Monday, September 20, 2010

It's my "Cancerversary"!

Happy "cancerversary" to me! One year ago today my life changed forever. I remember sitting in the doctor's office as the surgeon said those dreaded words, "You have cancer". And with those words, I became a breast cancer survivor. There is much discussion in the breast cancer world as to when you start marking the point at which you went from being an average Jane walking down the street to the "breast cancer survivor." Is it from the point of diagnosis? Is it from the point at which you had you surgery to remove the cancer? Is it when you are done with treatments? A "cancerversary" marks the annual recurrence of the date of a survivor's original diagnosis, although it can also mark any notable event in someone's cancer journey (such as the date of the completion of treatment, the receipt of a bone or stem cell transplant, etc). Though these are all important milestones, for me the process of "surviving" began the minute I was diagnosed. If you are thrown into the pool and tread water for a while you don't count your journey from when you are pulled out of the pool, you mark it from when you were thrown into the water. Some days it seems like it has taken forever to get here and other days it seems like only yesterday.
It is the day that my life as I knew it ended, and a new life began. Because no matter what the outcome, life is never the same after a cancer diagnosis. It feels rather momentous, partly because my life took such a dramatic change on the day I was diagnosed, but also because of the relief that I have made it through this first year. For the last several weeks, I thought about my upcoming cancerversary with a combination of pride, dread, sadness, happiness, and relief. Sound schizophrenic? Welcome to life as a cancer survivor. The past year has been filled with ups and downs, good days and bad, and a lot of emotions. What does one do to celebrate a cancerversary? Go out to dinner? Throw a party? Buy yourself something nice? My answer is this: you celebrate that you got to wake up this morning. And that's enough for me to want to pop a bottle of champagne. This may not be the life I ordered but it is the life I’m living.

I lost
one breast
most of my hair
mental clarity
all sense of modesty
a few friends along the way
my life's work

I found
gray hair
tremendous respect for my family
true knowledge of who my friends are
new friends
a sisterhood with other survivors
a realization of how resilient I truly am
freedom to be my "true" self
roller derby

The more I think about it, I've decided that I want a Mad Hatter's Tea Party to mark this milestone! It is a tea party inspired by Alice In Wonderland (in case you didn't get the mad hatter reference). It should have vivid colors and a mixture of textures. It should have a random, mismatched feel that I can identify with... if that makes any sense at all. Afternoon tea is quite possibly one of my favorite things in the world. Just the thought of colorful pots of tea, dainty cups and saucers, and sweet conversation over cookies makes me feel relaxed and wonderfully domestic. It also evokes sweet memories of tea with my great aunt Pauline when I was a small child. It was how I knew I was loved.
I was not prepared for the roller coaster of emotions that today has brought. One minute I'm grateful to be alive and the next I'm annoyed by life in general. I'm not obsessed with the fear of recurrence, but I do think about it and I also think about the fact that one day I will die of something, whether it's breast cancer or something else, a lot more than I used to. I have also dreamed of my death, which is far less scary then you'd think. I will say it has taken me this entire year to feel that my life has gotten back to "normal", or rather a "new normal". Time to start planning that Tea Party in order to say Cuck Fancer! I win!!!

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