Sweetwater Creek State Park, Georgia


Previous       2021 Journal Topics       Home       Next

  IT'S A WRAP!  


"Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning, but a going on,
with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us."
~ Hal Borland    

This is another year I'm glad to see end, yet I'm very grateful to have been able to still be here. I'm not talking just about the Covid pandemic, which still rages, but an eye-opening bout with cancer mid-year that will affect me psychologically for the rest of my life.

In earlier entries this year I talked about our various hikes and ultra-distance races, volunteer activities, our three Labrador retrievers, our home and gardening, and a rant about my frustrations with Covid-deniers and people who refused to get vaccinated or protect others around them who are especially vulnerable.

This entry includes some other topics and newer photos.

We celebrated our 20th anniversary on 1-1-21.

Here at the end of 2021 the Centers for Disease Control is easing recommended restrictions even though more people in the United States (and Georgia) are in the hospital suffering from Covid than in the past two years. The number of new cases is up and the new Omicron variant is claiming more lives than previous variants.

Hospitals are overwhelmed, medical personnel are burning out and quitting, other work places are also under-staffed because of illness, and the world-wide supply chain is still seriously disrupted.

Although there aren't enough Covid testing sites or at-home tests to go around, it appears there are adequate vaccines and boosters available in this country, at no cost, to prevent the disease in the first place . . . but many people still refuse to get vaccinated!

Selfie after early voting in a local election for major and city council in October

Meanwhile, for some reason that completely baffles me, the stock market is at record highs. I'm not complaining about that. I'm just amazed because it makes absolutely no sense to me.

Jim and I have gotten all of the available vaccines and boosters as soon as we could. So far we don't think we've gotten Covid. If either of us has, we were asymptomatic. We have been diligent about wearing masks indoors in stores and other public places to protect ourselves and others.

The pandemic is not over by a long shot, it appears, although many people are acting like it is.


I'm not going to go into a lot of detail about getting cancer but will offer it as one of the reasons Covid scares me even more now than it did in 2020. My cancer diagnosis and radiation have suppressed my once-robust immune system, making me more vulnerable to any life-threatening disease.

I posted about this on my Facebook page as a cautionary tale to other women. Maybe it will serve that purpose here, too. Bottom line Be aware of changes in your body and report them ASAP to your physician if you think they may indicate a major problem.

That applies to men as well as women.

Some of the flowers I got from Jim and friends after surgery

Although I've maintained routine medical appointments during the pandemic, I kept my head in the sand for two or three months earlier this year when I began noticing one of the common symptoms of endometrial cancer -- an occasional bloody discharge. I'm many years into menopause, so I knew it wasn't normal.

I saw my primary care physician in mid-May, had a cervical and uterine biopsy a couple weeks later, and got a Stage 1B endometrial cancer diagnosis June 4. The cancer was half-way through the wall of the uterus. Fortunately, there were no signs during surgery that it spread any further than that.

I was shocked because I always figured that if I got cancer, it would be in one of my breasts because that's in my family history (sister). My father died from lung cancer but he smoked all his life and I never have. I don't know of any other cancers in close blood relatives.

I had surgery from a very experienced female gynecological oncologist on June 25 that hopefully removed all the cancerous cells. Just to be sure, however, I was referred to a radiation oncologist for three short rounds of brachytherapy (next photo) that were completed in August.

I will be followed up by these two oncologists for five years. I will see them alternately every three months the first two years, then twice a year. Both are very optimistic.

I turned 72 this year. I've always said I want to live to be 100. We'll see how that goes! I'm grateful that Medicare and Tricare for Life pay well for our medical expenses (dental is another matter) so Jim and I are never hesitant about seeing our PCP or specialists for routine care or when we suspect something just isn't right.


Jim regularly donates whole blood (below), Power Reds, or platelets to the Red Cross:

He inspired me to want to donate blood, too, but I discovered I can't do that until I'm one year past my cancer surgery. I'll have to wait until the end of June, 2022.

Jim continues to be the Quartermaster for his VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) post, handling all the financial transactions. He also participates in local monthly meetings, quarterly officers' meetings, any special training, fund-raising events, brick-laying at the veteran's memorial in Peachtree City (people buy the bricks that are specially engraved with a veteran's name and service), and other events.

