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How Do You Mark Cancerversaries, Or Do You?

It’s been exactly four years since I heard those words, you have cancer. Actually, the words I heard were, you have ‘a’ cancer. I’ve always wondered about that little ‘a’ inserted into the conversation I had on the phone with ‘a’ doctor that spring day four years ago… Yes, ‘a’ doctor delivered the news, not ‘my’ doctor; another little ‘a’ sneaking in there…

As I’ve written about many times, there are lots of reminder dates that pop out on the calendar for me each year. There are my mother’s dates too, so between the two of us, there get to be quite a few.

Do I mark them all? Lord, no. But some of them, many of them even, you bet I do.

How could I not?

Marking cancerversaries is something we all feel differently about; no surprise there, right?

Some people mark all of them; some mark just the biggies. Some don’t mark any, or so they say. Some people celebrate dates they finished up this treatment or that treatment. Again, some do not. Some people mark each year post diagnosis, sort of like adding to a “years of survival chain” I suppose. Some go out to eat, or even throw parties. Some people talk and share, others keep silent.

A few days ago, Dear Hubby was asking me about my upcoming cancerversary dates. He remembers the two big ones, diagnosis day and bilateral mastectomy day. He doesn’t really remember the others, the dates I mean.

It was very touching and telling to me when he said, “Yes I remember that one” (bilateral day). I didn’t ask him to elaborate on his comment; I didn’t need to. I’ve been thinking lately more about that day and how it must have felt from his vantage point…

Dear Hubby then went on to ask me if I wanted to do anything special to mark any of the days this year.

“No, I said, “I don’t.”

Around my first cancerversary, we did. We took some time and “disappeared” for a bit at the Florida coast. It was wonderfully freeing just to be somewhere else where no one knew anything about us.

Since then, I don’t mark cancerversary dates out loud, with others anyway. I might mention this date or that date to Dear Hubby, but that’s it. I mark dates privately now. And of course, I still mark many of them here with you, my dear readers.

After a certain amount of time passes you’re expected to not talk cancer much anymore. Remembering dates, out loud anyway, becomes awkward for those listening.

Admittedly, some dates are slowly becoming a bit fuzzier in my mind; the dates, not the memories of what happened on them. Big difference. But some days will now always be “marked” days. And that day four years ago when I got the call, well, that’s certainly one of them.

So yes, I do mark cancerversaries, but I do so quietly now and this is okay with me. Perhaps it’s even as it should be.

What about you?

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Do you mark any of your cancerversaries and if so, how do you do it and do you mark them “loudly or quietly”?


How Do You Mark Cancerversaries, Or Do You?

39 thoughts to “How Do You Mark Cancerversaries, Or Do You?”

  1. My cancer was diagnosed in August 2004 (stage IIIa) and my birthday is in September. Surgery was in September. I marked my first birthday “after treatment” with a walking tour of Tuscany. Seeing Tuscany up close was something I had always wanted to do, and the hiking part was an unspoken statement that cancer couldn’t get me down. It was 6 weeks post-radiation, and tratment technically not complete – I was actually still undergoing Herceptin infusions – plus I am still on Arimidex to this day. Since then, most birthdays I have taken a similar BIG trip. For the 3-year cancerversary, I hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu!

    This August will be the big one – 10 years! I am having a family reunion of sorts – renting a beach house on the Outer Banks of North Carolina with 10 bedrooms! My four grandchildren – whom I never thought I would live to see – will be there, too! I am still NED & always want to celebrate more birthdays!

    1. Shari, Good for you for taking those special trips. They sound wonderful. Enjoy the reunion this summer! That will be incredible! Congratulations on ten years! Thanks for reading and sharing.

  2. I do mark my cancerversary of when I was diagnosed with stage IV cancer. It is an inspiration to others how far I have come and how drugs have improved to keep me alive. I do so publicly, as I want social media friends and those I know in person to know there is hope.

    Congratulations on reaching the 4-year mark!

    I do understand why you proclaim it more quietly now. And maybe I will get to that point. But I find that if someone is uncomfortable when I talk about my cancer, it speaks more about that person than about me. I will be more cautious around and sensitive toward that person in the future.

    Great blog topic! xx

  3. My thyroid cancer was diagnosed in mid August 1981 (really) and I was 19. I will never forget the surgeon in post-op telling me it was cancer but the actual date has been blurred for decades. I always planned to have a 20 year anniversary party but it didn’t happen. Then I said at 30 years but that didn’t happen.

    My second cancer diagnosis was May 30, 2007. Do I celebrate? No. Do I even remember each year? No. But the date is fairly etched in my chemobrain cells.

    1. Caroline, Gosh, cancer has been a part of your life for so long. I don’t celebrate cancerversaries, why would I? I do remember though. I guess I celebrate on my birthday because, well, you know… Thanks for reading and commenting.

