Boxes with Bows

I have a very bad habit of trying to compartmentalize my life. I want everything settled, tied up in a pretty red bow, and organized neatly on the shelf. Running in one box, knitting in another, and cancer in that large box in the corner.

Apparently I do this with my blogs as well.Giftbox_icon

Rather than be happy with one all-encompassing blog, I periodically feel an overwhelming need to separate things out–kind of like when you don’t want the mashed potatoes touching the green beans on your plate. I felt like my cancer story took over this blog, so I started a new one–and then only wrote one post. And didn’t write anything here. Or on my running blog. And my knitting blog has also been severely neglected.

And that’s not to mention the gardening blog I tried out years ago, or the photography blog. I think I can still remember my husband suggesting that it might be difficult to keep up with all the different blogs . . .

Enough! Mind Margins has always been my home blog, the place where I can write my thoughts and experiences about anything I want. The byline “thoughts on being human” is there for a reason. The fact is, I can’t separate out anything that’s happened to me these past two years into separate little boxes. I think having all those boxes has actually kept me from writing–and I need to write. Running and writing are the best therapies, and God knows I need them both.

I will admit that I also needed this past year to process what I had gone through. Cancer didn’t end when I stopped chemo. In fact, in a way, that was the easy part. All I had to do was get through it. It was my 24 hr a day job for over six months. But once the chemo drugs worked their way out of my body (which took longer than I thought it would), I was left with a lot of what-if’s, whys, and what-nows. More than anything, I’ve spent the past two years learning to live with uncertainty. That’s something I’ve been working on my whole life, and will probably continue to do until the day I die.

Another reason I didn’t write was because I was embarrassed by the attention. You would think someone who shared every gory detail of having cancer, and who shares probably more than she ever should about everything else in her life, would love the attention. After all, no one made me write about any of it. Instead, I felt like a show off. And I have only myself to blame.

(Why did I never think of writing an anonymous blog??? Problem solved!)

My only intention in sharing so much about what I went through was to help other people who might be going through something similar. I found very few stories from other women who had ovarian cancer, and I felt the need to help someone else. That desire is still stronger than ever–and that’s why I keep writing about cancer. Life does go on, but it will never be the same again. And that big box in the corner, the one labeled Cancer? It’s getting smaller and smaller as the months go by.

Hitting the publish button is a scary thing. I cringe every single time I post something. The thoughts in my head range from Why would anyone care what I have to say to I sound like a complete idiot. Ultimately, I write for myself. I always have, since the day I first put my stubby pencil to a Big Chief pad. I write because I have to.

So I’m raising the white flag and calling a truce between me and my blogs. I’ll probably shut a few down. If surviving cancer has taught me anything, it’s to keep things as simple as possible, and to get rid of the stuff that’s not important.

Time to clean out some boxes.

(photo courtesy of petercui [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)


  1. R

    You’re working on your own “Happiness Project.” Sometimes, you compartmentalize things to give more importance to one thing over another, but it’s hard- it’s uncertain. I give you props for completely putting yourself out there. For every piece of writing, or anything submitted, artists (I refer to this on a grander scale) put themselves out there. It takes courage, patience, and time. You ask ‘who will care?’ Your answer. R. One person that represents a whole body of people that care about your writing and view it as important. That follow your story to create meanings to apply to our own lives. So, I thank you.

  2. Patti Ross

    Glad you are writing again–for you! And then we get to look over your shoulder. Realizing that life is easier the simpler we make it is a great lesson for all of us!

  3. Lyle Krahn

    Good to have you back. I understand the therapy of writing you describe and heartily endorse writing what you want. I highly recommend it. Glad to hear you’re doing well.

  4. oopsjohn

    I suffer from all of the self-doubts you describe and I, too, spun off separate blogs to not only compartmentalize but mainly to not bore my regular readers who had gotten used to the same-old same-old themes from me. I felt the need to diversify and it’s questionable whether or not that was a good decision.

    I bet if you checked your stats you will find that during your cancer blogs your readership actually increased. You drew us in with your courage and honesty and many of us were breathless with anticipation, our hopes and fears rising and falling with each new episode from you. With each small battle you won I would often have tears – tears of joy – in my eyes.

    A lot of us love to read your posts. Please keep on sharing…

    • Toasty Strings

      A very heartfelt thank you, Oops John. I suspect many, if not most, writers experience similar feelings of trepidation when they open themselves up to the world through their writing. It can be scary. On a different note, Tzuri is gorgeous. We have three rescues, so I’ve enjoyed seeing how she’s grown.

  5. Still a Runner

    Good to be reading you again. Keep it coming. And by sharing what you refer to as your ‘gory details’ you have helped me understand similar paths that dear friends are facing. Thank you.

  6. Grace @ Cultural Life

    It was good to see your words in my Reader. πŸ™‚ I had been wondering about your absence after reading your post on Color Me Cancer and hoping that you didn’t receive bad news about the numbers. I hope everything is okay.