Jim (in red sweatshirt) and other VFW members pose with commemorative bricks they've laid. (11-3-21)

Jim and Dapper Don at WWII Heritage Festival Days (10-9-21)

Jim (L) and other post members at PTC farmers' market for Veterans Day fundraising

We remain involved with the Atlanta Southeastern Guide Dogs puppy raising group, although we can't raise more puppies for them because our pack of three Labs is enough to keep us busy. We are occasionally available as sitters for short periods of time for puppies in our group.

We also help SEGD financially by soliciting donations from the VFW and being monthly sponsors for one of Don's nephews who is in training, attend most of the training meetings (we've been meeting in person in outdoor spaces since the beginning of 2021), take Don to meetings sometimes as a distraction dog/role model for the puppies,

participate in Zoom training sessions, and I currently handle the group's public Facebook and Instagram pages.

We also support Warrior Canine Connection financially and on social media even though we aren't close enough to their main campus or ancillary locations to volunteer in person. Their mission of warriors helping warriors speaks to our hearts.

Southeastern Guide Dogs also trains service dogs for veterans, although that isn't their main focus. I learned about Service Dog Blue and his handler, Robert Macpherson, in one of Southeastern's online magazines. SD Blue was bred, raised, and trained by Southeastern staff and volunteers and placed with Bob to help mitigate his PTSD from many years in the Marines and doing humanitarian aid work.

One of the best books I read this year was the Kindle version of Bob's book, Stewards of Humanity:

Between thirty years serving in various conflicts in the military, and more years following that doing humanitarian crisis work, Bob ended up with a serious case of PTSD. I'm glad he reached out to Southeastern for help with a service dog.

Blue has an Instagram page @theservicedogblue and Bob has a website with additional journaling. He flies around the country talking to groups about PTSD and the value of having a service dog that is highly skilled in assisting with those symptoms. Bob is reportedly working on a book about Blue. I'll get it as soon as I know it's been published.

In addition to our own lovable Labs, Jim and I maintain our sanity by getting outside as much as possible. We both walk quite a bit, especially Jim because he still trains for multi-day races. I walk Don from one to six miles a day and often go back out to do more miles solo, when I can walk faster (dog walks are slow sniffy walks). We also do some cycling around town.

Above and below: fall scenes from the local multi-use paths


Most of the time I walk on the extensive cart path system in Peachtree City -- where these photos are from -- but at least once a week I like to hike on trails at Line Creek Natural Area, Sweetwater Creek State Park, or other nearby parks. I featured those trails in previous entries this year.

With more than a hundred miles of paved multi-use paths, city crews are kept busy year-round maintaining the trees, leaves, culverts, bridges, tunnels, and surfaces. This repaving project was near our house in March:

Because of the distance I more often ride my bike than walk down to Lake Peachtree and south of there:

Above: south end of L. Peachtree near the unique weir spillway, below


Beautiful bridge for golf carts, bicycles, and pedestrians over the creek
and wetlands in the Flat Creek Nature Area south of Lake Peachtree

I'll end the year with a holiday theme.

When I was going through some of my old photo albums a few weeks ago, one that featured Christmas ornaments handed down in our family and new ones I made or purchased when I was younger inspired me to buy a beautiful pre-let Christmas tree.

We haven't put up a tree since about 2004 because we were traveling every winter in our RV. We donated our previous artificial tree when we sold our house in Virginia in 2014 and just haven't bought another one after resettling here in Georgia in 2017. Looking at that photo album was the impetus I needed to go out and get another tree.

I found this one at Home Depot in October, put it up in the dining room to see if I liked it . . . and just kept it up until New Year's Day! I loved it.

I left it undecorated for a month and just turned on the pretty LED lights for a couple hours each evening when I was in the living room nearby. Jim rescued the box of ornaments in the attic and I decorated the tree during Thanksgiving weekend.

Although I enjoyed seeing our ornaments again, my new favorite is this one from a good friend who loves dogs as much as I do:

That's it for another year. I'll be back sometime in 2022. I've been doing this web journal for too long to quit now. Happy New Year!

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Casey-Girl, Holly-Holly, & Dapper Don

Previous       Next

2021 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil