A summer of reckoning



By Caitlin Kelly


I’m so ready for this summer to end!


Not being a beach person, I don’t spend the year eagerly awaiting summer, as many of our friends do.

And this summer has felt like a series of waves smashing us both in the face:

— Husband now using insulin and adjusting to all that it entails

— My breast cancer diagnosis right around my June 6 birthday

— The ensuing tests, procedures and appointments that have consumed precious days of lost work/income since my husband and I are both wholly freelance, with no paid time off that we don’t fund ourselves. (Thank God for savings.)

— Multiple $100 co-pays to have some of these tests and procedures.

— An infection in my breast, six weeks post-op. Extremely painful, but resolved. Breasts are such sensitive things!

— Two friends widowed the same week, a friend’s young adult daughter dying and the sudden and shocking death of a former colleague and friend.

— Far too many days shuttered indoors with AC blasting, curtains drawn, escaping 90+ degree heat

— Far too many days with torrential rain

OK, what’s been good?!


— Meeting a new Canadian-in-the-States friend, a fellow writer living in Oakland, CA and his husband who came to NYC and joined us for dinner.

— The thoughtful gift of a classic Hermes silk scarf from a friend; it belonged to her mother, who died last year and was a dear friend of ours.

— So many loving cards, emails, flowers and phone calls from friends worldwide as I adjust to a new reality.

— Blowing insane money on a designer handbag, (on sale, dammit!) after my diagnosis





— Jose made us gorgeous new wooden planters and the brilliant orange marigolds and fragrant lavender have been amazing. I love watching bees dive into the salvia each morning.

— Discovering how multi-talented my friends are, both journalists like me, one of whom made us home-made soap, the other really delicious home-made bread. I love all things artisanal and am in awe of such colonial skill.

— Snagging a potentially very good new freelance opportunity after seeing an editor participating in a Twitter chat. We met in NYC for lemonade and hit it off.


How’s your summer been?



16 thoughts on “A summer of reckoning

  1. Low – my boss passed away suddenly (she was ill with cancer but we weren’t expecting her to leave so soon) and I have assumed her duties. Big shoes, emotions are high … BC was on fire (still is in many places). There were days when our vehicle was covered in ash and the days turned dark.
    Highs – restful summer break, saw friends, good meals. 🙂

  2. I went to Georgia to abduct my big sister, who had recently had breast cancer surgery, and bring her to the mountains for a rest. It seems everyone needs something from her so this was the only way she was going to get a break. Her birthday came during this time so Cathy and I gathered up some friends and threw her a party. My sister doesn’t really have any friends in Georgia, as she is very isolated and doesn’t have a lot of time for a social life. That made for a pretty big deal for her and for me as well. She deserves every bit of kindness she gets and it makes me feel good to be able to give her some from time to time. None of my friends read any of my stuff but you never know when they may start, so thanks a lot.
    The darkest, ugliest day of my summer came a little over a week ago, when a mob of ignorant hateful hooligans tore down the Silent Sam memorial at UNC Chapel Hill. I wrote a very long post on my blog, Kennysaidwhat, to express my feelings. I did not destroy anything, whether I wanted to or not. I don’t believe that is the way of decent people.

    I’m glad your summer is turning around and I hear New York is lovely in the fall. Have the best time you can and my best to Jose.

    1. Best wishes to your sister — and so glad you are able to be so kind to her. The only way through BC and other such things is with the love and active support of friends and family — a friend from church has now been with me to 3 appointments just for good cheer and company. It really helps!

      Thanks! Will do. (Now up in Ontario for 10 days’ R & R and a conference.)

  3. I read your words and couldn’t help but feel the tender nature of what you’ve been dealing with, Caitlin. I am sorry for the challenges you’ve encountered this summer. It’s so frightening when our bodies take an unexpected turn. But I also thought about the healing value of acknowledging your highs and lows here. I have to believe your blog (and your tribe) provide solace. As does your beautiful outdoor space and partner. I frequently don’t want to put such things on paper, choosing instead to reconcile it all in my head. Perhaps not as wise.

    My highs have been a lovely trip to the Rocky Mountain states with my family to commemorate my son’s college graduation (oh happy relief!). Hiking up on a herd of big horn sheep, their skittishness palpable, was one of many memorable moments. And that my mother, at age 89, continues to soldier on in good health, no small thing given that we were in the hospital for her partial hip replacement this time last year.

    My lows have been professionally feeling behind the curve, irrelevant. I need to build a website and haven’t, as yet. I did (finally) come thru from a period of writer’s block that had taken hold for several months. Like you, I am a freelancer out here in the hinterlands without the impressive creds you’ve amassed but beautiful work nonetheless. And yet I hear your struggle and realize that it is simply part of what it means to make a living as a journalist. The profession doesn’t readily acknowledge or reward work that takes time and intention, and resourcefulness and grit, on occasion.
    But it is who we are. And despite the challenges, doing the work makes me feel happy and whole. I suspect you’d agree.

    Here’s to a brighter, healthier fall.

    1. Congrats on the college graduation! That’s always very good news. And the sheep sound amazing — getting out into nature is so healing.

      I do still enjoy the writing I do; were our expenses lower/my income higher, it would be more satisfying than simply tossing $$$$ at bills.

  4. I can’t think of too many lows. Recently I was in DC and the Metro was a hot mess (literally as well as figuratively), my phone acted weird for two weeks, and I’ve been trying to make further progress on a novella and didn’t make as much as I wanted.

    But other than that, it’s been a decent summer. Hot and humid as heck, but decent. Work’s been going very well. I passed my two-year anniversaries of joining the organization as an intern and then joining as a full employee. I got to go to Ohio State Reformatory, where the Shawshank Redemption was filmed and where I got some great paranormal footage; the Ohio Chapter of the Horror Writers Association formed, and I got to help out a lot with that; I got my driver’s license, and I might soon get a car; and one of my short stories got accepted for publication, among other things.

    Yeah, things have been good, thank God. Hopefully with fall on its way, things continue to go well and I continue to accomplish things that are important to me. We’ll just have to see, I guess.

  5. you have had a rough time of it, but i’m grateful you haven’t given up on any front and are still here. you will survive this and at some point, something will open to you, perhaps something totally unexpected.

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