Things I Learned In 2011

I am not invincible. Like so many other 25-year-olds, I thought I was immune to all bad things. Injury and illness were far off in my future, I had youth and health on my side. Well, youth won’t keep you out of the hospital. I spent one month of 2011 living in one.

How to ask for help. I’ve always been stubborn and independent. I took a lot of pride in being self-sufficient about certain things. For me, asking for and receiving help quietly are hard to do. But being able to do so makes life so much easier.

I’m stronger than I thought. Not because of the things that have happened to me, but because of how I’ve chosen to deal with them.

When it comes to TV and movies, lighthearted is the way to go. If I’m going to escape into something, I want it to be enjoyable.

Life goes on. No matter how devastating something is, I still have to wake up the next day and go on with my life.

The saying “you can never go home again” is not true. In 2011, I moved back home  after seven years of being away. And I actually love being back. For years, I challenged myself to go outside of my comfort zone because I thought it was good for me, but that doesn’t make me happy. Being comfortable in my environment does.

Shaved poodles are kind of frightening. Poor Archie had a rough year too.

I used to take my fitness for granted. Not everyone can run, strength train, do yoga, or even move their body with ease. I can’t believe I never acknowledged how lucky I was to live pain-free before, and instead spent too much time wanting to be in better shape. Pfft.

Money can’t buy happiness, but it can improve my quality of life. In 2010, I chased my dreams and found work I loved. Work I spent 14 hours a day doing and still struggled to pay my bills with. In 2011, I settled down and accepted an 8-4 desk job with a better paycheck. It doesn’t sound as fancy as chasing my dreams, but it’s a lot more satisfying in completely different ways. I really enjoy having a life outside of work rather than have work be my life.

Pets are good for your health. Getting a dog during treatment was one of the best decisions I ever made. There were concerns in the beginning he might put me at risk of illness because dogs aren’t “clean.” But my family and I work at making sure he’s always sanitized, and I will argue to the death that dogs can do amazing things for your mood and spirit. Buster kept me strong in other ways by putting a smile on my face every single day.

Happiness isn’t something that needs to be chased down or found. Oftentimes it can come to me wherever I am in the world just by opening myself up to it.

Having all the free time in the world is only an advantage when you feel well enough to do something with that time. Being unable to leave bed for days at a time is mind-numbingly boring. For those of you who complain about having too much to do, being stuck doing nothing can be just as bad.

You can, and should, french toast just about anything.

It is so, so important I find ways to feel proud of myself outside of what I am physically capable of doing. Being fit is great, but it shouldn’t be my only source of self worth. I don’t love my legs because of what they do for me, I love my legs because they are mine. I need hobbies that don’t just rely on the abilities of my body, because I can lose those abilities in a second.

I can’t let the opinions of others dictate how I deal with things. Anyone who has been ill, injured, or hell, pregnant, knows that some people feel like they are suddenly allowed to give unsolicited advice. Just because so-and-so went through a similar ordeal does not mean I’m going to go through my own ordeal in the same way. Some days I actually felt guilty for feeling so sick after chemo because I heard of others who didn’t. Or I felt like a wuss when I still couldn’t lift 10lbs months after my arm surgery. In reality, I am the only one who sets the bar with how I deal with my own unique situation.

Memorable Posts From 2011:

And just like that, my life changed…

Why I’m No Longer A ‘Healthy LIving Blogger’

A long, hard road

Three Weeks To A Diagnosis


Radically Free

Lemon Cake For Three

The One About The Hair

Why Your Body Can’t (and Shouldn’t) Make You Happy


Baking With Spoons

The Last Word On Body Weight

On Betrayal Of The Body

I started 2011 in January feeling sick. I had a 10-day fever in the first couple weeks. On February 11, I shattered my elbow and had reconstructive surgery. For months I struggled with a slow and frustrating recovery while learning how to live my life now being physically limited. Just as I started a new job and scheduled a follow-up surgery to hopefully fix my arm for good, I was diagnosed with cancer on June 22. I’ve been sick and weak every day since. I had what will hopefully be my last cancer treatment on December 21, and will take what will hopefully be my last cancer related drug on December 31.

2011 has hands down been the hardest, most challenging year of my life. I have grown and learned a lot. A lot of which I can appreciate, none of which I really cared to deal with so early in life.

I would just like to give a big “fuck you” to 2011. I am happy to see this shit year end. I’m not naive enough to believe that it will all be over when the clock strikes midnight. But I’m really fucking happy to shake 2011 off and face 2012 with a renewed sense of optimism and energy.

So here’s to a great New Year!!

