I’ve been debating whether or not to write this post.Do I really want to make a big deal about the fact that I was diagnosed with breast cancer exactly one year ago today? Is that really a cause for celebration? Or, is it like my personal 9/11, a day to reflect and remember? Or, is all that over-blown New Age narcissism? Wouldn’t it be better to just ignore it, to get on with life? Or, is that like putting my head in the sand? As if I won’t think about breast cancer every July 15, for as long as I get to live!
For several months leading up to this day, I’ve been thinking of having a party to say thanks to everyone who’s helped me get through this year. At first, I thought the end of chemo might be the right time. But I was too, too tired to deal with even an open house then. Later, I wondered if maybe we’d do a party after the end of radiation. But we got the puppy, and again, I was too, too tired.
Now, Tamoxifen seems to have put grit in my joints and plunged me into dark depths of depression. I have been heard to say over-dramatic things like, “It’s a drag to fight so hard to live, and then not feel like living.” Husband Pete says that’s not me, it’s the depression talking.
I read up on Tamoxifen, pick up a terrific cancer memoir The Red Devil, in which author Katherine Russell Rich describes her own Tamoxifen black hole. So it probably ISN’T me saying all those dark and stormy things.
OK, so I’m really not suicidal. But I sure don’t feel like having a party either. Besides, the kid is happily short-sheeting beds and incinerating marshmallows at sleep-away camp. Husband Pete is on a business trip to hear 35 of the country’s governors discuss how they’re going to keep their states from going bankrupt. The kid and the husband helped me get through this year more than anyone else. That’s saying something, considering how wonderful friends and family have been.
I read an interesting thread on the BAYS Yahoo group in which women further along on this journey comment about how each cancer-versary is different, and the decision about how to recognize it is very personal, and may change over time. Some note how annoying it is when friends and family play down the cancer-versary, saying “That’s all over isn’t it?”
But when is treatment over, if you’re taking Tamoxifen and seeing your oncologist every few months for the next five years? When do you stop thinking about it, if breast cancer is generally slow growing and known to recur as long as 20 years out? But do you really want to put cancer at the center of your life? That can’t be healthy.
It would be better to mark the day when this is all over, but I have no idea when that day will be. And it’s true, as someone on the BAYS thread points out, that the day I was diagnosed is the day the universe changed for me.
I don’t need a party this time. I don’t want to force people to listen to how much I’ve learned. I won’t hold forth on how I’m trying to learn to live day-by-day. I won’t blubber about how thankful I am for friends, family and my doctors. Anyone who reads this blog knows all that.
It’s a quiet day, foggy and misty in true San Francisco summer fashion. The incredible, ever-growing puppy is playing at my feet with an empty tuna can. It makes a happy, clang-ity-clang sound. I’m alone, except for the cat and two dogs. I’m OK with that. I’ve got a magazine story to finish, which is probably the most hopeful thing I could do today.
Happy Cancer-versary to me.