  • Bought a new house with my new husband and moved for the first time in ten years;
  • Lost two beloved cats;
  • Acquired two wonderful stepsons (and saw both graduate from college and get settled into their first apartments);
  • Acquired a dog-by-marriage and a new cat with the new house.

That was between April 2012 and June 2016. From the last year alone, add

  • Got diagnosed with breast cancer;
  • Underwent chemo and radiation treatments;
  • Had a bilateral mastectomy;
  • Created and wrote a regular blog about having cancer;
  • Completed treatment and was declared cancer-free.

And that’s just the short list.

It’s been, shall we say, a lot to absorb.

What’s in a name?

So, as my final major reconstructive surgery approaches (nine days and counting), I’ve been thinking about how to recognize the shift—the end of a year of illness and treatment, the beginning of healing and long-term recovery—here on the blog. Language is powerful, and “Still Life, With Cancer” no longer accurately reflects the state of my body, and I think it’s important to reinforce my cancer-free status in my mind.

I’ve been considering several different alternatives. My first thought was “Adventures in Cancerland,” fitting for several reasons. It makes a nice literary allusion to an alternate world full of surprises and absurdities, and I suspect most of us who’ve come to inhabit Cancerland would agree that a diagnosis feels very much like diving down the proverbial rabbit hole. And while I no longer have cancer, I still feel as if I am in Cancerland, with more surgery ahead, ongoing side effects from treatment, and the fact tripping over my own mortality has changed my experience of the world forever.

Apparently, I’m far from the first to have thought of this comparison, as the title has been used, more than once. I could do a slightly different iteration of it, or add a “my” or a “further,” but that triggers resistance in my gut. I don’t want to “own” Cancerland so fully at this point, and I definitely don’t want any “further” adventures beyond recovering from this one. So I think that one’s out.

I also considered another allusion, “The Cancerland Diaries,” which seems accurate enough, and pays homage to a writer I much admire, David Sedaris, author of The Santaland Diaries. Sedaris is also a chronicler of moments of absurdity and surrealism that are only too real. But I’m not as funny or biting as Sedaris, so the echo may not be entirely apt.

I could keep it simple with “Still Life, After Cancer,” which is clear and accurate, but perhaps belies some of the complexities that remain even after being declared free of the disease. Since I kept coming back to the titles that evoked how surreal the whole year has felt, my inner nerd was compelled to look up the etymology of the prefix “sur.” According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “sur” derived from the Latin super, the root of the Old French sour or sur, and means “over, above, beyond, in addition.” It also has a nice connection to “survivor.” That led me to consider one more possibility: “Still Life, Beyond Cancer.”

The current URL will still take the reader to my blog, so no one else need remember the new name, unless inspired to do so. But I am curious, dear reader: what do you think? I’d love to have your input, via the poll below.

In the meantime, I’m resting up, taking antibiotics and cough syrup, and repeating to myself—as I have so often this year—“This, too, shall pass.” Here’s to reporting on a happy and healthy five years at my 30th college reunion.

8 thoughts on “New Beginnings: One Year Post-Biopsy

  • Personally, I think you should call your blog whatever you want to, but my own choice would be “Still life, beyond cancer.” Just because it reflects what you have gone through, and that you are now moving beyond that phase of your life. Thanks for sharing your journey though your blog. It has been inspiring to read, and also good to know that you came through your treatment and are cancer free. Wishing you the best, always!

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  • I know I wouldn’t be able to do what you do, Sandee. Because I wouldn’t be able to handle reading all of the casual comments and opinions people might choose to share after reading anything I might write about. But, for what it is worth. I have so enjoyed your writing both pre and post cancer. I look forward to reading your posts to come, regardless of the blog name. And I wanted to vote. But I’m struggling to vote for one of these names. I think it is because they all have the word “cancer” in it. Your memoirs are powerful messages of courage and strength and hope. I think they are meaningful to anyone who might be struggling to step outside of their preconceived notions of what they thought their life was supposed to look like and embrace the life they are living with what ever obstacle/challenge/cancer they must face. I wish there was an option that didn’t have the word cancer in it. :). The very best of luck with your reconstruction and so sorry for your recent illness. Summer bugs are the absolute worst!!! Be well!!

    Gently submitted for your consideration.

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    • Juliet, thank you for your thoughtful comment and the immense compliment. It’s really making me think. I do want to move beyond even “beyond,” and it means a lot to me that you think my words might have a larger impact. Thank you so much for reading, and for sharing your thoughts!

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