Last year, I think I posted something similar.
But this year, it's wierd in a different kind of way. There's joy that I'm celebrating another birthday. What a gift! You know the American Cancer Society's motto is "more birthdays", and that strikes a bit of a chord. I truly am celebrating today.
But at the same point, there is a small part of me that finds celebrating with ALL the joy in my heart to be difficult. I'm not sure if I can describe the "why" adequately, but I will try.
First is the worry and fear. Right now, I've survived for 1 year. Recurrance rates are highest in the first 3 years post treatment. And I will be considered "cured" after 5 years. So there is a sense of holding my breath, waiting, watching, hoping that I will continue to survive. Holidays are big reminders that time is passing. The question that hits me at every holiday is, am I counting down the days to long term survival? Or to the day when recurrance comes and my life is once again turned upside down?
Let me follow that up by saying I do not spend every day obsessing about recurrance. I'd say 75% of the time, I am convinced I will live til I'm old and gray. The other 25% of the time... I'm convinced my next oncologist appointment will hold news of a recurrance. I hope that with every passing appointment, those fears will lessen.
Second, this is my first true year of life as a survivor. Last year, my life was crazy. I was so caught in the hustle and bustle of treatment that it was difficult to step back and take it all in. Now, each holiday causes me to stop and consider how my life has changed.
Pre-cancer, my birthday would've been a time to grab a beer with friends, maybe go out dancing... just a day to have fun MY way. Post-cancer, my birthday is a celebration that I'm not sick or dying or dead. Isn't that an uplifting thought?
Don't get me wrong, I am thankful and happy that I'm alive and well and healthy, but to consider your mortality on your birthday is a bit of a downer.
I guess the best way to describe it is that there is a small part of me that mourns for the loss of the easy innocence and naivete that was life before cancer.
And honestly, I think that mourning is healthy for me. Some cancer survivors I've become acquainted with seem stuck for years on how cancer has ruined their lives. The way they describe life post cancer is as this awful shadow of their previous life.
I do NOT want to be them. I REFUSE to be like that. I want to accept that life has irrevocably changed. I want to embrace it. I want to rejoice in it.
And if I am 100% honest with myself, I am a better person today than I was before all of this. I know in my heart that I am a better person. Dealing with the tragedy that was the last year of my life has made me more empathetic, it has caused me to slow down and appreciate life in a new way, it has opened my eyes to so many things.
I know that without question, I am a stronger and better person today than I was 2 years ago.
But before I can truly celebrate the person I have become, I think I need to take a little time to mourn the parts of me that I lost. To say good bye. To know and accept that life can never be the same as it was... but it can be even better.
So today, on my birthday, I will take a few minutes to mourn what I have lost.
But only a few minutes. Because, more than anything, the overwhelming emotion I feel is Hope. I am hopeful that in another year, I will be that much closer to long term survivorship. I am hopeful that in another year, I will feel nothing but joy and pride in my heart at the woman I have become. I am hopeful that each day that passes will continue to hold less fear and more joy.
Today, as I look back at 2011, the word that comes to mind is Faith. After having my life torn apart in the space of 1 month, I relied on faith to rebuild. Faith in my doctors. Faith in my Lord. Faith in myself. Faith in my family and loved ones. Just faith. That faith is at the center of the person I am today.
As I look ahead to 2012, the words that I want to live by are Faith, Hope and Joy. I want Hope to continue to grow in my heart. Hope for continued good health. Hope that each day will be better than the last. Hope that, someday, we will be able to have another child. And I want to find the Joy in every day. I want to continue to be overwhelmed with the intense joy that comes in life's little moments. The joy of being a mother, of watching my son grow up, of having a husband that I adore in every way. I have SO MUCH to be joyful about.
If I can keep Faith, Hope and Joy in my heart... there should be little room for fear! :)