Saturday, January 8, 2011

My Five Year Cancerversary

We all have milestone dates in our lives, specific dates of each year that mean something important to us, birthdays, anniversaries, date of a loved ones passing.  Cancer survivors have an additional date that is permanently etched in our memory, our cancerversary. For many of us, we use the date we were diagnosed, surgery date or date of our last treatment (Chemotherapy or Radiation).  You never forget where you were or what you were doing when you hear those words, "You have cancer."

I like to use the date of my biopsy.  My date is January 13th, and I'm now a 5-year cancer survivor.  I remember it very clearly. I was 27 weeks pregnant with my fifth child.  I was having my biopsy on Friday the 13th of January.   I consider this date more meaningful than any other date that passes in my calendar year. It is the day that life as I knew it ended, and I was given another chance.  Life is never the same after a cancer diagnosis. No matter the outcome. It has been a very rough ride these last five years, but I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to live through it.  Long ago, without medical technology, I probably would have passed away shortly after giving birth to Kiera that next April.

I can now proudly say, "I'm a 5 year survivor."  After all, the five-year mark is universally known as the "all clear" mark, it often considered the closest to a cure as you can get with breast cancer.  My oncologist does not recognize it as a benchmark though.  There are plenty “survivors” who made it 5, 10, 15 years only to hear of cancer recurrence.  I celebrate tentatively, but with a great deal gratitude. 

I no longer complain about birthdays and getting older.  I rejoice in the privilege that I have had an extended time to celebrate life with my family and friends.  I am 42 now and I feel honored that my oldest son is in his senior year in high school.   I am much more patient, sympathetic and understanding of others.   Every single person has struggles and difficult circumstances they must walk through in life.  Only through walking through adversity will we become stronger.  I feel I am stronger now. I am stronger and I believe I still have a lot of fight left in me.

What am I going to do on my cancerversary? I will celebrate that I got to wake up this morning. And that's more than enough for me!