Sentinel Dome, Yosemite July 2017
Less than 1 month before this photo, I completed 25 exhausting radiation treatments.
Four months before this photo, I had a bi-lateral mastectomy and removal of 5 lymph nodes.
Five months before this photo, I completed six grueling treatments of chemotherapy.
Nine months before this photo, chemotherapy began.
280 days before this photo I received my diagnosis.
As I am approaching a milestone this Friday, October 20th I am reflecting back to this time last year and how far I've come. I look at this photo of myself and the list above and remember that there were times over the past year that I felt such despair ... that I would never again feel "on top of the world".
And yet, not only have I had that feeling again but there's photographic proof that I was!
Historically speaking, milestones were stone markers used to measure distance traveled. Today we use the term to mark an action or event that created a significant change or development. My cancer journey milestones aren't quite as high as the top of Sentinel Dome but each one certainly marks changes that occurred within me, both physically and mentally.
Like all cancer patients, my list of landmark days is many.
I want to choose which day to celebrate my Cancerversary.
The date of diagnosis? The one year mark of that was October 3rd. Many survivors count that day as their Cancerversary. It makes sense. That's the day you truly become a survivor .. the day it all begins. But on October 3rd all I did was acknowledge the day out loud to Steve and we talked about what a horrible day that was. I'm sure I reflected back in my mind but I didn't even journal about it.
Still. It's an important date.
Here I come though ... upon a big day in my mind for milestones. On October 20th it will be one year since I began chemotherapy. From the moment chemo started, I couldn't wait for it to end. I went neutropenic and ended up in the hospital for 3 days after the first treatment and I didn't feel like myself again for a long, long time. Yes, I remained "me" I had a good attitude, a positive outlook, faith ... but there were some dark moments, dark days when I really wondered if I would ever hike to the top of a mountain again.
On this October 20th I will be looking back at the previous year and feeling so much gratitude that I am where I am today.
I will be so far away from that infusion chair. I will call and wish one of my best friends a happy birthday. I will embark on a long car trip with Steve, Tanner and Tallulah. While Tanner tunes himself into a movie with headphones, I will chat with my husband, read my book, look through a magazine, listen to a podcast or my Audible book and take a deep breath every time Tanner interrupts me for a snack, the how-much-longer question, another snack, how-much-longer, how-much-longer, another movie, push play mom!, another snack please ..... until we arrive at our destination.
Where I will enjoy a weekend of connecting with one of the most wonderful women I know and attempt to connect with one of the greatest teenagers I know (I say attempt because he is a teenager and therefore is a type of alien creature). We will go to Jamestown for Family Frights night, we will play and laugh and take walks and eat good food.
It's inevitable that while I am doing all of these joyous things, where I was a year ago will be sitting on my shoulder whispering in my ear .. remember? Oh yeah, I remember. I'll never forget.
I'll never forget to be grateful. I'll never forget to be in the moment. I'll never forget to live. This is me ~ a work in progress.
When is my Cancerversary? What is the date that I will use to say I am 20 years cancer free?
For me, there are 8 days of major milestones in this journey: day of diagnosis, 1st day of chemo, last day of chemo, the day an ultrasound showed I was NED, my mastectomy surgery, last day of radiation ....
and the 2 dates that haven't happened yet: last day of Herceptin treatment (NEXT WEEK - October 26th) and my implant surgery (I'll find out this date on Wednesday next week).
I am going to choose the date that resounds with me the most powerfully. And I'm going to choose once I'm done with all of the treatments. Because I am just.not.quite.there in my mind. Not until my last treatment, not until my last surgery.
As Anne Lamott said, "Every single thing that happened to you is yours. And you get to tell it."
I get tell it. I get to choose it.
Happy Cancerversaries to me.
I'm happy to be here adding stones to my miles.