You Have #Cancer - 10 Years Later #cancerdiagnosis #breastcancer #survivorship #womenshealth

How, if at all, do you mark your 10-year cancerversary during a pandemic?

In April 2010, I heard the words, you have a cancer. Fast forward a decade to spring 2020, and lo and behold, the entire world is in the midst of a pandemic.

Talk about two ways you would never want (or expect) to start a new decade, right?

These two events, though impacting me differently on a personal level, nonetheless, have both been pretty darn significant events in my world. I’m sure most Cancer Havers would say the same.

As I wrote about already, the parallels between the two experiences are many and indeed striking.

I read a piece the other day by my friend Ilene that struck a chord titled, Community Born of Solitude, in which she writes:

Sometimes we don’t want to see what may hurt us, and I think in the beginning of this coronavirus crisis in the United States, we suffered from SEP.

What is SEP?

Somebody else’s problem. (Read more about it in Ilene’s post.)

I wonder how often we subconsciously, or even consciously, say to ourselves something along the lines of, that won’t ever happen to me. Or, that’s someone else’s problem. Yep. SEP.

If we are honest, probably pretty often.

My mother died from metastatic breast cancer and yet, before my diagnosis I don’t think it truly registered that the same could happen to me.

Sure, I knew that I, too, could develop breast cancer and even die from it, but yet, I didn’t really think either would happen. Not to me.

I also never would have imagined that the majority of the country would one day be practicing stay-at-home and other measures in an effort to try not to contract or spread a deadly virus.

Such a think could not really happen could it? Not to us. Not here.

And yet, here we are.

Why do we so often think bad things won’t happen to us?

Why did I?

I do not know.

Self-protection. Denial. A sense of privilege, even arrogance. Perhaps these (and other factors) all play into the equation to one degree or another.

But back to that cancerversary of mine…

Even before the pandemic, I was wondering what to do with this milestone. I feel like I should have something profound to say, but can’t say that I do. In fact, it feels sorta odd to even bring it up right now.

Btw, I don’t like the term cancerversary because it sounds ridiculous, but sometimes the right words don’t exist for what we’re trying to convey. (Come to think of it, it’s not even actually a word. Is It?)

Do I blog about this milestone? Do I mention it to anyone? Do I wait til later? Is there a more appropriate time? Do I just keep quiet? Is it far too insignificant considering the world’s present situation? Does it even matter?

Honestly, I do not know the answers here either.

So for now, I’m doing what I often do; I’m sharing my thoughts with you, Dear Readers. (Thank you for “listening”.)

I will likely write more about this ten-year mark, but for now, I’ll just acknowledge it.

Acknowledging whatever it is that’s on your mind is usually a good place to start.

When my thoughts aren’t so jumbled, I’ll likely share more.

It’s been ten years since I heard those dreaded words. Ten years. I’m still very much here, and I am grateful. Yes, of course, I am.

For now, that seems like enough to say.

Quite enough indeed.

If applicable, how far out are you from hearing those dreaded words?

Do you mark any of your cancerversaries and if so, how?

Why do you think we often think bad things won’t happen to us?

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You have #cancer - 10 years later #cancerdiagnosis #breastcancer #womenshealth #survivorship

31 thoughts to “How, if at all, do you mark your 10-year cancerversary during a pandemic?”

  1. I first heard those words in 2009. Totally blindsided because no one in my family had ever had breast cancer. So the treatments took about six months. I thought I was done. But I’m not the kind of person to celebrate anniversaries, so I didn’t. And then, on my sixth cancerversary, I heard those words again. What I realize now is that I will forever have the possibility of another recurrence. In fact the possibility increases as I age! So, no, I will not be celebrating any anniversaries of cancer.

    1. Connie, I’m sorry you have had to hear those dreaded words too. And not once, but twice. I hear you on choosing not to celebrate. I don’t celebrate any of the dates either, but remember, you bet I do. Thank you for sharing.

  2. First of all, huge congratulations! Second, December was 10 yrs for me. I usually acknowledge the date and # of years to myself but that’s it. No big deal, postings, etc. however, to coincide with my birthday, which was on Monday, I had planned to have a party at a nice restaurant, overlooking the water, and a piñata shaped like a medicine bottle, filled with pink confetti and truffles wrapped in pink, with a pink plastic bat to smack it open, good food and friends. Of course it has been postponed to whenever. I just felt I needed and wanted to celebrate with friends and family. I feel it is a very personal thing and whatever someone chooses to do or not do is totally fine and their choice. Again, huge congrats!
    Stay safe.

    1. Barbara, Like you, I mark the dates, years etc to myself and that’s it. I’m sorry your birthday plans got derailed. I am imagining that pinata right now! Hopefully, you’ll get to have that celebration at some point. Thank you for sharing and for the good wishes too. You stay safe as well.

