During one’s journey with cancer, there are many thoughts that run through a fighter’s mind. You think of absolutely everything from life to death, from kids to career, all friends and family, your former mistakes, your future plans and everything else in between. Why? Because cancer is truly a moment in life when all you have is time to think about everything that you are normally too busy to think about. While there are many steps in one’s thought process, one of the most memorable thoughts for me was the conclusion of my chemotherapy treatment. Because I had such an aggressive stage of cancer, I had to do inpatient treatment. I would check myself into the hospital every 14 days for 6-days, around the clock treatment, which was so challenging to do as a mom and wife. Being in the hospital brought about so many lonely nights where all I had was time to think, hope, wish, daydream and plan a future as I prayed for God to spare me. Spending most of my year like this was heartbreaking to say the least. However, during my fourth chemotherapy treatment I started to envision the light at the end of the tunnel, which for me was the day my treatment would be done forever. When the doctors would advise me on how well my treatment was going and helping my body, I started to think about what life would be like after cancer. I envisioned the simple things in life, such as waking up in my own bed, having the energy to cook meals, being able to drop my daughter off at school and ultimately, not having to check back into the hospital ever again. The thoughts became clearer and more tangible by the day as I realized that I was slowly, but surely, nearing the end of my treatment.
I remember my final day of treatment like it was yesterday, because it was quite the memorable day. I was in complete shock that I really made it through such tough nights. I cried knowing that I could now be home. I thanked God for the small things in life and looked around at every single element of the hospital room with a memory in mind. When I looked at the fan, I thought about all of the nights I turned it on because I was burning up and quickly turned it off as I would begin to shiver. When I looked at the restroom, I thought about all of the bathroom trips I made and how the nurses allowed me to sneak my showers in. I thought about how I stood in front of the mirror early one morning and wiped my own eyebrows off, not even realizing how much chemo affected my body. When I looked out of the window, I remembered all of the nights I stood there crying my eyes out desiring freedom, needing a message from my dad in heaven to help me through and watching the cars drive by on the freeway. It reminded me of the harsh reality that despite what I was going through, life was still going on for others. Every single element of the hospital sparked a memory that I would never forget.
The day that I walked out of the hospital after my final round of treatment was such a surreal moment. I remember taking a huge sigh of relief and inhaling a breath of fresh air, all while feeling like a thousand pounds was being lifted off my back. I was finally able to live again. It was at that moment that I realized that my final day of chemotherapy was the day I was reborn. It was a day that felt more significant than my birthday because I was born by way of my mother, by God’s grace, but I was reborn through a fight for my life that I did not give up on, by way of God’s mercy. That day felt much more significant than the day I was born. That day immediately felt like my intentional, well deserved, God given birthday that I took part in. That day was what I soon realized would be my cancerversary for life; the day that I concluded my treatment once and for all.
Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months and months turned into almost a year as I started to come back around to the beautiful day of May when my soul was reborn. As the day approached, I experienced many emotions. I started to feel anxiety remembering what I went through last year during this same time. I started to feel nervous because I had yet another cat scan scheduled to confirm that I was still cancer free. I felt excited that I had this new and improved spiritual birthday to celebrate with my friends and family. I felt like this was one of the biggest celebrations of my life, knowing that I made it one-year post cancer. As important as I knew this day was to myself and my soul, I do not recall sharing with anyone just how much this day meant to me and just how excited I was to celebrate this day in a monumental way. However, I figured my closest friends and family members would just know that this day meant the world to me. While I kept bringing the day up in conversation and was mentally counting down, I never planned anything for my cancerversary because I just knew everyone understood the importance of what this day meant to me and what this day meant to cancer survivors in general.
I was quickly reminded that no one in my life quite understood how this day made my heart feel. As I mentally prepared for the celebration of my life, the only thing I did on my cancerversary was cry my heart out to God praising Him for allowing me to make it through. Once the day passed, I then wondered how and why no one understood what this new national holiday meant for me. I became frustrated that everyone missed the signs and ignored all of my hints. I felt very sad as I felt I was the only one who understood that my soul desired a true celebration that day. Rather than talk to anyone about this disappointment, I found peace in knowing that I knew what my cancerversary meant and told myself that I would celebrate it next year, with or without anyone by my side. The next year came along and I went through the same process of hints, conversations and dropping bugs in peoples’ ear. I did not get the result I was looking for, which once again left me feeling sad and misunderstood. Officially being a part of the cancer community, I am in touch with so many fellow fighters and survivors. I often watch their tribe throw them parties, take them on getaways, buy them a celebratory cake and so much more that I longed for, but never quite received. Let me just tell you that this had me all up in my feelings to say the least.
After four years of having my own internal solo celebration, it dawned on me that I was looking for gratification in all of the wrong places. I realized that it was not fair for me to expect those who have never walked a day in my cancer fighting shoes to understand how to be there for me post cancer. I realized that it was time that I found my own gratification within my soul’s new birthday and give myself the major celebration I owed to myself. Beating cancer was the most challenging accomplishment I have ever made it through. The pain, work, suffering, heartache, diligence and faith did not compare to anything I have ever done in my life. It was time that I stop looking outward for others to celebrate me and about time that I celebrate MYSELF because I deserve it damn it!
With my cancerversary being only a couple of weeks away, I am counting down to my five-year mark of being cancer free. I am counting down to my self-made celebration in which I reflect on what I went through, thank God for how far I’ve come and take the day to do what my heart has desired all along: acknowledge my superpower of beating cancer and do what my heart has been yearning for, which is to show up and show the hell out for my five-year mark of being cancer free.
This is the year that I make the most uncelebrated celebration the best in my life by living, loving, laughing and rejoicing in what makes me happy. May God bless each and every single one of my fellow fighters out there. If no one has told you this lately, I am extremely proud of you and what you have overcome. You are truly blessed by God and a warrior of this earth for beating a beast with so much grace. Cheers to another year of life and the continued faith that God didn’t bring us this far to leave us.