      • Grace @ Cultural Life

        I’m glad to hear that. πŸ™‚
        Congratulations on becoming a grandma!
        What fun!

        Life is busy in my part of the world but also good – you may remember that I mentioned my mother’s serious illness in one of my comments and the wait for a new medication to be approved, a med that has a high chance of curing her. Well, after an anxious year of waiting, she finally got the meds last month. Such a relief! We’ll know whether she is cured in six months.
        And I’m graduating from college next month – exciting! πŸ™‚

        I look forward to reading more Mind Margins posts.

      • Toasty Strings

        Gosh, that must have been hard to wait an entire year for the medication! I’m so glad to hear she finally got it. Hopefully she will be cured soon. Congrats on graduating from college!

  7. eagar4life

    Hi Angela, I came across your blog because I start chemo this coming Tuesday and last night I googled “going bald from chemo”. I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer on April 24. I started to read some of your posts from your first chemo treatments! I know this is going to be a rough road ahead. I can’t really say how I feel right now, a little nervous, but for the most part just “meh” and a bit like “holy crap this is really happening.”
    I love your honesty about life! You’ve gained a new follower! πŸ™‚

    • Toasty Strings

      Thanks so much, Eager! I just clicked on your blog and was reading about your recent diagnosis. And then I saw your photo and you’re so young! It’s exactly two years ago NOW that I was starting my cancer journey. I’ve been flooded with memories these past few weeks just remembering it all. Two years from now YOU will be doing the same thing.

      Don’t let my chemo experience scare you. Everyone responds differently. My biggest piece of advice would be to get hold of the nausea from the start. Find whatever drugs work for you and take them–on time–religiously. It took me too long to find what really worked for me and it made chemo that much worse.

      I’m going to read all your posts about what you’ve gone through so far. You’ll find that there’s not a lot of info about ovarian cancer out there, and many women don’t want to relive it, so I’m very happy you’re willing to share your experience. You’ll be hearing from me again! Feel free to email me anytime you have questions about anything, or just need to scream or cry to someone who knows what you’re going through. Hang in there and stay strong!!!


      • eagar4life

        Thanks for the reply! Thanks for the tips, if I have any questions I will be sure to ask you! It is so nice to be able to talk to others who can relate! Thanks!

  8. fmichellemoran

    I would love to “see” more of you back around this little Internet home/community. As you can see, I’m way slow these days to read and respond, much less write. I’ve been mostly blog silent for over a year myself, and don’t have anything as life-altering as cancer to blame for it. But there are seasons for everything. I think about you often though! And I miss you and hope to see you around here some more soon.

    • Toasty Strings

      Michelle,I think about you often and have been meaning to check in with you. I’ve missed reading your blog! I can’t blame cancer for not writing much. I’ve been lazy, knitting a lot, and making frequent visits to Portland to see my new grandson. Yes, I’m a grandma! I hope you’re doing well!

      • fmichellemoran

        I just saw that on another comment after I posted mine – congratulations! That’s so awesome and exciting! I bet you’re a great grandma to have too. πŸ™‚

        Things here are about the same as always. Nothing new to report – maybe that’s why I’m not writing much, haha. I’m glad things are going well for you!

  9. aFrankAngle

    Here’s a different perspective. Some blogs are meant to be subject specific, yet others eclectic. Given the title (Mind Margins: Thoughts about Being Human) is perfect for eclectic. Running, cancer, knitting, photography, and whatever … this is the place for you – your place for the interaction between you and your community.

  10. joannevalentinesimson

    Glad to see you back!! As you can see, I’m a little late to the party. I also have taken a blogging hiatus the past few months – partly for health reasons and partly because I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with everything. Trying to finish a book, trying to market the previous one, trying to clear out email boxes, trying to create order from piles of paper to sort and books to read.
    I always enjoy reading your blogs, though, so count me as a fan – if tardy this time.

    • joannevalentinesimson

      Another late response! The newest book is tentatively titled: “Caring for Your Body from the Outside In.” This one actually fits with my training as a human anatomist/physiologist and former medical school teacher. The intent of the book is to offer laypeople an understanding of the way the body works to better care for themselves and communicate with physicians. It’s currently out to two beta readers, and I’m looking for one or two more. Interested?

  11. wyominglife

    I have the same problem with blogs…. too many and the compulsion to keep them separate. Lately I’ve decided to start combining them into my Wyoming Life blog. They are all me. Why do I feel the need to present one neat persona per blog? Life is messy, people are both complicated and simple, and maybe the simplest way to blog is to let all that be expressed. I haven’t visited the Color Me Cancer blog, but I hope you are doing well.

    • Mind Margins

      Very well said. I am probably slowly headed towards consolidating everything into one blog. Maybe it will at least get me writing again. I am doing very well, thanks. Passed the two year cancer-free mark last October and feel great. My daughter and her family are moving back to Wyoming in a few weeks and I couldn’t be happier. I’m very much looking forward to visiting my home-away-from-home!

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