Thursday, December 28, 2006
And Then I Saw the Piñata
This is my third New Yearsy type post since I began blogging. I can’t believe how much my life has changed and yet still remained the same. Long ago, before I ever knew what blogging was, I decided I needed to carve out a place for myself in this world. I needed to make a mark on life somehow. I had finished grad school, my career was going well, and the part-time teaching was challenging and rewarding. I thought I felt good about my accomplishments, but somewhere deep down inside it didn’t seem like enough. “What would happen if I died tomorrow,” I thought to myself. “Who would ever know I existed, that I made a contribution to this world?” I began doing more, volunteering at with charitable causes, getting involved with various projects, giving everything I had within me to anyone who asked. I thought I was living passionately, but instead I was slowly dying.

And then 2004 rolled around and brought a cancer diagnosis. Suddenly life as I knew it changed. Nothing else existed except the single goal of waging a war and winning. Before the year ended, I had been through chemo, surgery, and declared cancer free. I welcomed 2005 with a vengeance as a new start. Instead I started what seemed an endless journey through reconstruction spanning the entire year. It didn’t matter though because it was a year of reconstructing as opposed to the prior year of what felt like deconstructing. I was trying to reconstruct a life post cancer, but I wasn’t sure what I was reconstructing. My life before was chaos. It was basically a flurry of responsibilities and duties and trying to find my place in this world.

By the end of 2005 I thought I figured it out. I needed to be still. I needed to understand what had transpired in my life and build the life I wanted, something that could make me proud. I tried to be still and plan rather than just jump in and do, but life post cancer kept infiltrating my quiet moments and the white noise would overtake the stillness and chaos would creep back in. When I would look deep within me, rather than find understanding and acceptance, I would see a deep, black, cavernous hole that was engulfing me from the inside out.

As 2006 has rolled on by, I have learned that life is simply a decision. At the beginning of this month I was facing a series of doctor appointments with various specialists to address the various physical ailments that may or may not have been associated with treatment or medication. On the way to the appointment I passed the former home belonging to my aunt and uncle whom have both passed away in the last couple of years. It is just down the street from my mom’s house and somehow the street seems vacant and soul-less without them there or without various family celebrations taking place there. The new family had just had their first family celebration there. As I drove past the house a flood of images came across my mind. In the trash bin set out at the street, the remnants of a piñata were visible. That piñata symbolized the changes at that house, the new family, the new celebrations, the new culture. Somehow the house had survived and once again happy memories were filling every corner. The house looked beautiful once again.

As I was discussing the results of a medical procedure with the doctor, the words she spoke were different than what I heard. She may have said, “The results look normal, but what you describe is not. Let’s keep an eye on this and have another exam in a year.” What I heard was, “You may not feel normal or trust your body, but you are going to be okay.” It was on that day that I made the decision to move on. I realized I could make a decision to be miserable or I could make a decision to be happy and truly understand what it means to live a passionate and full life. In a sense, the remnants of my own psychological piñata, as beat up as it was, lay strewn on floor as I left the office.

With that lesson, I move forward into 2007 with great hope and great joy in anticipation of the many changes that lie ahead. I’ve deconstructed, I’ve reconstructed, and now I look forward to making the decisions in my life that will bring happiness and excitement and rewarding challenges. Well, 2007, bring it on. I am ready. I am so ready.

Happy New Year to all the internets and my family and friends who continue to stop by. May you see your own piñata in the days ahead and a enjoy new year filled with great surprises!

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Written by Jeannette Vagnozzi
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Name: Jeannette
Location: Southern California, USA

This is my story about being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 39. I thought I was out of the woods, but four years late it came back. This is my quest to be a two-time survivor.

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