  4. Funny, reading this post jolted me into memory that today is the third anniversary of my lumpectomy. I remember it all as blur, Prince William got married and two days later Bin Laden’s death was all over the news. So this particular anniversary is so tied up with other things, it is hard to forget. My real problem is, I remember the dates stuff happened, but am not always aware of the current date, only the endless list of tasks to complete each day of the week! (This is a good thing–I’m keeping busy and moving on with life.)
    It is difficult to forget the other dates–given my diagnosis was given to me 4 days before my 39th birthday. At this point, I just try to be aware that the anniversaries are coming, so I can just know why I’m a bit blue, and then I just keep busy and ignore it. But, my diagnosis was Oct 25, so…kind of hard to forget breast cancer that month, isn’t it?

    1. Cancer Curmudgeon, That was a busy spring news-wise I guess. I remember that stuff. I’m sure it is nearly impossible for you to forget since you received your diagnosis right before your birthday. My mother found her lump on my birthday. Kinda hard to forget that too. Although, I’d probably remember it no matter what the day had been. It’s funny how I remember so many of these cancer dates, but yet sometimes I can’t remember what movie I saw last week or whatever it is I’m trying to remember. And yes, an October diagnosis seems extra cruel. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Thinking about it I do not keep the actual dates in mind… It is like my brain has eradicated the date but not the words!!! I can find the dates but I think I just prefer to let the actual dates pass by un heralded!!!

  6. Just passed my 5th in Feb… Celebrate Noo nothing to celebrate for I acknowledge the day Other’s seem happy for me saying great you are cancer free as though number 5 is a magic number funny my Oncologist hasn’t once said that Last appointment he said now that you are 5 years we have to keep on the watch… frankly I wish I didn’t have it marked but it is there…. Love Alli…

    1. Alli, I know what you mean about feeling there’s nothing to celebrate. I don’t celebrate either, but I do remember. Thanks for chiming in.

  7. It was the Friday before Canadian thanksgiving when I was told it was probably metastasized breast cancer. That was confirmed by biopsy shortly afterward. While I have to look at a calendar to confirm the day, I’ll always remember the season. Ironically, thanksgiving now seems fitting, as every year I am thankful to still be here. In October it will be three years. Three years is all the stats suggest a woman with liver mets has.

    After my pneumonia and sepsis scare last fall, I feel vulnerable, afraid the ravages of cancer, how it has weakened me, are as likely to kill me as tumours themselves. I am sufficiently caught up in the demands off daily life that I don’t dwell on my vulnerabilities. And come October, I will celebrate, at least privately in my heart, if I am still around.

    1. Kate, That feeling of vulnerability is certainly understandable. We can’t dwell on such feelings or keep thinking about stats, especially when dealing with metastatic disease like you are. Still, it’s okay to acknowledge them. I’ll be celebrating with you in October when that next Thanksgiving comes around. Thank you for sharing. xx

  8. Hi Nancy, how is it you always capture exactly what I’m thinking? Congrats, on 4 years, though, it seems silly for congratulations to be in order for such a thing. Congrats for it not being worse, right? Weird. Anyway, I do not mark the anniversaries for the most part. I like them to slip by, never completely unnoticed, but at least quietly. That being said, tomorrow is 5 years to the day I got that call. Five years? I guess I feel lucky, but also feel there will come a day when I’m not so lucky. It’s weighing heavily at the moment and no one around me can understand exactly why. You do. Thanks for writing, Nancy. Hugs to you. I’m glad we’ve known each other “all” these years!

    1. Stacey, It is so good to hear from you. It’s wonderful whenever you leave a comment. Please know I am thinking about you on your five year milestone (and beyond). I agree about the congrats feeling silly and just weird. Cancer and congrats don’t fit together do they? I’m sorry for those thoughts that are weighing heavy on your mind. Of course we all have them from time to time don’t we? Hugs back to you, my friend. I treasure your friendship and understanding, though we have never met I feel we have… Thanks again for reading and commenting. Always lovely to know you’re out there.

  9. The date of my diagnosis is Sept 12, 2001 – I do not celebrate that date but because of the 9/11 attack I could deal with what I had ahead easier. I was stage 3 with 2 positive nodes. With a wonderful doctor at UAB in Birmingham it has been 12 years.

    1. Sandy, Gosh, what an incredible moment in history in which to experience your own piece of personal health history. Mind boggling. So happy about those 12 years and counting. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  10. Congratulations on the 4 year mark! I’m just two weeks behind you. Cheers to both of us and our continued health and for the record – I remember the dates. I mark them mostly to myself and/or here.

    1. Mae, I didn’t realize our cancerversaries were that close together. Thanks for sharing that. Guess we can mark them together from now on. I always remember. And yes, cheers to us both!

  11. My 1st cancerversary was actually yesterday and it is hard to forget because I got “that call” on my 55th birthday. So now the two are forever combined in some twisted irony. It didn’t stop me from celebrating #56 but I was surprised by some emotions that had me crying in the car today. Still healing mentally and physically but always grateful for another day.

    1. Lotte, I understand about the birthday connection. My mother’s diagnosis came on my birthday. Hard to forget that. There are always emotions close to the surface. It’s perfectly understandable that some of yours bubble up on your birthday. Your tears don’t surprise me at all. Keep healing. It takes much time and you’re only one year out. Thank you for reading and sharing. And welcome!

