There is a wonderful Myanmar expression which describes an act which is pointless, or will not be understood or appreciated (similar to throwing pearls among swine) and that is “playing harp for a water buffalo”. I just love the image it conjures up, although who knows – perhaps we are not judging buffalo fairly! How do we know that buffalo really do not enjoy harp playing?
This morning I read another Myanmar expression – “to praise the pickling of your own fish”. This was explained by relating it to the phrase “blowing your own trumpet” in other words boasting about your own work or achievement. Something I usually feel rather uncomfortable about.
However, this post is all about singing the praises of my own pickled fish! As I have been preparing my three words for 2013, I have also been reflecting back over the year, and the challenges it has thrown, the adventures and surprises which have come my way and the thoughts which have been inspired by all manner of sources. These have led to an eclectic mix of topics and a wide range of blog posts! This year, to date I have pressed “publish” 69 times sending a new post into the unknown space that is the blogosphere with each of those clicks.
The year has been a mix. There have been unexpected health issues which have sabotaged plans and shaken the confidence which I had been building, in the process destroying plans and dreams to a certain extent. However, among those difficult times, there have been some amazing experiences, and more than a few escapades. And I have visited 2 new countries (Norway and Timor Leste), as well as a new territory (Macau), which is not bad at all, all things considered. I have gone back over the posts of the year and selected a few of them to highlight the year, and to reflect on some of the ideas and thoughts which have taken shape.
It has been a tough year in the breast cancer blogging community, with too many of our friends being stolen as the disease marches on relentlessly, and the emotional, physical and psychological toil that takes on us all. Even in Yangon, I have been distraught that three women I know here have been diagnosed recently. I continue to be moved and motivated to highlight the enormous challenges for women where the do not have access to information or treatment for breast cancer. It tears at our souls and rips our hearts. We must keep on.
My choice of blogging headlines is thus a mix, reflecting this mixed year.
I started the year by relating the tale of my travels to the ancient city of Mrauk U in a remote part of the country, and a highly memorable day with the women in Chin villages.
At the beginning of February, I was off on another escapade. My blogging friend Terri was not far from me, as she worked through her Adventure of Hope. It was an irresistible opportunity to meet up with her, I knew we were like minds and we managed to meet up in Hong Kong! The trip was inspirational, but in some ways was bittersweet as the same week has seen a health worry of my father and still palpable shock as two incredible blogging friends were stolen by cancer. This prompted thoughts on the incredible strength of voices, and the extent to which they belie the physical fragility caused by cancer as it progresses. I struggled to believe that women with such strong and vital voices were so terribly ill and would die.
At the same time, we were again confronted with the spectre of a cancer diagnosis in the family, and this stirred thoughts on my own experiences of cancer and parenting and what I found to be the most difficult challenges of my life.
The end of the February saw me visiting the very young country of Timor Leste and spending an incredible weekend with the Dr who I first consulted with “the lump”. It was wonderful to see her again and to see how friendships form from some of the most difficult challenges thrown in our path.
In March, I was packing my bags again and dreaming of starfish! That was followed up at the start of April by my regular oncology checks and the surprise de-portation, which derailed my plans to travel to India to spend time with family.
I was shaken to learn this year, that the trust I have in the blogging community could on occasion be niaive and this prompted a great deal of thought, and a discussion which I called “in trust we blog”. A lively and fascinating discussion ensued which spawned a follow up and exposure of the expression “gobsmacked“!
The theme of packing, unpacking and re-packing continued as June approached, as I embarked on what i knew would be an emotional and intense visit back to Scotland. The priority was to spend time with my father and help with the practical arrangements with his care. That time was special, but limited and demanding both emotionally and physically. On my return to Yangon I became very ill and there started the unwanted escapade involving pulmonary embolism, believed to be linked to Tamoxifen (a rare side effect) and exacerbated by the tough schedule and lack of rest. That was a frightening and low point and I remember being horribly afraid in a different way to the fear which the “you have cancer” words bring. This was much more immediate. An unexpected week in hospital and further week in Bangkok stopped me very much in my tracks and I returned quietly to Yangon late in July and lay low for a while, licking my wounds and regrouping.
My recovery became evident again, when I decided to have a bit of a makeover of the blog both in its look and format, but also by revisiting my purpose of blogging. After all it had been some time since this was hatched! This post generated a great deal of discussion and further thought, which I still intend to revisit.
As I was overhauling the blog and explicity intending to share more of life and work here, Marie of Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer was forming a wonderful challenge in which we were invited to Celebrate the Ordinary around us. This was a wonderful project and for seven days I took delight in sharing images of the everyday. My gentle recovery and rebuilding was demonstrated in my very special acquisition of the year – a happy green bicycle built for three!
October is a strange time in the Breast Cancer Community, and one I find particularly poignant as the run of landmark days including the anniversary of diagnosis, surgery, first chemo pass right through the month. My own focus remains around the concern of women (particularly) in places where access to information and treatment is highly limited and was the focus of my plea to remember that the world is not an equal place. This unease was heightened by the timing of my Big Check early in October and some unexpected and unwanted blood results and extra tests. I used writing as a way to deal with this and my post In a scary space was written in the two hours between injection of radioactive dye, and the ensuing bone scan to evaluate whether there could be metastasis to my bones. I still find it difficult to re-read, but I am glad that I recorded that very unique time when confronted with such fear.
As we moved into November, the atmosphere of optimism and change continued to build and we were all very excited and encouraged to learn that the newly returned President of the United States, Barack Obama would be visiting our country. Not only did he visit our country, he came to our city, drove down our road and WAVED RIGHT AT US!! Yes, I am still all of a flutter about that day and even followed up with a personal note to President Obama!
As I arrive in December, I realise that the month took on a rather bookish flavour with a post inspired by the quotation “I fall down. I get up again.” from a book I was reading and which I found strongly resonated with my own experience of breast cancer. and my final favourite post was also about paper and books and all inspired by a kingfisher!
So as the year closes, and I look back at what has been a packed year with many unexpected challenges, I can clearly see from these bloggly headlines, that I am one incredibly lucky individual who has pickled a good many fish. I have only been able to do that, however, thanks to the inspiration, support and encouragement of very many talented and prolific fish picklers! Thank you!