Celebrating My Cancerversary

Cupcake decorated with birthday candles
Cupcake decorated with birthday candles

It's my cancerversary.

8 years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My sister sent me a message this morning reminding me of this fact. This took my by surprise. I don't automatically recognize the date as being significant anymore. I took a moment when I saw the message from her to reflect.

I thought about how different my life is now than it was before my diagnosis. Before my diagnosis I was sure that I had to do everything myself. I knew that people were unreliable; if I trusted anyone I was sure I would be let down.

Cancer forced me to re-examine this principle. First of all, hospitals don't let patients go to chemo by themselves. I had to step outside my comfort zone and not only ask the people in my life for help, but also to actually accept help when it was offered.

I don't write about this very much, but today, on my cancerversary, I do want to share a few things that 8 years later I know I am grateful for-

I AM GRATEFUL for the casual friends who were with me on the beach in Maui the day I was diagnosed. They are no longer casual friends; they are, unequivocally, family.

I AM GRATEFUL for my friend from another state who showed up in the waiting room after my surgery, he knew that I needed support but that I didn't have the courage to ask for it.

I AM GRATEFUL for my work friend who held my hand when they put the needle in my arm during my first chemo treatment.

I AM GRATEFUL for my beauty school drop-out friend who shaved my head and took me wig shopping the day my hair started falling out by the handful.

I AM GRATEFUL for my friend the photographer who took portraits of me and my bald head with respect and grace. It may seem like a small gesture, but he helped me take my power back, he helped me feel like I was in control of my situation.

I AM GRATEFUL that my best friends are no longer Ativan and Ambien, but Grace and Ease.

I AM GRATEFUL for the spin instructors who stood at the front of my bike and pushed me just like any other rider, skull cap and all.

I AM GRATEFUL for the doctors and the nurses who took the time to connect with me as a human being and cared for me with compassion and kindness.

I AM GRATEFUL for my family who came to my rescue each and every day of treatment and beyond.

I AM GRATEFUL that cancer, rather than taking my life, taught me what it looks like and feels like to really live.

I realize that the lessons I learned from cancer are simple- I learned that relationships and connections with human beings are more powerful and significant than any other marker of success that I could have.

So, happy cancerversary to me. Here's to another year.