A Year of Reviews (and Other Stuff), in Review

Hard to believe that in a couple of days, this blog turns 4 years old. It’s amazing to think that I’ve been reviewing books for so long, not including my earlier pre-2010 little rambling bits of book-talk on an older personal blog. Early posts here were rather sporadic in quality and topic, and looking back at the first month of reviews, I talked very little about any given book compared to my present day reviews. It’s been a learning process the whole way, building this place from the ground up, expanding my skills as I went along, and if anyone has far too much time of their hands, they’re welcome to compare early posts here to later ones and see just where and how I’ve changed.

But this isn’t about my blog from the beginning. This is about the past year.

I started off 2013 with, well, nothing. Pretty much from November 2012 to April 2013, there was precious little content here, as I was getting burned out on reading, feeling overwhelmed, and struggling with simply making it through my shifts at work every day as my health was slipping steadily downhill. I decided that I would take a hiatus for 3 months at the beginning of the year, to recharge my batteries and hopefully come back stronger.

Not the most auspicious start to a year.

During that time my health started to decline. I’d been diagnosed with a fairly large benign tumour in my uterus. Don’t let them ‘benign’ part of the name fool you; all that meant was that it wasn’t technically cancerous. That didn’t stop it from growing, causing me pain, causing me to bleed so much that I became seriously anemic, and I couldn’t keep up with regular everyday life. I ended up taking a leave of absence from work, getting a minor surgical procedure done, was hospitalized 3 days after the procedure when it was revealed that said procedure had failed and the tumour had grown 3 cm in 6 months (about 6-12 times faster than tumours of that type tend to grow), and then finally hospitalized again when I had it removed in May. I had a total of 5 units of blood transfused into me during that time, which has made me both bitter than I’m not eligible to donate, but more determined to spread awareness about blood donation so that others might donate where I can’t.

I also got pretty motivated to spread more information about that kind of tumour, since most of the info I can find online suggests that the severity of the symptoms I experienced were merely “inconveniences” and I should have just sucked it up and gotten over it. (I’m guessing I should have also been able to recover all my hemoglobin by sheer force of will…) People often have the idea that “benign” means “completely asymptomatic and it doesn’t cause problems.” This is wrong. Very very wrong. It means that it isn’t cancerous, not currently spreading to other organs. It can still grow. It can still even turn cancerous. In my case, it  grew so fast that it outgrew its own blood supply and actually started to rot inside my body. “Benign” can still royally screw you over.

jdin372lTo the best of my knowledge, the tumour hasn’t regrown this time. I hope it never does. But I’m left with chronic pain because my uterus is now essentially a useless lump of scar tissue that my doctor refused to remove because she valued my future reproductive potential move than she valued the actual recovery of good health. (Bitter and angry? Why yes, yes I am.) But through the time with no energy to do much, the time recovering from surgery, and the little bit of remainder time between that and returning to work in August, I got a lot of reading done. I even managed to have my own personal readathon while my roommate was away for almost a week in July, which was so much fun because all I did was lie in bed and read one book after another, with nothing to distract me.

And hey, even when the pain gets bad and I have to take my morphine, it seems that when it doesn’t put me to sleep, it puts me in this weird relaxed state where all I’m good for is staring at a TV screen or else reading books in bed. So I at least get to feel like I’m using my downtime for something useful. Let’s hope that effect continues when I run out of morphine and get to switch to Percocet instead.

A few months ago I started writing reviews for SF Signal, and have been privileged to be part of their Mind Meld feature once and twice I’ve been part of the SF Signal podcast. I’ve done a couple of guest posts on other blogs, have been more active in social media, and Bibliotropic has grown as a result. It’s not as large as some blogs that started around the same time as me (Bookworm Blues, I’m looking in your direction), but it’s an improvement, and improvement is always good!

I managed to read 100 books this year, just barely, but that met my yearly reading challenge goal, and that makes me happy.

I rediscovered the joy of photography… and almost immediately had to put it on hold when my camera died. I’m currently saving up to buy another one, but that’s slow going. Shame, because there’s so much beauty up here in the frigid north, and I want to be able to share it!

IMG_2582I stopped doing much in the way of crafts this past year, due to my health issues and a lack of energy, but since I’m starting to get my life back together, I want to start doing that stuff again. Expect to occasionally see me showing some stuff on Twitter that I’m proud of having made. (Like embroidered bookmarks! I love making those!)

(And maybe selling them will let me save up enough for a new camera!)

I worte 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo, though the jury’s out on whether this is an actual achievement because I wrote those words across 2 different projects, neither of which was completed.

Because I’m trying to balance more of my life, and trying to make little improvements here and there, I’m not going to aim for another 100 books to read in 2014. I’m going to try for a more modest 75 instead. I managed 100 mostly because I ended up with almost 6 solid months off work and occasionally not being able to do much but read for days at a time, and quite frankly, I want to avoid that kind of situation in 2014. I aim to not be quite so sick. So 75 books it is, and that will allow me a little more freedom of time to do things like crafting, playing some video games now and again, and trying to find exercise that doesn’t hurt me so that I can lose weight and get healthier still.

In 2014 I want to increase my online presence, do more guest posts on other blogs, try to do more podcasts if I can. I want to end next year on a higher note than I started it, and considering 2013 is ending better than it began, I’d say I’m on track if I can just keep momentum going.

So here’s to the end of one year, the start of the next, and to many more good books shared!

4 comments on “A Year of Reviews (and Other Stuff), in Review

  1. Wow, that’s a hell of a tough year – I’m really glad that things are slowly on the mend for you, though. If I’m honest, I was in the camp that thought “benign” meant that there weren’t any real problems attached. Thanks for schooling me :)

    If guest posts is what you’re after, you’re always more than welcome to wax lyrical over at my place. It’d be a priviledge to have you.

    Happy New Year!

    • I think most people are, really. The word sounds so… well, benign! I thought the same thing for many years, too, figuring that the big problem from any growth would be cancer, and if it wasn’t cancer, then what was the problem. Took me actually experiencing stuff to realize that even benign tumours could cause serous problems. Serious enough that while I didn’t have to come face to face with my mortality, I still got a good look at it from a distance. It was scary to realize that without medical intervention, just the symptoms from a non-cancerous overgrowth of cells could have killed me within a couple of years.

      On a much happier note, I may just take you up on that guest post offer, if I can think of something worth talking about! :) Thanks!

  2. First of all Happy New Year!
    May 2014 a good one for you.
    Health problems are always worse. Good to read that all went well in the end. To be honest I can’t imagine what you wnt through. I did not have any health problems in 2013. But I faced other problems (stress and mental) which slowed me down to three reviews, 50 books and 60 posts.

    Fingers crossed that we both achieve our reading challenge.

  3. I have never wanted to hug a complete stranger as much as I do right now. :( I truly, sincerely hope that 2014 is better for you!

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