Posted on December 30, 2011, in Lessons Learned. Bookmark the permalink. 59 Comments.

  1. Ya F U 2011 :) Here’s to a better more fantastic 2012 :) CHEERS :)

  2. Life goes on. No matter how devastating something is, I still have to wake up the next day and go on with my life.

    This is so true. Ever since my husband’s cancer diagnosis I have people saying to me “You’re so strong. You just keep going.” I’m always tempted to ask them what other choice they think I have, but I just smile and say thanks. We keep moving forward because life goes on and we choose to live it.

  3. ::standing and clapping:: I am sending you a virtual t-shirt with FU2011 on the front, to wear on Dec 31st! :o) Congratulations on completing treatment and wishing you a VERY happy and healthy 2012. XO

  4. I started reading your blog right BEFORE you found out you had cancer. It’s been a BIG year for you, with so many changes. 2012 is going to rock!! I just know it.

  5. Throughout your shitastic year, you also gained some great friendships and support–both human and canine–and perspective you’ll (hopefully) carry with you for the rest of your long and healthy life. So fuck you to 2011, but thanks for the memories and the chance to make 2012 shine even brighter.

    After all, we’re defined not by what happens to us, but how we deal with what happens to us. From that angle, you rocked 2011 despite being handed a lifetime worth of crap. Onward and upward, my friend. ;)

  6. Susan,

    I love your spunk; I love your humor — you really make me laugh sometimes (especially about French toast – who know toast could be so funny??). I love how you’re totally ape-shit in love with Buster! I am totally awed by your ability to learn from your life experiences and grow. I love your wisdom, and in that regard, you make Yoda look like an amateur and he’s had centuries to gain his wisdom. (However, you may have had more than the past 25 years to build your wisdom, too)! Thank you for sharing your journey with all of us and just for being you! I envy your Mom having known you all your life. I’m wishing so hard for you to have had your very last chemo EVER! and that all your major travails are BEHIND you! A billion hugs for the New Year!

  7. “I would just like to give a big “fuck you” to 2011. I am happy to see this shit year end.”

    gasp! you kiss your puppy with that mouth?!

    LOL! I love New Years because it’s a great reminder to put the past in the past. I didn’t have a great year either, though you’ve helped me keep it in perspective (whine whine I didn’t get the job I wanted *stampsfoot*).

    That said, 2012 will be my bitch :)

  8. You, of anyone, deserve to give 2011 the middle finger. Thoughts and prayers for the best 2012 ever for you! Still working my way through all of your Toronto restaurant recommendations and the are all bang-on…thanks for those!

    • Good to hear the restaurants are still good! You never know if they can go downhill after a while, and even though it’s been less than a year it feels like so long since I’ve last been in Toronto! I miss it!

  9. Awesome, awesome post. I’m coming to the end of my own terrible year and look forward so much to 2012.

    I know it’s cold comfort, but the things you’ve learned this year do, in my opinion, make you much wiser than most other people your age. I know I didn’t learn a lot of those lessons when I was 25. May 2012 be a much more peaceful year for you!

  10. Amen, my friend!! You have taught me so much in your posts about cherishing health, our able bodies, and how best to handle when a friend or family member falls ill. you have shown me that my body shouldn’t be what makes me happy, life makes me happy, and having an able body is and should be a nice side effect of that, not what it revolves around. Thank you for your enduring spirit, inspiration and most of all, transparency. It hasn’t been all puppies and rainbows for you this year (okay, so the puppies part is true hehe!), but you’ve managed to get through it so strongly and smartly. I commend you and look forward to a strong and healthy start to 2012!!! XOXO

  11. Fuck cancer and fuck 2011, but thank YOU for being so open and honest about your journey. Your writing has helped me come to terms with what I’ve been going through and you’ve helped me realize that while we all travel a different path, the fears and frustrations are the same and it’s important to reach out. I’m not sure what we all did before the Internet, but it’s the best support group I’ve found. The care and compassion I’ve found from complete strangers has been extraordinary.

    Here’s to good health in 2012.

  12. When it comes to TV and movies, lighthearted is the way to go.
    I totally agree! I actually don’t normally watch other than lighthearted movies. Yes, not quality film, but who cares? If I’m looking for quality/education, I’m gonna read a book, not watch a movie. I watch movies to take my mind off.

    2011 was definitely a rought year for you, so here’s hoping 2012 brings you a lot of good things. And that it’ll be a year you beat cancer (for good!)!

