The green journal

It’s rush hour here in Ottawa. Early rush hour, but now with flexible work schedules it seems from 3 pm onwards everyone is hitting the road. I’m on the porch of my downtown apartment, which has steps leading down to the sidewalk. I guess you might call it a walk-up. A very busy road it to my right and it’s clogged up with cars. I can’t hear them too much, however, because my right ear is not hearing very well lately. It may be a side effect of the radiation. It may be that my ear is full of wax. Probably it is both. My father took a look in there and said it was very waxy. He then tried putting in drops while I told him not to poke my ear drum, and gave him an all-around hard time.


Radiation or not, I probably need to get these ears cleaned. That and stop watching Youtube videos about people getting their ears cleaned, because it’s gross. (but cool too, because I find that weird stuff fascinating)


This is one of those days when I cannot stand being told to rest. Zsolt is head-deep in his new job, so cannot play with me. I’m locked out of my work email so cannot take a peek at the accumulating correspondence that need to be sorted. And project wise I’m a bit dried up at the moment.

Lost in a land of chemo and recovery and destructive anticipation.

I’ve come across videos and blog posts that made a very important point around chronic illness: stop feeling sorry for yourself and do something. Do something for your life because you are here to live it. Don’t hide behind pity (self or otherwise). Create pathways in the mind that don’t focus on the fear or pain, but rather reinforce the constructive, the creative, and the happy.  And to do all this, you must do something. Because you start feeling very sorry for myself when all you do is lay on the couch.

Some days it’s okay to lay on the couch. Sometimes I MUST lay on the couch. But when I can get up and move and not feel zombified, it’s really wrong to just stay there letting the sadness sink deeper.


Thing is – I don’t know what to do! So I have come out onto the porch to write a blog post.

There is a green journal in my place, tucked in amongst my other writing (stories, drafts, thesis, etc). This journal was written upon meeting Zsolt. It’s about my going to Hungary, him coming to Canada and our moving to England. It’s full of wondering about the future and love and commitment. It’s really a trip to re-read these many years later. I can see how circumstances have changed, but even more important, how much I’ve changed too.


I was happy but lost at 23. And actually felt like a failure – I had expected great things, and clear directions from myself. I thought I would know where life was headed. But after four years of psychology, and having dropped out of Photography to go to Hungary, I was literally floundering and without purpose.

There’s this list where I write out what I’m good at: taking instructions, helping being, listening,


There’s this list where I wrote out what I’m okay at: drawing, photography, psychology, speaking

Isn’t it funny I never wrote ‘writing’ on those lists? Or storytelling? (Or project creation/management, or networking or designing or community building . . . but of course I couldn’t back then, because I’d never tried to do those things)There I was in Hungary – feeling like I didn’t fit in, couldn’t understand anyone and had no purpose – filling up my green journal with observations of life. Writing in the park about the church across the yard, and the school children, and how the tourists were watching me as much as I was watching them. It was such a natural way for me to be – the writing – and a talent too, right in front of my eyes on the page, and I didn’t even see it. Instead I felt disappointed for my lack of purpose, and my lack of money making potential.


It makes me wonder what I cannot see in front of me right now. What am I missing? What important element is there to notice and embrace? And is it only time and life that will reveal things, or is there a way to force it to my attention now?

(Can I pop this pimple of potential? Yeah, I’m fascinated with popping pimples too, as well as looking into ears)

This is SUCH a self-absorbed blog post. Very self-ruminating. Bumpyboobs has become my green journal.

In a way, I feel lost as I did those 10 years ago. Cancer has changed everything once again. All the projects have stopped. Even my job had to be put on hold. Heck, I’ve even published my novel. So what now? What is my purpose now? Can I get back there, do I need to reposition – and how?!

Are there new pathways I can carve into my mind that will take me away from the cancer pity? Do I need to make it a productive part of my life? And if so, how? I’m not going to become an advocate, so what is this illness forcing me to experience? How I supposed to learn from this – what can I create with this? What can I do despite this? Who am I now?


I am back there, like ten years ago, floating and uncertain. But I’m much, much further too. Far more confident in myself – and I know no matter what, I am not a failure and there is no loss. Just life. Just living. Just a lot of learning and experiments.


We’ll see what happens next.

9 thoughts on “The green journal

  1. Hi there! I’m not sure how I even came across your blog but was recently diagnosed Stage IV in March and enjoy reading about your journey. I find it comforting and love your writing style. You will find what’s next for you. Hang in there!!!

  2. Thanks for this. I’ve been having a tough few weeks here sparking up some depression, and I feel all the things you are feeling about myself at 53. And cancer hovers ever so bleakly over my shoulder, just out of sight of my eyes (ha!), and sometimes it can be ignored, and sometimes it cannot. But I need to get my ass up off the couch and go BE in life because this is it!! I was going to pass, but I’m going to my new writer’s group tonight. I’m going to participate. So you at 33 are an inspiration. Maybe you always have been. 🙂 Warm hugs coming your way. XO

    • It’s so good to hear you decided to go to the class. I hope it was great. Yes, we need to be – and that means taking action. It’s really not easy at times, and I’ve failed to act often enough. But those moments like a good chat or a writing group or a small trip… or a cleaned kitchen… they matter.

  3. Catherine,

    You can’t possibly realize the tremendous impact that your blogs have on those who have joined your journey. I am just one person, and I am so inspired by your clear and brave perspective. Life isn’t always defined by tenure but it is sure by essence, sincerity, intelligence. Please don’t feel lost when you are a beacon to so many others. There are no words to thank you for sharing your grace.

  4. Radiation causes waxy build up (I have a wax issue since radiation, my doctors like to point it out). Do you feel like you would be better with clear direction and goals or is it ok to just live life as it comes? If goals and direction help you, maybe write them down. I think it is ok to feel a bit lost, I haven’t been able to redefine myself with everything going on and just try to take it all one day at a time (which is funny because I was always such a planner and type A, now I just have to roll with the punches).

    • What a good question, Mandi. Which would make me feel better? I’ve been booking a bit of travel, and that gets me excited. part of me thinks I’d love to have a concrete project, but another part has trouble committing. Hopefully I’ll be going back to work soon, and that will certain be some structured goal-chasing. But you have given me something to think about…

  5. Lovely and reflective Catherine – you have such a way of taking something so personal and making it universal. Now I find myself thinking about where I was at when I was 23, and how much has changed, and perhaps how little. Also, I am now fighting the urge to go over to YouTube and watch videos of ear cleaning. I know you can’t un-see that but the curiousity is KILLING ME. 🙂

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