From any point of view, the year 2017 was one of the most momentous in my life.
The last time I lived through something of as much significance, I think, would be in 1992, when I moved to Sacramento for several months to care for my mother during the final months of her life. (Story of that experience is here.)
At least as consequential as the death of a parent, however, is life in the United States these days under President Donald Trump. It's not like I need to explain it to you:
The man is disgusting in word and deed. He daily trashes the norms of civil society, politics and, possibly, the law. He has so defiled the tenets and principles of a democratic republic that scholars, historians and journalists worldwide now regularly warn of parallels to 1930s' Germany.
And he may yet find a way to dodge special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigation.
Is there any other news these days besides Trump? Only monumental hurricanes seem to qualify and then just briefly.
Remember the days when the daily White House press conferences were broadcast live only during crucial events? When presidential speeches interrupted prime time TV only for declarations of war or resignations from office? When the president actually spent his days working instead of sending obnoxious and ignorant tweets in between golf outings?
Nowadays, the only time we don't see Trump on camera is when he wants to hide what he's doing, as when he has signed a few unpopular executive orders behind closed doors.
It is bad enough knowing there is nothing I can do to change anything. Worse, it has become apparent that members of Congress will not do anything to stop him either. Big talk, no action and that's unlikely to change.
By June, worry about the future of the United States was never far from my mind. I was and still am frightened for all citizens and immigrants, for the spillover into the rest of the world, and for the uncharted future.
As many of us have discussed in these pages, the political turmoil has been exhausting with hardly any way at all to avoid it every day. And then. And then in June...
“They” told me I have pancreatic cancer. If our lives are pretty well divided into public and private sectors, suddenly every aspect of mine was fraught, and on a particularly large scale.
I'm lucky enough to have been eligible for the Whipple surgery, am getting through chemotherapy now and will know in March 2018 if any of it has been effective against this dread disease.
Meanwhile, there have been some changes. When my surgeon first explained the Whipple surgery to me six months ago, he said it involves a long, six-month recovery period. I have not believed that for at least two months; my external incisions are long healed and unless I forget a pill, there is no pain.
Then, a week or so ago, internal processes seem to have at last settled down to normal, pre-surgery function for the first time.
To explain, a good chunk of my pancreas was removed along with the entire gallbladder, the duodenum, a small amount of stomach and nearly two dozen nearby glands. Then, of course, all the various hoses among these organs had to be reconnected in new combinations.
The way the health professionals track how well all these internal changes are healing is to ask me questions about bowel movements. I was shocked and quite a bit embarrassed when beginning on the first day after surgery, every person who walking into my hospital room ask some version of “Have you pooped yet today?” “Have you farted yet?”
And they haven't stopped asking since then. These folks talk about bowels the way you and I discuss the weather and they want to hear about size, shape and color. Geez – no one told me how hard it would be to get used to that conversation. I'm still not quite there.
Because my much smaller pancreas can no longer produce the amount of enzymes my body needs, I take a pill to replace those enzymes before eating anything – even a small snack. When, on occasion, I forget, the pain is not pleasant and it had been turning up occasionally even when I had taken the pill.
That is, until about 10 days ago. Since then, pain is almost non-existent and those damned bowels I've struggled with to get right since June are at last as normal as anything I had experienced before the surgery.
Here is the weird kicker: this change arrived almost exactly six months to the day of the Whipple surgery – the amount of time the surgeon had said it would take my body to recover.
So you won't catch me questioning a world-class expert ever again.
These two events are the whole of my personal 2017. Trump and cancer cover it for me and if anything else of note happened, I can't recall. What I wish for now is that both are overcome in 2018.
Now it's your turn to tell us about your 2017.