    • Exactly! I don’t need anything extra in my life to depress me, movies included. And there are a lot of smart comedies out there, they’re not all stupid! I keep the serious stuff for books and newspapers :) (admittedly, I am a news FIEND, I read A LOT of news articles over the course of one day)

      • I should have listened to this sage advice and continued along with my “Felicity” marathon rather than switching gears last night and watching a documentary about the plight of the Tibetan people. I visited Tibet in 2006 so it is close to my heart, but I already know the situation and watching footage of monks being beaten didn’t exactly give me good thoughts before bedtime.

  13. Yup ~ FU 2011. Here’s to a great 2012 year!! Thank you for sharing your journey.


  14. So many succinctly, well said things…I have not had cancer myself but I went through a few years of my son’s treatment for leukemia and so many things you’ve said resonate with me. Truth be told, there is just no sugar-coating going through hell! Your honesty in sharing what you’ve gone through is a great gift. I wish you a much MUCH better 2012!

  15. You know my thoughts on 2011. What a messed up fucking year.

    Through it all Susan you’ve been an amazing reminder for me of lucky we are to be where we are, living, doing the things we are capable of doing – even if those things aren’t the things we used to be able do. Every time I feel sorry myself your resilience inspires me to love who I am where I am and your honesty reminds me that everybody hurts, and that many people hurt worse than me.

    Here’s to bigger and better things in 2012.

  16. Wishing you a happy and HEALTHY 2012, Susan!!

  17. Love this, Susan! This is the best thing I’ve read in a while.

    Here’s to a HAPPY, HEATHLY, and PUPPY-FILLED 2012!

  18. Your post made me cry. Bawl like a baby. And it gave me the chills. And it made me laugh–poor Archie. Way to go making me feel every emotion in the book in five whole minutes. You have a way of doing that, I suppose.

    I love you and am SUPER excited for 2012 because we get to hang out :)

  19. Here is to a complete 180 of 2011 for you Susan. You deserve it.

  20. You have definitely had a difficult year. I am so glad you are surviving it and coming out the other side with a positive attitude. And YES! Animals are the best cure!

  21. You’re awesome! I just thought you should know that. Happy 2012 to both you and the cutest puppy ever!

  22. “hear, hear”!
    Ditto, and all that good stuff!

    Oh and poor naked poodle, he needs a better year also. Lol


  23. i think i learned more from YOU this year and it helped put a lot of things in perspective. So thank you for that!

  24. I’ll gladly give a big f/u to 2011 on your behalf as well! This post is such a testament to the important things in life – happiness, love, friendship, family. With 2011 getting a nice little bitch slap from you as it exits this weekend, I hope you welcome 2012 with open arms. A nice clean slate with nothing but tons of potential. xoxo

  25. I loved this post…especially the FU at the end (I totally wasn’t expecting that, but I think you totally have the right to give the finger to 2011!) You are such an inspiration and since reading your blog, I no longer take my fitness for granted!

  26. I’m giving 2011 the proverbial finger for you.
    I WANT to give 2011 the finger, too, but it’s hard, because I know the shit I went through also led to some amazing things. Eight months of stressful job hunting for Tim eventually led to an amazing job that he loves…and two miscarriages, I’m hoping, will lead to our super awesome eventual baby that was the one that was meant to be ours.
    I guess I’ll only give 2011 half a finger for you, because I think you had similar stuff happen to me–cancer and injury totally blew chunks, but without them, you might still be living in Toronto, Buster-less. And that wouldn’t do at all.
    (blows party horn)

  27. I found myself nodding along with you and cheering along for you during this post. I admire your strength and your perspective. I hope that December 31st is the last time you are taking any cancer drug, and I’m sending you thoughts and prayers for a happy and healthy 2012.

    Oh, on the pet front, I couldn’t agree more. I helped out this year with an organization called Critters for the Cure ( that gives 90% of every dollar raising to women battling cancer. The financial assistance goes from medical bills for the human to adoption and vet fees. xoxo

  28. Great post! I don’t even know you but think about you and what you have faced this year often. You are so incredibly strong and knowing how you face these situations in your life gives me strength to face what now seem like the tiniest hurdles I may face. You always seem to remind me to be grateful for what I can do, even the smallest things like downward dog! So thank you!!! And F-U

  29. You are an absolute inspiration! I was up reading your posts until 1:30am…and I’m hooked! I’m 36 and I have to have a hysterectomy in the new year because of being diagnosed with hyperplasia where some of the cells are turning into cancer. I have been so scared, but your blog has helped me so much. If you can do it with such a positive outlook than so can I! I was so inspired that I wrote about you on my blog today and I linked up to you, you can find it at
    I hope it’s acceptable, please let me know if you need me to make any changes. I’m brand new at this blogging world and am just learning the etiquette!

