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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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Nancy L Seibel

Wednesday 6th of May 2020

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!

Nancy

Thursday 7th of May 2020

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.

Dee

Sunday 3rd of May 2020

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.

Nancy

Monday 4th of May 2020

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

Julia

Sunday 3rd of May 2020

So thankful for you Nancy ... A trailblazer in honesty! X

Nancy

Monday 4th of May 2020

Julia, Thank you for your kind words.

Stevie P

Friday 1st of May 2020

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

Nancy

Friday 1st of May 2020

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.

Tarzangela

Thursday 30th of April 2020

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!

Nancy

Friday 1st of May 2020

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.