Aunt Life

I shared in my last post that my family has experienced some loss lately. The most recent was my Aunt Barbara, my dad’s sister. She had breast cancer, not the same as mine, and it eventually spread to other areas of her body. I last saw her when I was in New York for my other aunt’s funeral, but I’ve talked to her on the phone since. I can still hear her voice and her sass. I hope I never forget what she sounds like. I have a lot of my father’s traits, and I’d like to think I have some of my Aunt Barbara’s, too.

I used to spend a lot of time with her when I was little. I went to stay with her and my grandmother occasionally and we’d go shopping, play bingo, and hang around the house. I’d bring my toys or my bike and just play. I remember that I would spend hours using the staircase as some kind of apartment community for my troll dolls or Barbies. We’d also do most major holidays at her house, too, since she lived downstairs from my grandmother. It was a home away from home.

All losses suck, but hers really sucks. She was an awesome aunt and, until my sisters talked about it, I hadn’t really thought about her as a teacher. She taught us how to be aunts. Yes, we have more than one aunt, but she was our constant. Birthdays, holidays, milestones…she was always there. She set an example for how an aunt should be, and while I have absolutely slacked here and there (who doesn’t?), I intend on changing that. I want to be the Aunt Barbara of aunts because she was so good at it – the gold standard, if you will. She may not have been perfect in all ways, but no one is. She loved me and my sisters hard. Years from now I want my nieces and nephews to remember me in the same fond way.

This was something else I’ve been thinking about lately. How important the role of an aunt is in a child’s life. We’re friends and we’re family. We are full of love and tons of fun. We’d do just about anything for our nieces and nephews. The same could be said for uncles, I guess. I can’t wait to watch my nieces and nephews grow up and turn into awesome people, and I’m looking forward to being there and supporting them (or spoiling them, haha) along the way.

Merry Christmas!

Brad and I had a great holiday spent with family. We were spoiled rotten, as usual, and indulged in some delicious food.

I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting these past few weeks. As we near the end of every year, I think we all spend a little time reflecting. Maybe more so this time around since it’s the end of a decade. What were we doing 10 years ago? What were we doing 20 years ago? How have our lives changed? How are they the same?

I’ve been thinking about a lot of stuff lately and I’ve wanted to write about it, but I’ve felt like I needed to organize my thoughts so I’m not bouncing all over the place. I’m still not quite sure my thoughts are organized, but I’m working on it.

I guess my biggest take-away from the last few years has been mortality. I was diagnosed with and survived cancer in 2017-2018. Part of me feels like I’ve been given a second gift of life and I need to take advantage of that. I had a conversation with a fellow cancer survivor recently and he told me that I didn’t owe anyone anything. I believe that, but I do feel like I owe a little something to myself. I feel like I need to take this chance and use it. I need to take care of my mind and my body. I need to live…because that’s what I’m meant to do. I’m meant to live, and I think I’m also meant to do great things. Things I won’t be able to do if I don’t live every day to its fullest potential. How cliché, right?

Anyway, I’m a work in progress with all those things. I’m working on my physical and my emotional health. I’m exercising daily and I have a great fitness and nutrition support group. I also got this fun little book that has me spending a little bit of time each day on myself, it’s called Zen as F*ck. Excuse the language, but it’s so appropriate for my mindset and attitude. I’m also volunteering with the American Cancer Society, and that’s helping me on the “do great things” thing…that and my day-to-day work as an ABA therapist. It’s some of the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done in my life.

2018 and 2019 had some lows that also had me thinking about mortality. We lost three loved ones in 2018 and three in 2019. I’ve heard people say that death comes in threes, and I wish it weren’t true. Four out of the six deaths were cancer related. Two of them were friends who were taken far too soon. I went to two of the four funerals in New York. It’s always bittersweet, because the loss of a loved one sucks, but getting to see my relatives is nice. If only we weren’t always meeting up for a funeral.

So, this is part one of my year-end reflection. A summary of sorts. I’ll be back in the next few days to share more about some of the bigger things I’ve been thinking about.

Seasons Greetings

I’ve wanted to pop in and say hello for a while and kept forgetting. Thank you, chemo, for the short-term memory loss. And, you know, for still being alive and all that. I have so much to update!

I’m still cancer-free. YaY! I’ve been to my oncologist, gynecologist, and my breast surgeon for regular exams and all is well. I’m still going every four weeks for the Lupron shot and taking the Femara. That’s where I’m at with all that.

I’m still volunteering with the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life. I’ve decided not to do the golf tournament again this year. I might revisit it next year, but this year I’m volunteering for the event. The local director would like for me to be a community champion and try to recruit some teams and sponsors. I’m excited to give it a whirl. I forget that I worked in a small marketing and development role for quite some time at a previous employer. I’m excited to pull those skills out of my bag and use them again.

On a sad note, we lost another friend to cancer this year. On Halloween, our friend James passed away. He would have been 40 in January, I believe. He left behind a wife and two daughters. He was such an amazing guy, the best kind of friend. It really sucks that he’s gone. Like the sun got a little bit less bright in so many lives. It was actually kind of special that he passed on Halloween because it was his favorite time of year. If he could have picked a time to go, it would have been this time. We’ll miss him every day.

On a happy note, I just submitted my last exam for the Verified Course Sequence for BCBA certification! I still (STILLLLLLLLLL) need to finish my thesis so I can finish my Masters, but that’s okay because I need to finish accumulating my supervised independent field work hours, which will probably take me through March. I need 1500 hours and there’s a lot that comes into play with what’s acceptable for experience hours, so I end up with anywhere from 80-100 hours a month. So I’m hoping to have everything I need completed by the end of the spring semester. Then I’m going to study my butt off over the summer so I can take the certification exam. And fail. Like 900 times. Seriously, I have so much test anxiety.

No travel planned for the immediate future. Our last trip was to West Virginia, Staten Island before that. The drive was absolutely gorgeous, through the mountains. Makes me want to walk the Appalachian Trail. With a weapon, of course. For the creepers.

We went to a hockey game recently. It was Hockey Fights Cancer Night at the Stingrays. We had a really nice time and want to try to make it to some more games this season. They won, too, which made it even better! What else? My entire family was here for Thanksgiving, so that was fun. I always enjoy seeing my nieces and nephew. I’ve started a mug collection…thank you, Marshall’s. It started with one, “Make it Happen.” Then there was, “She believed she could, so she did.” And then there were cats, and Peanuts, and Nightmare Before Christmas, and…you get the picture? At less than $5 a pop, it’s hard to not buy one or two whenever I’m in Marshall’s or TJ Maxx.

Oh! Brad and I did the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk in October. We had a nice time at the event. Our friends Chanda and Ms. Beth joined us, which was great.

I feel like I’m forgetting something I wanted to share and as soon as I hit publish, I’m going to curse. I guess that’s all for now. I’ll try to pop in more frequently and share a little bit more about Life After C.

❤ Jen