The line in the sand

I have been approaching this day with very mixed feelings.  It is such a bittersweet day, and one that is still etched very sharply into my mind.

Three years ago today, I heard those life-changing words from Dr W.  Reviewing my mammogram and ultrasound, he so very gently told me “this is highly suspicious of cancer”.  That was the very moment, when a line was drawn in the sand.  A line between life before cancer, and life with and after cancer.

And here I am, three whole years now since that line was drawn.

I remember reaching my first cancerversary in October 2009.  It was a major milestone, and I marked the day be preparing a letter to cancer  and by spending a quiet day.  Last year, my reflections were around what had been lost and what had been gained “thanks” to cancer.

For this year I was uncertain how I would mark the day, and how the obligatory cancerversary blog post would be shaped.

Then, a couple of weeks ago I saw a link from Livestrong, with the information that October 2 would be designated global LIVESTRONG Day in recognition and remembrance of those diagnosed with cancer.  That hit me like a brick.  Livestrong day on MY cancerversary?  What are the odds of that, I wondered?  (OK, I am not a great mathematician but I realise that in this leap year, the odds of the day selected being my diagnosis anniversary are of course 366:1)  Part of me was silently flattered, as if I could take some kind of credit in the designation. As if indeed.  But part of me felt almost resentful, in that I would have no choice in how great a prominence I wanted to afford the day.

While this reflection and mental to-ing and fro-ing was going on, there was something else bubbling away too, something else influencing how I would approach this cancerversary.  That was my other life.  I have been really very busy!  Busy at work, busy at home, busy swimming and cycling and busy hanging out in the lovely Tea Salon. There is a great deal going on at work, I am part of a Book Club, have joined a Writing Group and goodness knows what else.  Things which had been either on hold (during active treatment) or impacted “thanks” to cancer.

So the day has bee in many ways an ordinary one, yet also an extraordinary one.

As usual, I woke early (before the alarm) at 5.15 am and prepared to head for my swim.  I left home a little early, so rather than head straight to the pool, I took a circuitous route, exploring a few lanes I had not ventured down, and taking a bit longer to reach the pool.  I had a glorious half mile swim, showered, cycled home and sat myself down at my laptop while I breakfasted.  That is a bit of a Tuesday routine as I catch the #bcsm (Breast Cancer Social Media) discussion before heading to work for a regular if busy day.

So all pretty ordinary really.

But not completely ordinary.  My handphone rang around midday with an unfamiliar number.  The woman on the other end of the phone had called on the suggestion of a mutual friend.  My heart sank to learn of her diagnosis with breast cancer.  Oh, how I detest this evil disease, as yet another person crosses that line in the sand.

Later in the day, my phone rang again, and again with an unfamiliar number.  The caller asked if he had reached the “me” who he had worked with in Mongolia, a Nepali and his family who we had befriended during that year.  And my heart was instantly warmed to learn that the family have just arrived in Myanmar on their latest posting.

And that is so typical of the rollercoaster of life after crossing that line in the sand, a day exemplifying the ordinary and extraordinary all wrapped up in one along with its extremes of emotion.

I am also maintaining a sense of keeping this cancerversary low key for another important reason.  And this is because this time next week I will be in the midst of my Big Annual Checks.  It would feel like tempting fate to blow a bugle as I reach this milestone.  I would keep that for after the checks, and the event that NED and I have our collaboration renewed.

The tone I feel today, both recognising the cancerversary No 3 and the outset of Breast Cancer Awareness Month is one of quiet reflection, remembrance and respect.

Today, this month and every day, I  remember those who have been stolen (men and women) by this cruel disease, advocate that all have access to good treatment and care, remember those affected by other cancers which don’t have the same prominence or attention, and wish above all that a cure for all cancers be identified.

21 thoughts on “The line in the sand

  1. So beautiful… you have me in tears right now. I do not know you, but do know others who are going thru what you’ve been thru and others who have lost their battles with cancer, each day I try to take a moment and offer up a little prayer. I will be thinking of you, hoping that all goes well for you in the coming weeks.

  2. I share with you in that remembrance, Philippa. NED threatens to abandon us at any moment. And it seems like each month I hear of a friend or acquaintance who has just been diagnosed with cancer. My thoughts and prayers go out to you that all will be well with your next big Annual Check. xox

  3. Congrats on your cancer-versary and here’s to many, many more years for your and NED! I absolutely love your closing lines. It’s easy to forget, especially in the midst of Pinktober, that others suffer from diseases with less funding and less attention, which must be even more frustrating than what we feel. Well done.

  4. I have my pomegrante juice out and heres to many years of NED for ya.. Me and you shared the same month for our cancer-versary.. I wasn’t so lucky this year back to square one, but I’m sure I’ll be back on track very soon .. with the NED xoxox

    • Hey thanks for that spectacular pomegranate toast 😉 and I do hope that w will be toasting NED together very soon. I’m following your path through chemo and wish you continued strength xxx

  5. Yes, to many more years NED, and to remembering all of those who have been impacted by diagnosis . . . life changes, that line is most certainly drawn. But three years is a good thing, a VERY good thing. 🙂


  6. Thank you so much C – I really value my time with NED up to now, and hope for our long standing accompaniment, and yes three years is a very good thing indeed. Diagnosis impacts so broadly, too many are on this side of the line. xxx

  7. So proud + grateful to know you, P. So happy that the line that was drawn in the sand is still a continued line. And here’s to hoping it will be a very, very long line indeed.

    I think it’s amazing that the LiveStrong anniversary is on yours. ❤

    I'm grateful for your reflections. It's helped me pause and remember my sweet grandmother who died. But also one of my very, very best friends, who like you, has a line in the sand that keeps getting longer. Thank goodness.

    Just in case you aren't busy enough (ha!) we could always start an art group. 🙂 (Been thinking about doing that, but things feel a bit mad at the moment. Maybe wait a few months?) What do you think?

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