      1. Thank you so much Nancy for the good wishes. I so appreciate it. If I ever do have the piñata party, I’ll let you know and send a pic of the piñata! Stay safe and be well.

  3. October will be 17 years since I first heard those words. October will also mark 10 years since I heard you have metastatic breast cancer. I don’t “celebrate” the anniversary, in fact I’m usually a little depressed during the entire month with the constant reminders during the month. But this will be 10 years living with metastatic and that may be something worth celebrating, especially if we get through this pandemic. It would not be a celebration of the diagnosis so much as it would be a celebration of learning to navigate the line between living and living with metastatic breast cancer

    1. I’m in. How are we going to celebate? And what month does this celebration take place? I think we need to celebrate the entire month. 10 years with MBC is amazing. I’m 5 years and astounded by it. Thank you for leading the way and giving people like me hope.

    2. Kim, Ten years living with mbc will definitely be something to celebrate. And as you said, you’ll be celebrating how you’ve learned to navigate that line. Wishing you my best as we navigate our way through this pandemic. I appreciate you sharing. Thank you.

    3. I celebrated my 10 year mark in 2016. I thought “cancer is behind me, I beat it!” I said a tearful goodbye to my oncologist (who I loved)… In January, 2017, I was back in his office. A new kind of breast cancer has reared its ugly head. It was metastatic. I did chemo again. I lost my hair again. I had a mastectomy and recently completed SBRT. I have passed the 3 year mark for this latest diagnosis. My cancer has NOT made me a better person, but every day I am grateful to still be here! Thankful for my doctors and care team! We are expecting our first grandchild in May! Every day Is a gift!

      1. Terri, I’m sorry breast cancer reared its ugly head not once, but twice. And yeah, that whole notion of cancer transforming you into a better person has always grated on my nerves. Hence my memoir title. Thank you for sharing. Enjoy that grandchild.

  4. I think my message to you Nancy is stay alert, but appreciate the little things. I had a lumpectomy 11 years ago, just months before my oldest sister Julie died from breast cancer. Then in 2016 another older sister died of lung cancer-she never smoked. I thought I was free and clear, moving on in life despite a few bumps in the road, lost a job, went back to school to finish my Masters, then another bump. Well, two bumps. Just a month into the semester, had to go back in for another mammogram. You know the drill. Biopsies, MRI, more biopsies, total terror for several weeks. Finally word that they found small lumps in both breasts. Double mastectomy on Dec. 23rd. My Christmas present was two drains on each side. Woo hoo! They found cancer in a lymph node on the left side, so I started radiation March 11. Continued to take classes. Actually a good distraction for me. Then of course the whole country shut down. Our daughter got her first job out of college in January in New York, guess where? In an emergency room. But our very smart physician assistant is safe. She knows how to protect herself.
    Just finished radiation last week. It may be a blessing that I didn’t have to be around other people during this crazy time. So I’m done with treatment and classes, now I just need a job! Anyone hiring?
    Right now I celebrate the little things. We’ve had the pleasure of our college-age son home with us in quarantine for the past seven weeks. He’s bored, but safe. Took me 25 years to finish my Masters, so I am determined to get over that next bump, whatever it may be.

    1. Lucy, First of all, I am sorry to hear about your two sisters dying. That is so sad. Of course, sorry to hear about your diagnosis too. Have you been tested for any genetic mutations? Three sisters being diagnosed with cancer seems like a red flag. Good for you for going back for your Masters! That is wonderful and quite the accomplishment, and you studied through treatment too. That is no small feat. Glad to hear your daughter has stayed safe in NY and that your son is safe at home. I do definitely appreciate the little things, and the big things too, although I did before cancer too. And I stay alert, or try to. Thank you for sharing. Hope you land that job you want!

  5. Thank you Nancy. Milestones are worth noting. I received my cancer diagnosis news almost 12 years ago now. I almost always remember the date (May 29, 2008) and also the date of my first (July 17) and third surgeries (December 17). I will often write about it, for myself or to share on my blog, but that desire has lessened as times goes on. My family, and my sisters in particular, have continued to be hit with cancer. My sister Mary Jo was slipping away and in her last weeks of life one year ago, dying of MBC on June 16. In late March, my sister Aileen was diagnosed with advanced Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She began chemo this week. I am scared for her for many reasons and several of them are pandemic-related. (Immuno-suppressed by the cancer and now by the treatment, and she also has lung involvement.) She is the 5th of 8 sisters to have cancer. Crazy! And it ticks me off on many levels! So my “cancerversary” (I have mixed feelings about that word too) will be overshadowed by pandemic and sister concerns. Cancer is never far from my mind, in one way or another. It sucks, and it is also part of my life’s story. Thanks for your writing and giving me a place to ramble with mine. Ten years is worth noting, and you know me– I am going to say each day is worth noting and celebrating too.

