365 days ago, I heard the words, "expect the call that is is cancer." - not quite as clean as the more direct, "You have cancer." but it was the first inkling I got that this whole mammogram/ultrasound/biopsy routine was going to be different for me than my usual experiences in the medical realm.
Normally, when I went to doctors and such, I would find out something minor - like the flu, bronchitis, allergy induced asthma or even my blood clotting disorder managing-diagnosis-from-super-woman-to-cancer-patient-in-two-seconds-flat.html. This was something that was more, I guess you can say, earth shattering.
I set up a countdown to this date (because I am a nerd) about 80 days ago. I know that time is what heals or it is what can kill me - you see, when I was first diagnosed I knew nothing about breast cancer and I remained blissfully ignorant for a long time. I remember being triggered by a Facebook post about someone who had died from the disease and it shook me so much I deactivated my account and did not go back until I grew a pair of balls - a new pair of balls that is because in my life I have always been pretty ballsy.
I left the country when I was 21 after being raised to "stay in the gate" by an uber-overprotective dad and grandparents. My mom left the family when I was 13 and almost died when I was 15. I got married despite knowing all I knew about how marriages can suck. I had two children despite helping raise my brothers and knowing that being a parent is one of those things that just does not make sense - my heart no longer resides in my body and all that crap. I present and speak in front of large crowds. I have written books and share them relentlessly because damn, I wrote stuff. None of that mattered though because when I was diagnosed, those reserves of bravery were like puffs of air, they were gone.
Sure some of those things are just normal things that everyone does but for me, they were all acts of bravery of defiance of being balls to the wall brave. Then I got diagnosed with cancer and all I knew was fear and more fear. I could not share my story - I was physically unable to do it. There was a block and it was me.
Once I began sharing, I began learning. I opened my heart and mind to others who have been through this plot twist and learned the hard way that some of them do not make it on-mourning-forbeth.html. Some of them do not get to see their kids grow up. Some of them do not get to even get to the point where they want to have kids. Some of them will never be able to have kids because of their treatments. Everyone has a story and it is not always a happy ending.
I was focused on getting to this year's "cancerversary" because in my heart, it means something. It means that I survived this year, this year when everything changed, when I could not be me, when I lost my hair, my breast, my job, my voice. I survived it and I am still here - I am loud and obnoxious, I use social media, I tweet too much, I post naked photos of my chest, I am here, I am trying to make sense of it all but I do not have all of the answers. No one does. I do not have a crystal ball. I have no clue what the future brings for me or my friends who find themselves to be the 1 in 8 but I do now that sharing and celebrating this tiny little achievement with all of you means something to me.
I was diagnosed a year ago, I went through diagnosis, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and continued treatments (hormone meds and clinical trial); I went bald, I stayed half flat, I lost my job, I saw what my children went through to see their mom "sick" - really sick; I know what it is like to fear/plan for death, I pray every day that I am here to see my kids grow up, I know that breast cancer can still kill me but I pray and hope that it will not.
I celebrate because it was a year ago, time is passing, I am still here, I share my story and it DOES help others, people are in my life now I never would have met if I did not get cancer, I know more about how to manage life stresses because nothing is as bad as being told you have cancer (God willing, this will be the worst thing that happens in my life; it is not as bad at all as hearing your child God forbid has cancer so I will keep my diagnosis, thank you very much and pray for the families who have to deal with a child getting chemotherapy).
This is what I do in the time between. I originally had wanted to do something big today with decorated cookies and a celebration but instead, I am going to do the exact opposite. I am just going to live like I do every day since those words were told to me - I am going to survive and enjoy my day with my family and just decorate for the holidays knowing and believing there is no cancer in my body. Last year at this time, I could not say that and all of a sudden everything else was in perspective. So, this year, decorating my house without cancer in my body and going to focus on all that I have done in these 365 days and on what I can do today because that is all anyone is "promised" is today.
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