Wednesday, November 6, 2013

On Topic: My "Cancerversary"

The summer months are plagued with traumatic memories.

Year 2010:
  • July 16: Results from my chest x-ray show massive "neoplasm" in chest cavity 
  • July 23: Results from CT scan show "differential diagnosis sarcoma or lymphoma" 
  • July 26: Initial biopsy doesn't work 
  • August 5: CT scan lung biopsy is torture 
  • August 16: Diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • August 24: Meet with oncologist who sets out a game plan
  • September 1: Start chemotherapy
  • September 17: Hair is lost
Impressed that I remember these dates? Don't be. You'd remember the dates too, and exactly how you felt during each shock, probe and scan. That's why some survivors celebrate a "cancerversary;" a date they've selected to celebrate the endurance, resilience and strength that enabled them to overcome the roadblocks before them. Some people choose the date of their diagnosis, some their remission, some another date, and others would prefer to forget about it altogether.

Despite having committed all the above dates to memory (with ease, I might add), I don't have a cancerversary. So far as anniversaries go, summer is a constant reminder of lots of awfulness. All the same things I felt in the summer of 2010 come crashing back to me. I feel frustrated, alone, and scared. Which is not a hospitable environment for celebration.

You know what is? My birthday. Since I was little, and was tortured by having to wait eleven whole months for it to arrive, celebrating my sisters' birthdays, my parents', my friends' and my family's birthday all before I got the chance to blow out my own candles, my birthday has been the happiest day of the year. Even in treatment, I wigged up, put my heels on (a rare event), pulled together a group of friends and hit Benihana for dinner. My friends threw a Halloween/birthday surprise party for me. Just after the initial shock of chemotherapy treatment, and just before the fatigue and sickness that awaited me at the tail end, my birthday was the best part of 2010. I felt loved, supported... and resilient.

Yesterday was my 29th. I'm closing out a decade that, although it contained traumatic events I could spend all year ruminating over, also contained an incredible amount of good times with friends who support me, my family who loves me, and a partner who - shocking! - is still willing to grow with me. The summer of 2010 was a trainwreck. But it was just one summer. I had many more before and plan on having many more thereafter. 

My birthday is my excuse to make good memories. This year, I spent it on the east coast of Canada heading fried haddock, hiking through a National Park, and of course, eating cake. This weekend, I'll be back in the city eating tacos and drinking tequila with my girlfriends. Compared to the list above, doesn't that sound like something worth celebrating? 
Happy birthday to meeee!