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.