One year ago today (October 28) I sat in my doctor’s office and listened to them say those horrible words, “you have breast cancer.” At that point I couldn’t think. I couldn’t feel. I was angry. I was scared. I yelled and screamed at God more times than I care to admit. I cried helplessly on my husband’s shoulder. I sat through endless consultations about next steps. I knew instinctively that I would lose both my breasts even though it was caught early. I spent hours thinking about all I had lost and would lose. One year out from the diagnosis, but not yet a year since the first major surgery, I still think of all that breast cancer has taken from me. But I want to turn the tables.
Anniversaries are for celebrating life and memories and time spent with someone or doing something. People all around the world celebrate yearly the day they were married, the day they started a new job or a new business, the day the world stood still watching a tragedy unfold, the day a new discovery was made, the day a loved one passed away. Not all anniversaries are born from happy events, but all anniversaries are celebrated in a happy way and we surround ourselves with people we love and the memories of those who have gone before us. So on this anniversary born from an unhappy moment, I want to celebrate all that breast cancer has given me. Yes, I said what I meant – GIVEN me.
1) It has given me strength beyond belief. I have pushed myself to limits I never knew I had and found a resolve deep within to not let it control my life.
2) It has given me a profound realization that life goes on regardless of what you’re going through and that you can’t just stop the merry go-round when you want to. You must keep moving forward.
3) I have learned that all clothes do not fit the same way on every body. I could look at a piece of clothing and know if it fit me or not when I had my hourglass figure and I never could understand why other women with different figures fussed so much. I sympathize ladies – I know what that’s like.
4) I have learned there are better ways to spend my money than at Victoria’s Secret.
5) I have learned that I am beautiful to those that love me no matter what I look like in (or out) of clothes. They don’t love me because I am a certain bra size. They love me for me.
6) I have learned that vanity is truly of the devil. I believe in my heart God meant what He said that if your eyes deceive you pluck them out. I was vain and it was because of my hourglass figure.
7) I have learned to love myself because of who I am on the inside and that I don’t have to please people based on what I look like on the outside.
8) It has given me faith – faith in my friends, faith in myself, and a deeper faith in God even though He still understands I’m a work in progress.
9) I learned how to “renegotiate” when I realized I couldn’t do something the way I used to. I had to learn to do some things all over again.
10) It gave me freedom from having to do everything all by myself. I’m a doer and doers don’t like others having control and taking over things that the doer should be doing. Guess what? There were times I couldn’t “do” so I had to hand the reins over and trust others to “do” in my stead.
11) It gave me a lifetime with my husband. A lot of women who hear those words also hear the words “divorce” from their husband. Mine stayed. He not only stayed, he let me scream and cry
at the insanity of it all. He stood there not knowing what to say or do but the point is, he stood. Stood by me. In sickness or in health.
12) It gave me friendships deeper and more fulfilling than I ever could have imagined, one in particular. I am truly blessed to have so many that love me so deeply and would truly go to the ends of the earth for me.
13) And last, it helped me understand what’s really important and it’s not cancer. It’s life. It’s family. It’s friends. It’s love. It’s God.
So on this anniversary of mine, I celebrate not the diagnosis, but the outcome. And to cancer, you couldn’t take anything of importance away from me. I am stronger than that. I have a God bigger than that. Happy anniversary.