    1. Lisa, I think milestones are worth noting too, although I didn’t mention this one to anyone except Dear Readers. I’m not even sure why that is. One more reason I keep blogging and why I love my readers. This blog is a place to put “that stuff”. I am so sorry to hear yet another one of your sisters has been diagnosed with cancer. I hope her chemo regimen goes as smoothly as possible. It’s gotta be extra scary for the whole family during this pandemic. I’m sorry you have that additional stress and I don’t blame you one bit for being ticked off on many levels! I mean, who wouldn’t be? Cancer has intruded into your family so many times – it definitely sucks! As you said, it’s also part of your life story. Have you thought about writing a book? Just a thought. I love your writing. Thank you for sharing. You are welcome to ramble here any time. And of course, I agree that each day is worth noting and celebrating. Take care, Lisa. Stay safe. I’ll be thinking of Aileen and you as well as you support her and remember Mary Jo. x

  6. I don’t know which date to use as my cancer anniversary. Do I use Sept. 27, the day my first surgeon told me my biopsies were positive? Do I use April 18, when my 16 chemo treatments were done and my lumpectomy took place? April 27 when the lumpectomy surgeon called to tell me I had clear margins? Do I use July 28, last radiation treatment? Or January 18, the last of my Herceptin treatments? Nobody seems to know. Since I’ve been keeping a five year diary, these landmark dates pop up quite often. I decided to acknowledge and remember all of these dates. However, since my treatment was officially over in January, and I have my annual mammogram that month, I wait for a satisfactory mammogram report and celebrate a bit more then. How do I celebrate? Each January I buy myself something big that’s definitely more in the “want” category than the “need” one- an extravagance. So far, I’ve bought myself beautiful Polish stoneware dinnerware and this past Jan. I bought a treadmill. To get through each year is an accomplishment, but not necessarily one I am responsible for. Still, I’ll take it.

    1. Nancie, Most often I hear it said that the date of your diagnosis is the official one to use, but of course, you can use whatever date you want. Between my dates and my mother’s dates, I have a lot of them. I’m glad to hear you finished up your Herceptin treatments. That must feel good. I like your idea of buying yourself something you want. Good for you. You’re right, each year is an accomplishment. I bet you’re glad you have that treadmill these days. Thank you for sharing. Stay well.

  7. Ladies….let me just say congratulations to you all. All of you very, very strong women who have battled the beast for so long and can discuss it so eloquently. This is exactly why I “googled” for a website that would explain my fears and questions about my life with cancer. I am a newbie in this lifestyle, having been diagnosed March 2018 and now just two years in the shadow of the beast. On that anniversary in March was I pensive, depressed and still scared? Yes. Was I grateful and proud of my accomplishment? Yes. Do I still think about my surgery, chemo and radiation treatments? Yes. Am I mad that this takes up so much space in my head even two years later and what my “daily pill” has done to me? Of course. But….reading your stories gives me great hope and inspiration. Thank you to all and to you Nancy, for hosting your insightful blog. Strong women are a true gift.

    1. Joanne, Yes, you are still a newbie relatively speaking anyway. It’s normal to have all those things still taking up space in your head. That stuff never disappears, but I think one becomes better at compartmentalizing. I’m glad you are doing well and I appreciate your kind words for us all and about the blog too. Stay safe and well. Thank you for taking time to comment.

  8. Dear Nancy,
    Wow! Congratulations on 10 years!
    Okay, that actually sounds a little weird. Should I send a card? What is the protocol?
    (I have had to use the word protocol so much in the past couple months,
    it sounds like one of those new drugs on TV. so please excuse me, I needed to use it at least once today…..
    I am hoping it is a cure for ignorance or ambivalence or SEP, but…………)
    And I know how you feel about just keeping it to yourself for the most part or at least just sharing it here with your dear readers. I learned after the first year, that only I really see the significance of the time that goes by here in cancerland. Nobody else wants to be reminded of my cancer.
    I wish I wasn’t constantly reminded of it either. But here I am, still worried about what the dastardly pill is doing to me ( got my bone density scan coming up soon), still worrying about if it is not doing what it is supposed to do to me and worried about what all the radiation might have done to me.
    The day I got the call was March 16, 2016, so I am 4 years out and 1 1/2 years from ending the pill prison sentence. Although, once the 5 year mark is up, I wonder how I will really feel. I wonder if I will be more worried. I wonder if I will still take that damn pill, just for a little while longer………………..
    I wonder if I should start taking protocol?
    And Nancy, since you will be approaching that 10 year mark with the pill, what will you do? How will you feel?
    I know, so much persistent uncertainty. Add in a little pandemic, just to make it more interesting and you have a giant, heavy bag of anxiety (kind of like a bag of birds, big angry birds) that you carry around all day long.
    Or, so it seems………
    perhaps I am being overly dramatic………………
    I had SEP syndrome before my diagnosis. There wasn’t any breast cancer in my family. I had no reason to believe it might happen to me. I think differently now, that’s for sure! Now I know its a crap shoot………
    Well, those are my jumbled thoughts.
    Thank you Nancy,
    for always being real,
    it helps a great deal,
    that you care how we all feel!

