Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - January 13, 2023

A love letter to 2022

Being an introvert, I sometimes don't share my feelings as readily as those folks with more outgoing personalities. In fact, I think sometimes I am even a bit reluctant to share them with myself, as odd as that may sound.

Husband Art is fond of saying that life without logic is chaos, but life without emotion isn't worth living. So the trick is to keep some sort of balance between the two. But that is a challenge because, well, emotions just don't act in a rational way. Instead, some bits and pieces of life seem to have a far greater effect than others that are, in reality, equally important.

That balance was set askew for me last February when I received my breast-cancer diagnosis. Sister-in-law Linda had died of breast cancer in the late summer of 2019. While not saying as much, after my diagnosis, I wondered if I would be around for the birth of great-niece Emilia in September, the wedding of niece Larisa and Keenan in November or to enjoy another Christmas.

All the medical people had been upbeat. The tumor was caught early. Its various characteristics pointed to a good outcome. But I had already found myself in the pool of one-in-eight women who experience breast cancer. Then it took three surgeries, rather than the usual one, to "clear the margins" around the tumor. That placed me in the "club" of less than one in 100 women. It gave a certain feel of inevitability that spurs dark thoughts.

Near the end of last year, when I shared these feelings with Art, he said he wished he had known earlier how I felt. Art, like almost everyone in his family, is blunt about this life-and-death thing. On a visit home one year, his dad Tom handed him a slip of paper from a doctor's prescription pad. The doctor had scribbled a type of cancer and told Tom he had one to five years. The chemotherapy proved to be completely effective and so, Tom died 16 years later of old age.

Art's mother Donna was equally matter-of-fact. When Donna�s mother died, Art learned of her death in a letter from his mom. After all, long-distance phone calls cost money and the call wasn't going to bring her back to life. Later, when cell phones made long-distance calls a thing of the past, Donna would wait for her usual Saturday-afternoon chat with Art to share similar news. And when she was finished and had answered any questions he might have, she'd close the topic by saying, "Well, that's it!" and then go on to something else.

But I think I didn't tell Art because I really did not want my emotions to surface - to admit them to myself. Doing so would have given weight to them.

Another reason may have been our spring plans which had not included exceptions for cancer. We would go to Berlin to visit our German "kids" Nadja and Tim and long-time friend B�rbel and her family. Then we'd travel to Great Britain, staying in Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant, Wales - the small village where Art's great-great grandparents met. Daughters Mariya and Katie would join us with their spouses. Later, after they had to return home, Art's oldest daughter Karen and her daughter Katrina would arrive. All of these plans were transplanted from 2020 when they had been scuttled by the pandemic. Talking about the cancer might well lead to the conclusion we should cancel a second time. Not talking made me feel better as it allowed me to believe they would go forward.

And they did! When the surgeries were over, I was given the green light to implement our travels. We also visited long-time friend Jan and her family and celebrated her granddaughter Courtney's 21st birthday and grandson Sam's 18th. Art considers Jan to be the sister he never had and she considers him to be the brother she never had.

Radiation treatments in July and August followed immediately on the heels of our return. Then a fall trip with friends Deb and Lou to sites in southern Germany and Austria proved to be great fun. I had no idea how rewarding it would be, seeing them enjoy so many of the places we have visited in the past.

Emilia's birth, Larisa's wedding and Christmas seemed to almost blend together. It was a whirlwind time with our daughters and spouses, sister Gaila, brother Dave and their families, and friends. My heart was happy.

I am now experiencing the feelings a person sometimes does after an illness lifts - the feelings of ordinary things having a special importance to them. Was 2022 a perfect year? Certainly not. But parts of it were exceptionally good, and I really enjoyed time with family and friends, travel adventures to new and familiar places, and medical treatments that allowed me to do the first two.

In the end, I know it's just life. I had intended to post this column last week, but the "adventure" spawned by the furnace failure in Wisconsin just seemed to demand sharing and pushed this new year's column down the road a week. And while it was an unwelcome event, what will linger is a sense of satisfaction in having overcome yet another bump in the road.

I can't remember ever having written a love letter to something as intangible as a year before, so this may be a first. But I am grateful - and maybe just a bit more so than usual - to celebrate life's milestones and everyday moments, good or bad. Goodbye, 2022! Hello, 2023!

Top (l-r): Art reading a book to Tim's kids Timo (left) and Mats; brother Dave and his special companion Marilyn; Art with his "sister" Jan; Katie holding Emilia next to newly-married Larisa and me; Art with granddaughter Katrina and daughter Karen in Wales. Bottom (l-r): friends Deb (left) and Lou taking an ice cream break with Art at the Burghausen fortress in Germany; Nadja's children Luna and Leo enjoy a bike ride; friends Jo and her "main squeeze" John; Mariya takes a photo of Miriam, me, Katie and Matt at Horseshoe Pass in Wales; sister Gaila and me in the Manhattan town mall at Christmastime.

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