Updated: Nov 19, 2020
2019 has undoubtedly been a memorable year. With three little words, my entire world was turned upside down. "You have cancer." I could hear the words my doctor was saying, but they couldn't be true. I was so young. I was the healthiest I had been in years. How could I have missed this? After the initial shock of the diagnosis wore off, I did what any sane person would do, I immediately quit my job.
Obviously, I appreciate how insane that actually sounds. How will I pay the bills? What about health insurance? What will I do next? I realize that a rational person would consider all of these unknowns and choose stability. Did I mention that everything changes in that moment that you're diagnosed with cancer?
In reality, I had been struggling both personally and professionally for several years. As a veterinarian, my identity had been tied to my job as an emergency clinician, and leaving emergency medicine behind had left me floundering without any real purpose. I had taken a high-paying job at a corporate practice with high hopes of regular work hours and opportunity for advancement. Unfortunately, that job had gradually drained away any remaining passion I had for the profession. You can call it burn out or compassion fatigue, but no matter how you label it, I was definitely suffering.
That brings me back to my diagnosis. Cancer changes your life in ways you could never even imagine. Suddenly, the money meant nothing and spending time with my family meant everything. I had been working so hard to provide my family with all of the material things in life that I had lost sight of the intangible things that are so much more meaningful. My priorities shifted back to the place where they should have been all along. With that clarity came immediate action. I quit my job, and I have not looked back for one second.
The next 4 months were a whirlwind full of challenges. My days were suddenly filled with doctors appointments and medications. About 1 month into the chemo, I lost all of my hair. You can call me vain, but for me, that was the worst side effect of all. I desperately wanted life to go on as normal and the scarf that I wore was a constant reminder to myself and the world that I was sick. I worked when I could but I mostly focused on getting through each day. Luckily my side effects were relatively minimal, but there were certainly days when getting out of bed or even carrying on a conversation took all of the energy that I could muster.
What about this farm? How did a cancer patient and city girl, end up buying a farm? It was really just a matter of chance combined with a little luck. I was hunkered down in my recliner one day surfing the web and binge watching Downtown Abbey (I watched a LOT of Netflix during that time). I happened across an email from one of those online realty websites and one of the pictures caught my eye. Growing up (and probably to this day), my favorite book was Anne of Green Gables. My copy is so well-loved that the cover has long ago fallen off and the pages are worn. Here I sat, staring at a farmhouse for sale just around the corner from where I was living, and it was precisely how I imagined Green Gables -- the house where Anne Shirley lived in the book.
I showed the posting to my mom who has been such an amazing source of support for both me and for my kids. She had been here about a year and had upended her world, moving to Maryland from Texas where she had lived her entire adult life. Could I really ask her to move yet again? Luckily, she is just as crazy as me! Rather than reacting with apprehension, she wholeheartedly embraced my harebrained idea. We visited the farm and absolutely fell head over heels for the place. I realized that it made no sense to buy a farm while in the middle of my very real battle with cancer, but I have never been one to let obstacles stand in my way. I knew my future was uncertain, but one never really knows what the future will bring.
Fast forward eight weeks, and I find myself standing on a table in a conference room of a title company holding the keys to our farmhouse getting ready to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. Carpe diem, right?
We have now been on the farm for about 4 months. We built a garden, planted trees, built a giant chicken coop, and tried our best to tame the overgrown pastures. When we arrived we had 2 adults, 2 kids, 2 labs and a border collie. We have since added 14 chickens to the herd and we look forward to many more animals to come. I have found my way back into emergency medicine and going to work once again fills me with joy rather than dread. My kids and I get to run wild outside which is really a dream come true for all of us.
We have affectionately named our little farm the Purple Sheep Ranch. It may not be a ranch in the true sense of the word, but we wanted to pay homage to our Texas roots. The purple sheep represents the uniqueness in all of us. All too often, the world can feel very black and white, causing us to lose sight of the little idiosyncrasies that give our life meaning. I'm forever telling my kids to embrace their differences and be that purple sheep. We wanted our farm to embody the spirit of standing out from the herd and following the path least expected.
While 2019 will always be the year that I quit my job, battled cancer and bought a farm, it's also the year that I met amazing new people, reconnected with my family, learned to love my life, and found a strength inside myself that I never imagined existed.