My day of diagnosis just passed in early April. I often think about how I looked at life, blissfully naïve of cancer’s mark, one year ago.
At this time last year, I was bombing through my days, trying my hardest to balance a career with two active daughters and interests shared with my husband. I spent a lot of time planning, scheduling, shuttling and organizing my family. Our family’s biggest health “crisis” had been the occasional sinus infection or lingering cough.
You all know what comes next… a routine mammogram followed by a serious of phone calls to schedule additional scans, the agonizing waiting period and then the blow. “You have cancer.”
I want to regain control over April 10. I don’t want to relive the fear every spring. I don’t want to stare at it on the calendar, scroll past the date quickly or avoid scheduling any appointments for fear of bad luck.
I am mindful that cancer survivors mark their anniversary in different ways. It is not my intention to diminish the trauma. Instead, I want to correlate positive associations to a dreary day and dreadful months. My memories are so strong. Certain smells, sounds and places make my skin tingle and nausea roll through me, more than seven months after my last chemotherapy. Perhaps as more time passes, I will find these associations lessening. For now, to cope with negative emotions and help myself move into my post-cancer life, I need to find a way to move past a appalling trauma.
I am assigning a new title to April 10. No longer will this box on the calendar be marked as my day of diagnosis. Instead, I am declaring April 10 the day of delightfulness. I plan to honor my family, recognize people who bring joy to my life, treat myself to a small gift and instill some random acts of kindness on others.
I am clinging to a light I felt after my fourth round of chemotherapy. I was halfway through chemo and still had surgery and radiation ahead of me. But, it felt different. This particular day, in my chemo haze, I vividly recall a vision of crawling along a tunnel. The concrete was digging into my knees and palms. It hurt. But there was daylight up ahead. I could see blue sky. It was not sunny but it was brighter than the middle of the tunnel.
That light is there for each of us. The pain of cancer diagnosis and treatment pricks our skin and marks up our hands. That’s real but there is something on the other side. I am looking for it on April 10. At least for this year, I decided to keep the calendar clear, you know, to keep any superstitions lurking in the tunnel hidden.