Yesterday marked three years since the radiologist said the words “I’m sorry, you have breast cancer”. It is hard to believe that was three years ago.
I had a doctors appointment yesterday. At one point I broke down in tears, completely unrelated to the appointment. The doctor asked me what was up. I explained that it was the day – three years since diagnosis – not anything about the appointment. She told me that I should celebrate. That I should find some way, even if it is just a small way (like throwing a rock into a stream). She talked about the importance of acknowledging being alive.
I am struck by this. I don’t know what to think about it but the words keep running through my head.
I did do one thing yesterday that was a bit of a marker of the day. Since I was already up at Stanford, I walked over to my tree – the tree where I took my picture before every infusion and doctors appointment throughout treatment. It has been months since I last saw the tree (might even be a year). I don’t see my doctors up at the main campus that often – mostly I see them at South Bay which is about the same distance but so much easier because I don’t need to spend 15 minutes walking from the parking garage to the clinic – and the parking is free. I’m also having fewer doctors appointments. I’m reducing the frequency of my visits. That too is forward moving progress.
I have hair now. I get lots of comments from my doctors on its length. It is much longer than it was before cancer. What you don’t see is that I don’t really have eyebrows. They didn’t really grow back – at least not enough to be functional (they don’t keep the sweat out of my eyes), and not enough to frame my face when I’m not wearing glasses. Anyways, that is a minor annoyance. I am learning to live with, and be happy with, my new body.
And the words “you should celebrate being alive” keep ringing through my head. I cannot help but wonder if that celebration is more for the doctor – their achievements in keeping me alive – then it is a celebration for me. I tried to explain that no, today is not the day that I celebrate. But I couldn’t get it out to really explain. The ‘celebration’ or ritual is much more around December 17 – the day the last bits of known breast cancer were removed from my body. That day is significantly more important than the day that I heard the words that haunt me “I’m sorry, you have breast cancer”.
Do you ‘celebrate’ or acknowledge that day you were diagnosed? What is your ritual?