Those of us with cancer often debate the minutiae of it. As in, which date do you consider your Cancerversary? Date of diagnosis? Well, in my case even though the official word came on 7/12/08, the doctor pretty much said it was cancer on the day he did the biopsy, the 10th. Is it the day of your surgery? That implies that once the lump is out, you’re cancer-free, which to me is silly, since you still have chemo or radiation or whatever else is coming down the pike. Day of last rads treatment? While I did have a celebration that day complete with a Fuck Cancer cake, that too seems weird, given the surgeries to come and 5 years of FatSurly, which makes it seem like a cruel joke, to proclaim that rads is the end.
So in my case, I’ve always considered 7/10/08 my Cancerversary, i.e. the day I knew I had The Cancer. Last year I marked the date by going out to dinner with my friend Peg, and having all sorts of bad-for-you food and drink, and it was lovely. This year, I’m going all out – I’m determined to embrace a Highly Carcinogenic Lifestyle all day long, which includes of course my beloved
grilled meats, alcohol, and whatever other toxic substances I can think of. Perhaps I’ll even have some soy milk, which is akin to death in a carton for the highly hormone-positive-tumored like myself.
If you’re wondering why anyone would choose to celebrate the day they were told they had cancer, well, that’s a good point. But I don’t really see it as a “celebration” of sorts – it’s more of a big ol’ fuck you to cancer, and so it seems appropriate to celebrate it by embracing a hedonistic existence, one that cancer has no part of. Hence, the charred meats, hot dogs, maraschino cherries, mai tais, etc. Not that far from my usual diet, come to think of it.
Of course, it’s kind of hard to keep The Cancer totally at bay. After all, I see it every day when I look in the mirror – something I hate to do since I hate how I look, seeing someone so not like the me I used to know. And I know that most people who haven’t had cancer won’t get this – and those who have, will – but you think about cancer every single day. Will it come back, when, when will the other shoe drop? You see women you’ve come to know - sparkly, funny, sharp, wonderful women – who started out with the same or better stats as you, have a recurrence, or wind up with mets. And then they’re gone, and it leaves a huge gaping hole in this world that they once so rightly occupied, and you’re reminded just how tenuous your grasp on any of this is. There’s never really any “moving on,” because that doesn’t exist in the world of BC, especially BC in younger women. People just don’t get that.
And it’s especially bad when you have doctors who don’t believe in scans. “No scans without symptoms” – which I personally think is asinine, because by the time you have symptoms, you’re kind of pretty far along. But I did talk my doctor into a bone scan recently, which showed no signs of mets – though I do have arthritis. WTH? Still, I’ll take it. So while I could still have cancer elsewhere in my body, at least it’s some comfort to have more information. And it makes me think about things like life, death, and living like you’re waiting for the shoe to drop.
Now, I’m still certain that eventually The Cancer will get me – after all, I don’t know any young women who had Stage II, Grade 2-3 BC in the form of a 3cm tumor, who didn’t have a recurrence or mets. And yet…yet…..maybe that day won’t come in 2 years. Or 5. Or even 10. Maybe I will have time to do all the things I have yet to do, to live the life I have yet to live.
I woke up this morning thinking about the fact that it was my Cancerversary. And in spite of all the crap that I’m still dealing with, the scars, the side effects from the drugs, the stupid medical bills, etc., I felt pretty happy. Happy to be alive. And I felt something that was almost wholly unfamiliar to me, at least in recent years.
I think it was…..hope.
* * * * *
Right now I’m leaving to go on a 100-mile (I hope) bike ride, which – knowing me and my “luck” – will be replete with the usual flat tires, crazy meth heads, and torrential downpours.
And it’ll be a glorious day to be alive.