  30. Fuck you 2011! Here’s to much better things in 2012. :)

  31. Thanks for sharing your journey. You are an amazing woman and I wish you strength, good health and happiness in the coming year and btw, Buster is adorable! Sara

  32. Man, Happy 2012 to you!!! 2011 sucked and I know 2012 is going to be better for you!

  33. Happy New Year! I hope we both have lighter days ahead in 2012 :-)

  34. I’m so in awe of you….truly. I hope you know what an inspiration you are. I can only imagine how much your posts have helped others who are fortunate enough to read them. You are going to rock 2012, I can feel it!

  35. what’s your plan when you’re declared cancer-free? :)

    • Cry like a baby? Haha. I’m actually really excited to go back to work. I think I may ease myself back into doing part-time from home for a few weeks, but I’m really looking forward to doing something productive again. I plan on going to Toronto to visit friends as soon as I’m allowed to travel again, then Colorado in May. I also want to get a place of my own when I can afford it :)

  36. You must be incredibly strong to have got through a gruelling year. I hope 2012 brings you lots of joy and happiness.

  37. Great blog! Happy new year! I will toast to the end of your treatment. Best wishes!


  38. I totally support your fuck you to 2011. Here’s to 2012 being a much better year for you!

  39. Pets do make your life better. I’m so glad you have Buster in your life! Fuck 2011. Bring on 2012!

  40. Ok, I have so much to say to you, I just want to transport you to LA so we can talk!

    Anyhow, I love you. 2011 has been a bitch to you and you’re the last person to deserve it. I always ask myself, “why can’t evil dictators and pesky cockaroaches get cancer instead!?”. Life is sucky, but life is about how to make the “sucky” stuff less sucky. And you know what, I think you’re really good at that. I’m so happy you go Buster. I really hope my dad gets a dog, but I think he’s afraid the dog will out live him and that upsets him. anyhow, I agree with you that pets do wonders. As does zofran, right ;)

    love you lots. call/text/email anytime you need to bitch/moan/cry/vent about anything. I’m here. Always.

    Here’s to a less sucky year.

  41. Yeah, there are definitely two sides to every coin. I used to hate sick days because I felt like I was wasting free time by being bed ridden.

    Oh, and unsolicited advice? Yeah, I can only imagine what you go through. Being pregnant make it hard to go to the grocery store without all sorts of people giving advice and fondling my baby bump….embarrassing. Your situation is probably much harder since it’s your actual life/health involved.

    Well at least you always have your good looks;)

  42. YES – say it to 2011!!! May this year show you that all the crap you went thru brings you out on the better end & you have amazed me all the way thru!

  43. greensandjeans

    2012 definitely has great things up its sleeve for you! The universe owes you one!

  44. If I were as articulate at sharing my thoughts as you are, this blog post is basically exactly what I would have to say about 2011. I’ve been following your blog all throughout your treatment as I dealt with my AML (diagnosed in May, in remission by June, and a successful bone marrow transplant in August), but have only commented once before. And although our diagnoses and treatments were different, we’ve experienced so many of the same things, both physically and emotionally.

    2011 was by far the crappiest year of my 21-year-old life, but it sure did change my perspective of how I view myself, how I should treat myself, and the type of person I want to portray to the world. So here’s to an amazing 2012 for the both of us as we carry on these lessons and recover from the crazy ordeals we went through!

    Oh, and I totally need to try french toasting more of my food.

  45. You’re going to rock 2012, Susan. Congrats congrats congrats for finishing up your treatment! Someone very close to me was diagnosed with lymphoma, too, and none of us are sorry to say sayonara to chemo.

    2011 was a rocky one for me, too… I also moved home after being away for 7, which I thought would be TERRIBLE and ended up being pretty great.

  46. Big giant hugs to you! I hope and pray that 2012 is a great year for you!!! xoxo

  47. you are such a beautiful person, Susan…inside and out I wish you the happiest new year and can’t wait to see what 2012 has in store!

  48. Susan, I LOVE this post. While I truly wish that you didn’t have to learn these lessons from such trying times, I’m glad that you have learned them and shared them with everyone. They are gems.

    And yes to a big FU2011! Thanks for not sugarcoating that- as I fully agree.

  49. Amazing post. You have been through so much in 2011, but you have learnt so much from it and I’m sure you’re only taking the positive into 2012. I wish you all the best for this year – may it bring you health, fulfilment and joy.

  1. Pingback: What Did You Learn in 2011? « A Clean Surface.

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