    1. Tarzangela, One reason I keep this blog going is because it gives me a place “to put” my cancer crap. I can talk/say whatever I want (well, not quite, but…) in this space and so can anyone who comments. Because let’s face it, most people don’t want to talk about cancer, which I understand and that’s probably even as it should be. You aren’t all that far out from your diagnosis. I was thinking it had been longer for some reason. And yeah, the pills. Confession. I stopped taking mine a while back. I’ve yet to write about that and perhaps I should/will soon. I almost made it to ten years though. I thought that SEP concept Ilene wrote about was interesting and regarding many things, not just cancer. Thank you for sharing. Always good to hear what you have to say.

  9. SEP? Yep. I was in denial and the transition from SEP to actively doing something was almost too late (late enough for my first consultant to give me a fairly limited life expectancy). A consequence of the SEP attitude was a distressing level of guilt towards my partner – guilt that I would be dying well before expectations and leaving them. Perhaps that says samething about where I was in terms of the relationship but it is as it is (or it was as it was – we keep growing after all). I felt the cancer was my fault.

    This guilt about the cancer maybe says something about a certain level of control-freakery in me. An uncertain upbringing had left me needing to feel secure and the best way to achieve that was to be self-reliant and feel in control of destiny. Perhaps a there is feedback there from that into SEP (“what I can’t control aint happening to me”?) Whatever, the cancer diagnosis – for me was, eventually, a point for resetting and moving forward.

    My two year cancerversary is in a few days and, although Covid has put a stop on the op I need, I’m feeling healthier in mind, body and spirit that I have for a long time,. Co-incidentally two years is the lifespan the first consultant gave me.. Whilst, it would be easy to celebrate beating expectations, it feels better to celebrate the good stuff.

    Meditation, mindfulness, running, healthy living, dance … have all played a part in giving me a new outlook and a new way of living. It is that that rather than the test numbers that I want to celebrate.

    So, yes, I will note the cancerversary and think some thoughts and do some good things.

    Go well Nancy, go well fellow commenters

    1. Stevie, I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on SEP, guilt, your cancerversary and the rest. Must feel sorta weird, though also really great, to have proven that consultant’s lifespan expectation prediction he/she gave you to be wrong. Definitely something to celebrate. Note the date, think some thoughts, do some good things – I like how you put that. Sounds like a sensible, doable strategy. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Hi Nancy ,

    First Happy 10th Cancerversary. Thanks for sharing your thoughts – I always enjoy reading your posts – even if I don’t always comment.
    I am celebrating 15 years in July. When It was 10 yrs, I walked a 5 K at Disneyland. I walked a number of 5 Ks before but doing this one in a magical place and with my daughter made is special. I cheered her on when she ran a half marathon the next morning – she really slowed down to keep pace with me in the 5 K.

    1. Dee, Thank you for the good wishes and kind words. I’m wondering if you have anything planned for your 15th. Sounds like that 5K was pretty special or as you said, magical. Here’s to many more years for us both. Stay well, Dee. x

      1. Yes, hoping we are healthy for many more years. With Covid-19 going on I am not sure how I will mark 15 yrs. Would love to take my gyn oncs to dinner – though one is now practicing in California. I took them to dinner at 5 years.

  11. Nancy, I marked some significant dates in my calendar as recurring reminders, but I don’t really know what to do to note them. I guess what I do is remember. The day an ultrasound of my right armpit and a mammogram lead to my hearing the unwelcome announcement that I, too, believed I’d never hear. Telling my husband and sons. Getting my biopsy and during it passing out, for the first time in my life. And so on. The memories return. I am grateful to have healed emotionally and physically and to be in a place of spiritual growth. I am grateful to so far be free of recurrence. I’ve moved in some directions personally and professionally that would not have happened had I not had cancer. I acknowledge that too. I’ve lived through and survived a life changing trauma, or more accurately a series of traumas. I would rather not have had to, but I am here, and living with a heightened commitment to do what matters most – and that includes continuing to find joy, fun and laughter. I am glad you’re here on the occasion of this 10th anniversary, to write to us of your thoughts and experiences, to share your feelings, and to remind us all that we are not alone!

    1. Nancy, That’s pretty much what I do too with all the dates, remember. I don’t mark any or even mention them to others anymore. I’m glad we’re both here living, writing, sharing and learning. Thank you for reading and sharing some thoughts. Good to hear from you.

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