It’s my cancerversary. 8 years ago I was diagnosed with papillary carcinoma. For those of you unfamiliar with the cancer world, I have what the doctors like to call the good kind of cancer. If there is such thing. (To be fair as soon as they say that the add, you know not that cancer is good . . .) What they really mean is:
My cancer can be cured. My cancer has targeted treatment. My cancer has a 95% survival rate at 10 years.
It is good.
I do feel lucky, I am grateful. But not for the reasons they think.
My cancer diagnosis isn’t something that happened and then went away. I still have to get x-rays of my lungs to make sure they’re clear, bone density tests to make sure my thyroid replacement isn’t damaging my bones, my liver enzymes are checked every 6 months to make sure the same medicine that keeps the cancer away doesn’t unknowingly kill my liver. My cancer turned into a chronic condition the day they took my thyroid out. But its a condition that I learn to live with as the years go by.
And with each passing year, the fear I felt at the initial diagnosis fades away a little more. I no longer have to have full body scans (yay!) and I hope someday I no longer have to take crazy amounts of synthroid, which gives me more sleepless nights than a newborn baby.
I thought at some point I would stop remembering that dark February day when I was told I had cancer. That it would fade away like the other things that happen in life that become less potent as time goes on. After all it was just a little cancer.
But every year I find myself wanting to celebrate that day instead of hiding it away in my mind. It was the day my life changed. It was the day my life changed for the better.
It was the day I finally learned how to live.
I feel lucky, not that I got the good kind of cancer, but that it made my life so much more precious. I realized at 28, what takes some people a lifetime to get: life is beautiful, even when its hard.
Now every year, I celebrate my cancerversary with a run. There is no better way to celebrate life, than with 13.1 miles. This weekend I will be running with 20 thousand other runners at Disney. For me the run is about feeling my legs pound beneath me, my heart race, and steady breath reminding me, right here, right now I am alive. And that’s all that really matters.
When I embraced that I had a cancer journey outside of survival numbers, that’s when I was able to start healing. My cancer changed my life, even if it wasn’t the big C. It changed how I interacted with myself, my family, and the world. That isn’t a little thing.
And my advice to anyone embarking on this journey we call cancer, is make it your own. Think about it outside of the numbers and statistics the doctors like to throw at you. No matter what your prognosis is, you can find meaning beyond the survival rate.