April 15, 2009; the day of my mastectomy and first reconstructive surgery. It's also the day I consider my cancerversary, which made this April 15th my fifth.
Why did April 15th become my cancerversary? Why not the day I was diagnosed? Or the day of my second surgery and the end of treatment (except for the taxomifen I continue to take?)
I think April 15th stands out in my mind because it was the day I was forced to show up and fully become a cancer patient and, eventually, a survivor.
For the prior six and a half months, I wasn't even sure I was a breast cancer patient. I didn't have a lump, wasn't rushed into surgery, and had no chemotherapy or radiation. I was free-floating, with no center to my cancer universe.
Finally, I was forced to show up very early in the morning to face what scared me the most: loss, vulnerability, and completely handing my body over to the unknown.
But I also remember the trust, in myself and my doctors, which got me there.
On April 15, 2009, I laid my body down and submitted to a surgery I didn't want. But that was also the day I entered the cocoon of support I found at the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Overlook Medical Center in Summit, NJ. That day made possible my keynote speech at the recent Leukemia & Lymphoma Society 5th Annual Blood Conference. As I shared at the conference and in my first book, You Can Thrive After Treatment, showing up to be supported is the first and most important simple secret to creating inspired healing, wellness and live out loud joy, because it made every other healing step I took possible.
2009 was one of the two worst years of my life. (The other contender is 1984, but that's a story for another day.) As bad as it was, 2009 was also the year I started putting one foot in front of the other to get to today. I see the progress, and the struggles, as I read over the posts I wrote in years two, three and four:
I wish I had written something on year one, but I wasn't up to it then. Just another indicator of how far I've come. The truth is, however, that cancer isn't a straight-line experience. There are bad days, bad years and traumatic experiences which unleash the holy hell of cancer all over again. I've learned that it really is all about putting one foot in front of the other (when possible) and being kind to yourself when you just want to fall in a heap and have a good cry. And I've also learned, from my own experience and that of my friends that, just because I finally hit five years, this whole cancer thing isn't over by a long shot.
Even so, this April 15th was a good day. I'm mindful that five years cancer free is something to celebrate and my husband and I did just that during our yearly dinner out, although it did lead to a slightly awkward moment.
Every day, every year, for the rest of my life. It's okay to be wherever you are and it's all part of healing.
Much love and healing to you,
Originally published on WhereWeGoNow
Copyright 2014 Where We Go Now, LLC
Debbie is the founder of WhereWeGoNow, author of You Can Thrive After Treatment and How to Build an Amazing Life After Treatment, a Huffington Post and Cure Magazine blogger, and a Contributor to Positively Positive. She is an inspirational speaker bringing hope to cancer survivors and the patient experience to medical professionals. Debbie gives back by working with the Cancer Hope Network, The Pathways Women’s Cancer Teaching Project, and the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center Oncology Community Advisory Board at Overlook Medical Center, Summit, NJ. Debbie is a wife, mother, and a former very stressed out attorney. To learn more, join her at WhereWeGoNow and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.