I think the labels for this post pretty well sum it up: I hate the cancer, and I love my life.
Those labels are two ends of the same stick. I do hate the cancer. I do love my life.
I have always loved my life (seriously - always... I've had some fairly dark chapters in my life, but I honestly can't think of one single, solitary year/phase where I hated being me). And I have always hated the cancer.
What I never, ever could have seen coming was how much my having cancer would make me love life - my own life, and all life in the world around me - more than I ever could have before the disease.
Having had to go through multiple diagnoses, surgeries and treatments has changed me. It has changed my body. It has made me slower, and more tired. It has changed the way my body processes food, and the way clothes fit my body. It has given me a different outlook, and a perspective that I didn't have prior to June 2010.
I have some pretty heinous scars - both physical and emotional - that remind me of where I have been. The flip side of those scars is, knowing where I have been - and what I have survived - tells me that I am strong enough to go wherever it is that I am headed.
Today is the 26th annual National Cancer Survivor Day.
To quote the article linked above:
National Cancer Survivors Day is a cherished annual worldwide celebration of life. It is the one day each year that we pause to honor everyone who is living with a history of cancer – including America’s nearly 14 million cancer survivors. “A ‘survivor’ is anyone living with a history of cancer – from the moment of diagnosis through the remainder of life,” according to the National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation.
“When most people hear the word ‘cancer,’ they automatically think the worst,” says Foundation spokesperson, Laura Shipp. “But the truth is that more people are living longer and better quality lives after cancer than ever before. National Cancer Survivors Day is an opportunity for these cancer survivors to come together and celebrate this new reality in cancer survivorship. There is life after cancer. And that’s something to celebrate.”
NCSD started in the United States in 1987 and is now celebrated worldwide in countries including Canada, Australia, India, South Africa, Greece, Saudi Arabia, Italy, and Malaysia, according to Shipp.
The nonprofit National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation provides free guidance, education, and networking support to hundreds of hospitals, support groups, and other cancer-related organizations that host National Cancer Survivors Day events in their communities. The Foundation’s primary mission is to bring awareness to the issues of cancer survivorship in order to better the quality of life for cancer survivors.
Cancer survivors may face physical, emotional, social, and financial challenges as a result of their cancer diagnosis and treatment. Many are confronted with limited access to specialists, a lack of information about promising new treatments, inadequate or no insurance, difficulty finding employment, and psychosocial struggles.
“To say that cancer is challenging is an understatement,” says Shipp. “But it is a challenge that millions of people – 14 million in the U.S. alone – are overcoming. Though life may not look the same after a cancer diagnosis, these survivors are showing us that life after cancer can be rewarding, exciting, and filled with joy.”
It's true. Life does not look the same after a cancer diagnosis. (Trust me when I say that my body certainly does not look the same!) The good news is that, in a lot of ways, it looks better. (Life. Not so much my body.)
I testify that life after cancer - life during cancer, even - can be rewarding, exciting and filled with joy.
While I don't know that I'll ever be able to say that I am glad that cancer happened to me, I am inexplicably grateful for the life lessons that the experience taught me.
Happy National Cancer Survivor Day to all of those in my realm - to those who have fought, those who are currently fighting, and to those of you who have loved us through our battles.