Five years ago today, I had surgery and began nine months of treatment for breast cancer. It was an extremely long haul, and continued six months later as I had the first of four surgeries to reconstruct my body after my bilateral mastectomy, having my final surgery in March, 2010. In many ways, this illness derailed me. It was during this illness that “the lair of the clutter monster” (a closet I’m still working up my courage to face) became the mess that it is. It was during this illness that I lost my energy, my stamina, my flexibility, and my sense of myself as being whole and beautiful. I went through a horrible struggle to accept my new body as “good” because it is literally covered with scars and doesn’t work quite like it used to. It was during this time that I stepped back from being the author of my own story, and became a passive participant. Life was happening to me, but I wasn’t actively living.
However, cancer taught me many things as well. It taught me to never take anything for granted – seriously, not anything – not my time, not my health, not my relationships, not my blessings. I am grateful every single day. Since my cancer was aggressive, complicated by two life-threatening infections, I am acutely aware that each day is a precious gift. I do not feel a sense of entitlement, and every morning when I wake up, I rejoice that I am alive and that the day holds the potential for really great things to happen. As I left cancer behind me, I also awoke to the fact that getting back to life only involves two things – faith, and choice. I can (and do) choose to author my own story, and I build that story every day with small, consistent steps.
I wrote about my cancer experience. If you’re interested, you can read about it here. I didn’t write about everything, only those things that were particularly hard for me. When I go back and read those blog posts, I sometimes cry for that girl. God has done such an amazing healing work, not just physically, but emotionally too, that it’s as if I’m reading someone else’s story.
So, today is a day of joy. I am a five year survivor! I think I will shout it – I AM A FIVE YEAR SURVIVOR! Today, I acknowledge to the world that I am undeniably blessed. Today, I celebrate.