Fall is my favorite season. It also marks the time of year when I first found out I had breast cancer. This year 2014 marks four years in the making of my cancer-free world. Speaking of milestones, I often I hear people talk about milestone anniversaries when it comes to surviving cancer. However, the term ”cancer survivor” is a bit puzzling to me. Where does this survivorship begin? Do we start counting from the point those fateful words exit the mouth of our diagnosing doctor? Those of us, who have heard those dreaded words, know all to well that we enter into survival mode long before the treatment even begins. Or is it the moment we open our eyes in that post-surgery hospital bed knowing that the cancer has been removed from our bodies, riding us of this disease? For some women, it isn’t even that simple. They have to undergo, surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation. Where does their tally begin?
I always feel a little funny, as fall approaches each year. Am I allowed to prematurely count this year as another victory too? Is it okay to add another notch in my proverbial belt? Can I place the check in the box as part of my long list of items for “Checklist 2014”? I am a checklist kind of girl after all. I ran my first half marathon for breast cancer…check! I raised over three thousand dollars for breast cancer awareness…check! I have survived another year cancer-free….Ummmmm check? As I sat in the hospital room awaiting my surgery, a wise nurse and breast cancer survivor told me, “You go into that operating room a cancer patient, but you come out of it a cancer survivor”. It is a statement that resonated and sticks with me even today. Still, as fall approaches, I feel like a bit of an imposter. Feeling like a survivor since my diagnosis date was November 1st. But knowing that I didn’t become cancer free until January. It seems like such a silly thing to ponder. But inevitably remains one of the more challenging questions I face, as I grow farther away from when it all began.
Ironically, my diagnosis anniversary falls around breast cancer awareness month. This only fuels the fire of my cancer anniversary dilemma. Am I doing this milestone justice through the eye of the pink ribbon? We hear a lot about the importance of the five-year mark. But I don’t know that I will feel that differently next year. Two years was a big milestone for me. Perhaps four is double that making it just as big. I think I could debate the significance of a diagnosis date versus surgery date for many moons to come. But through the consideration of such a dilemma, I am overlooking the bigger picture. A cancer survivor celebrates the cycle of life no matter where that begins. It is a natural progression that slowly moves through life 365 days a year. Does it really matter what specific day of the year? So in honor of my A-Ha moment, I have decided to celebrate both. I celebrate my awareness of knowing more and creating a plan for survival in the fall. And I celebrate the day I put that survivorship into motion in January. It is one long anniversary, but worth every day in my cycle of life.