Cancer Lesson #69: How to Celebrate Your Cancerversary

Cancer Lesson #69: How to Celebrate Your Cancerversary

Question: How should you celebrate your cancerversary?

Short answer: Any damned way you want to.

Four years ago today I drove home from the hospital trying to fit my emotions and thoughts around the new reality that I had breast cancer.

It was a beautiful sunny spring day, and I kept thinking I should be crying or screaming or raging against an unfair God.

But all I could think was, “I won’t be able to be captain of our soccer team this year. I’ll need to get Maggie or Carol to do it.”

Then I had to figure out how to tell my family. I ended up breaking the news to The Engineer over the phone because he couldn’t understand why he needed to come straight home.

We waited a few days to tell Darling Daughter. She’d just gotten her driver’s license the night before, and that’s such a milestone; I couldn’t bear to ruin it for her any sooner than necessary.

In retrospect, I see now that having cancer changed me, but not in a way I can easily explain. It’s a part of me, and always will be, perhaps not physically (please God) but in my attitude toward life.

The closest thing I can compare it to is parenthood. Everyone tells you what it’s like to have children, but it’s only after you have your own that you begin to realize what they meant.

I understand in a way I never did before that life is finite. We are only blessed with a certain number of days on this earth. I try to remember that, even when things don’t go the way I planned.

All I can do – all anyone can do – is the best I can with what I’ve got in my little corner of the world.

As Mahatma Ghandi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Another quote that speaks to me about this concept is Margaret Mead’s: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

I am blessed to still be here, and for that I remain grateful.

And I am humbled to remember the others who fought this disease and suffered so greatly without that reward.

So, how did I celebrate my cancerversary this year? I worked, then went to the dentist and back to work. In between, I fit in several phone calls to two banks that managed to transfer $5000 instead of $50 between our accounts.

It’s been a good day.

Question: How should you celebrate your cancerversary?

Long Answer: Any damned way you want to.


Cancer Lesson #68: Always Looking Forward

Cancer Lesson #68: Always Looking Forward

Ten months after being diagnosed, I took my first exercise class after surgery and chemo. <cue the applause>

I wasn’t sure how I’d do. I’ve always been blessed with a nature flexibility, but cut muscles and scar tissue take their toll. My body didn’t move like before. (It still doesn’t.)

There were certain poses I knew I wasn’t ready for. But I also knew I’d never be ready for them if I didn’t try.

So if my plank looked more like downward facing dog, it didn’t matter. It was heaven to discover I could move in some of the ways I had before.

The best was the warrior pose – “Always looking forward” as my teacher describes it.

Her words felt like a benediction because once you’ve had a serious illness, your body never returns to how it was.

We can only move toward the future, eyes forward, like the warrior.

Cancer was an unplanned detour that changed me forever, and yet I’m still the same person I was, with many of the same goals.

I move forward to accomplish those I can while I am still here. Paying attention to my spiritual and bodily needs is part of that, as it should be for everyone, cancer survivor or not.

And so, gentle readers, I close this post as in all yoga classes.

Namaste. (The light within me salutes the light within you.)

Cancer Lesson #67: Lowbrow Humor

Cancer Lesson #67: Lowbrow Humor

Your eyebrows and lashes may disappear more slowly than your hair. Likewise, when they reappear, the process may be sluggish.

This means you could be sporting the Uncle Fester look for longer than you expected.

While I was grateful not to lose my lashes and brows entirely, I found I missed them more than my hair. And though both returned eventually, neither they nor my hair are quite as thick as I remember them being before cancer.