  12. I think about it quietly. Unfortunately it all started in October which is why I think about it quietly as we are bombarded with breast cancer “awareness” that month. The annual mammo oct 2 the call back Oct 8 the ultrasound the MRI Oct 15th, Four “hotspots” biopsied oct 29th and the call Oct 31st. Two of the four were cancer. It has not been that long Oct 31 2012. I have never liked the month of October, my father died that month, I got my diagnosis that month, my mother had a recurrence that month. For me I just get this sense of dread when September is coming to a close. Perhaps as time goes by I will enjoy that last month before the colder weather comes blowing in.

    1. Linda, Yes, I think getting a diagnosis in October is especially cruel. Your October is very full of trigger dates. I don’t blame you for having those feelings of dread come September. Hopefully time will ease the pain of the memories just a bit. Thank you for sharing.

  13. Great post Nancy – and a gentle hug to you as you mark those four years since hearing the words. Funny how remember the exact words, isn’t it? Mine were “this is highly suspicious of cancer”.

    I find that as well as varying in how we mark or not, cancerversaries, I also vary from year to year. It depends how I feel. The first year was a Big Milestone, the second rather reflective. I approach five years (October 2) and I am not sure how I will mark it.

    For sure I will, in some way, which might be invisible externally, but will for sure be heavy in my mind. But then I m definitately a “remember-the-date” kind of girl and I remember most of the dates as well as other life events, and dog’s birthdays!

    Thinking of you (((hugs)))

    1. Philippa, You raise a great point about how our feelings about these dates evolve and vary too. And this is as it should be. I am definitely a remember-the-date kind of girl too. I sometimes wish I was not, but… Thank you for reading and taking time to comment too. I feel those hugs…back at you my dear.

  14. Great post, and I know these dates are so difficult for you. I’m forgetting a lot of dates, which I think means either I’m healing somewhat emotionally or I’ve still got chemobrain or I’m just getting old.


    Seriously, I’m so glad you are alive to write about this. So glad your blog exists.


    1. Beth, I think some of us just remember these dates more readily for one reason or another, or maybe for no reason at all. After all, I’m older than you are! Thanks for reading and for you kind words.

  15. Always love reading your posts Nancy.
    Thank you.

    I celebrated at 6 months with a Gratitude Party for those that had supported us in those exceptionally dark days. I’m anticipating my 1 year cancerversary at the end of the month but will mark the day in a quieter fashion.

    All of the dates (dx, surgery, genetic test results, etc.) are still very fresh in my mind and acknowledging them seems to help me continue to process the enormity of the last eleven months.

    1. Stacey, Yes, I’m sure things are still quite fresh in your mind. How could they not be? Some memories do get fuzzier and lose a bit of intensity perhaps, and others, well they just don’t. I agree that acknowledging them helps with the processing. I find it helps me still. Thanks for reading and for commenting. I appreciate your kind words.

  16. 7/24/12 @ 9:05 a.m. No, I don’t celebrate my tonsil (left) CA-versary. But I celebrate every day. I don’t dwell on it and I’m a “glass half full” person; but yikes! I long for the day when it’s not the first thing on my mind when I wake up in the morning, and the last thing when I fall asleep at night. Although, I’m grateful that I’m here for it to be on my mind! I also celebrate 11/14/12, which was my last day of radiation-and my Husband’s 57th birthday.

    1. Marcia, I don’t dwell on it either, but the thoughts are always close to the surface. That birthday of your husband’s in 2012 must have been extra special and always will be. Thanks for reading and sharing.

  17. I was diagnosed on my 47th birthday. The date I started chemo is Feb 26th. I get flowers from my husband and sister on that date every year.

    1. Kathy, How awful to be diagnosed on your birthday, although there would never be a good day. My mother found her lump on my birthday, so I have a birthday connection to cancer, too, that’d I’d rather not have, but… Nice that you get flowers every year. That’s sweet. Thanks for sharing.

  18. I don’t remember the exact date I got the call, although it was roughly a few weeks after your call. I do remember the date of surgery, first chemo, and last date of treatment (last rad). The last one I quietly acknowledge because that feels like the milestone. I quietly exhale a sigh of relief for getting through it all.

    1. Eileen, Now that you mention it, I remember that you and I were diagnosed near the same time. I guess you’re going through some memories right about now too then. And I know what you mean about that quiet exhale… Thank you for reading and sharing.

  19. “After a certain amount of time passes you’re expected to not talk cancer much anymore. ” Too true. That’s okay with me, but then I don’t want to hear about all their ailments either. It gets tiring.
    I don’t celebrate dates, but I keep a list of them because when something else medical happens to me, I want to be able to give them accurate dates. I do thing of the date that I mark as the start of remission but even that one is starting to blur.

    1. Linda, It’s important to keep a record for the reason you mentioned. Listening to another person’s ailments can get tiring, but I like to think when I do, I’m offering validation, and who doesn’t want that? It’s a two-way street, or should be. Thank you for sharing.

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