As I spent my birthday fighting flu I have no shame in admitting that today I intend to fully celebrate my 1 year cancerversary. For those of you who have followed my journey you will be aware I have two cancerversaries; the 8th of April which is the date I was diagnosed and the 27th August is the date I found out I was in remission. Both dates are etched in my memory and will forever hold an importance in my life.
As with any anniversary, I find myself reflecting on where I was this time last year. The 24 hours which surrounded the appointment itself could be described as a tornado of emotions. The night before I was due to get the results, my family had cleverly orchestrated a sleepover for me and my two year old nephew. Wether this was to keep me distracted or simply exhaust me so I had no option of sleep I am still uncertain! Either way the hours passed quickly and I don’t recall struggling to sleep that night! On the day I recall sitting in the room with my Onocologist and Nurse whilst the Funny Boy, Iceberg and Buggernuts literally stood behind me in anticipation. Upon hearing the words ‘there is no sign of cancer’ I had to ask for clarity: Am i hearing this right? The cancer is gone? It was simply too good to be true! Upon receiving the confirmation I needed I simply thought ‘How lucky am I?’
Elated and relieved, the four of us left the appointment hand in hand and as we exited the building the sun was shining down. I stood in the hospital car park making the important phone calls to the family and friends who were eagerly waiting on the other end of the line. On that day, nobody allowed their phone to ring more than once! Aside from announcing my engagement to the Funny Boy, it was the best phone call I have ever had to make!
Upon returning home the four of us put on our best dressed outfits and headed out for dinner. Even the Iceberg joined us for a glass of champagne. It was the only time in all my life I had heard her admit to ‘feeling squiffy’ after half a glass of Moet!
Following our meal and several glasses of champagne I was suitably exhausted. The adrenalin had worn off and it was time to go to bed. I had gone to bed feeling like an athlete at the end of the marathon. I had come to the end of the race, the job was done and it was now time to relax and bask in the glory. However, when I woke the following day it was a very different story.
When the doctor told me there was no sign of cancer – I assumed that meant the cancer was gone. The marathon I didn’t sign up for was done! I imagined that magically my old life would return: Back to work, back to hockey, back to socialising, back to me. I could not have been more wrong. Physically and mentally I was not the same person. And as much as I wanted, wished or even prayed for my old lifestyle to return this was something that was never going to happen. The realisation of this began to hit me. Everything was different.
So here I am 12 months on and how do I feel?
I don’t think the marathon is done but I have come to the realisation that perhaps it never will be. I will never get back to being the old me but it does present an excellent opportunity to continually strive in being a better me! Admittedly I do have my days of exhaustion and some of my ongoing appointments are not the most enjoyable (I have a new found appreciation for sedatives! My colonoscopy is a blur) which can bring me down. However I simply have to think of what I have achieved in the past year:
Returned to work full time and got a new job!
Married the Funny Boy and had an epic adventure in Thailand
Graduated the Women’s Sport Leadership Academy
Successfully began Project 30
Here is to my first of (hopefully) many cancerversaries! Cheers!!
According to my brief research online, a cancerversary is a significant date within someone’s journey with cancer. It could be diagnosis, remission or the beginning of treatment, or it could be the date of someone losing a friend or family member. It could be one date or several. The definition of a cancerversary is unique to each individual which is no surprise because everyone’s experience with cancer is different.
As I write this I am sat by the pool wearing nothing more than a bikini and factor 30 sun cream. I am on day #6 of my pre wedding getaway with the Iceberg in Corralejo. With a wedding only days away and a honeymoon directly after, it’s hard to answer: can life get much better than this? But despite the bright future ahead of me and the lavish life I am living in the here and now, I do find myself contrasting with where I was this time last year. It was on this date in 2014 that my life changed forever.
I don’t dwell about my experience with cancer but I do try to talk openly about it, welcoming questions in a bid to make people more aware and more comfortable. On a few occasions I have been told ‘It’s all behind you now, you need to focus on your future’ and although I agree with the latter part of that statement I regret to say the first part is far from the truth. There is not a day that has gone by since the 8th April 2014 where I have not thought about cancer. A day hasn’t gone by without realising the implications it has had on my life and those I care about. I struggle to put into words how my life changed, it was if the world beneath my feet ceased to exist. It stripped me of everything I prioritised and left me at point zero. Yet, as I celebrate my first cancerversary (and, yes I am celebrating) I feel grounded and stronger than I ever dreamed of being. Cancer has allowed me to detox my life. In all the cliche terms you can imagine it has given me a new perspective on love, family, friendships and work. I believe it has taught me how to live life more efficiently and, effectively, how to be happy. Now – if that is not a good enough reason to celebrate then what is!?
So for me, my first cancerversary (I have two) is marked by the date I was diagnosed. This was the date I began the marathon I didn’t sign up for, when I launched my fight for #FUCancer and when I fully began appreciating the people in my life. I doubt there ever will be a day where I am not reminded of cancer but why would I want to forget something that has already taught me so much? So happy cancerversary to me! Let’s hope I make it to the next milestone on the 27th of August which will mark a year in remission.