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One Fateful Day in February

I’ve been around now for a fair number of Februarys (never mind exactly how many), but two seem to stand out in my mind and it’s no surprise they are “cancer Februarys.” Of course cancer stomps around all year doing its damage, but some months seem to have a more permanent imprint etched into them, and one of those months for me is February. This post is about one of those fateful Februarys. I’ll share about the other one later.

One main reason for this permanent marker is because February is the month in which my mother discovered her lump, on my birthday no less. I posted last year about the uninvited guest who showed up at my birthday party and never left. Sometimes it still feels like an omen I missed.

On a recent post of mine, A “Typical” Cancer Diangosis, fellow blogger Jody, from Women With Cancer, made a comment that I haven’t been able to shake. She wisely and eloquently wrote the following:

“Cancer is “just” a word until your name or that of a loved one is attached to the diagnosis. Then it becomes deeply personal. It impacts your body, your thinking, your past and your future. Nothing is ever the same in many ways.”

This is a very true, simple and yet profound statement.

It’s not that we don’t empathize with others, no matter what we are referring to – be it illness, disability, economic disparity, hunger or cancer. We care. We try to understand. We may even advocate on behalf of whatever cause it may be, but until something affects us or someone we care about directly, we continue to be somewhat removed from the matter. We continue to be at least somewhat detached.

We continue to somehow think it could never happen to us.

Is this some sort of built-in self-protection mechanism we humans have? I don’t know.

I do know that on that fateful February day in 2004 when my mother discovered her lump, suddenly cancer was very real. Not that it wasn’t real before, but until that fateful day in February, it was still somewhat elusive. It was still somewhat vague.

Since that day, my life has been forever altered because…

When a loved one’s name is attached to the word cancer, it becomes deeply personal very quickly.

When a loved one’s name is attached to the word cancer, life drastically changes for both of you.

When your name is attached to the word cancer, life changes forever. Your old life is over. You can’t go back.

Nothing is ever the same in many ways.

Nothing is ever the same period.

What has happened to you that you once thought never would/could?

Is there a month for you permanently marked by something (doesn’t have to be cancer)?


Note:  It’s yet another fateful day in February. This morning I learned my friend Rachel, blogger at The Cancer Culture Chronicles, died last night from metastatic breast cancer. I am saddened beyond belief. Ironically, this post seems to fit, so I decided to go ahead and publish it because I am indeed losing a loved one. Rachel, you were part of my online family. Good-bye dear friend. RIP. I dedicate this post to you. #wewillnotforget





42 thoughts to “One Fateful Day in February”

  1. October (oh, irony) is my “marked” month. I found my lump around my birthday (it falls on the 1st), my marriage ended around my birthday–it’s that time of year that stuff has happened.

    Your post–oy! It’s so true. It’s much easier to stay removed from things if it doesn’t personally effect you. Now, when I find out that someone’s been diagnosed or passes away, it feels almost like…an affront. It’s personal.

    1. Wendy, My that is ironic that October is “your month.” Ugh. Not fun. Sorry about the marriage ending at that time as well. October must be a rough one for you. It’s so true what you said about how it now feels personal when others are diagnosed or pass away. There’s a bond to be sure making it personal indeed. Thanks for commenting.

  2. Thank you so much for writing this – My grandpa had been battling cancer off and on for years, each time beating it and making us feel like maybe this would be the time it doesn’t come back. But it did and we believed he’d beat it again. Unfortunately it finally took his life just a few days ago. I think February will end up being the month that’s permanently marked. It’s the month when I realized it doesn’t matter how strong you are or how many times you beat it, cancer can still win.

    1. Trish, I’m so sorry to hear about your grandpa. Your statement saying “it doesn’t matter how strong you are or how many times you beat it, cancer can still win,” is so true and so profound. Sadly, we are too often given the message that if one just stays strong enough and fights hard enough, cancer can be beaten. Not true, as you know all too well. Thanks for sharing about your loss. Again, I’m sorry.

    1. Ronnie, Yes, I know February is a “marked month” for you guys too. And you’re right, it’s now been further “marked” hasn’t it? Thanks for stopping by at this difficult time. Love to you and Sarah.

    1. Ginny Marie, Thank you so much. Yes, Rachel was an inspiration, though she probably wouldn’t care much for that label either! All the same, she was and still is.

  3. First Nancy I am so very sorry in the loss of your friend Rachel. I feel your pain and I know it all to well too……
    May she RIP and be with the Angels…..

    February is my month of being a life changer. The telling “Sorry Dear but you have Breast Cancer and it looks quite advanced.. is etched in my mind forever.. Similar to just having been branded!!

    Love Alli
    October 13th – Metastatic Day happens to be my Birthday!

    1. Alli, Thanks for your kind words. I know you do understand as there have been many losses and of course, Cheryl’s passing was very recent. I know you and she were quite close. I miss her. I’m sorry your mind has those permanent etchings too. And your birthday on October 13th, that’s pretty ironic isn’t it? Thanks for commenting.

  4. Great post and I’m so sorry to hear about Rachel (and also Susan’s) passing today. Ironically, my diagnosis was also in February, though with the distraction of the Super Bowl it didn’t hit me until I turned my calendar page today. It is definitely profound. In many ways you’re the same person, yet you are forever changed.

    1. Beth, You understand all too well don’t you? We are the same, but yet not the same. I know what you mean. Thanks for the sympathies and I agree it was a double blow hearing that Susan also passed away on this same day. It’s really quite unfathomable to lose two such amazing women on the same day. They will both be greatly missed. Thank you for commenting. Hope you are doing well, Beth.

  5. So sad to hear about Rachel. She would be honored to know you dedicated a post to her.

    And I know exactly what you mean about cancer not meaning quite as much until it is attached to a family member or close friend.

    1. Lindsay, I remember Rachel commented on your guest post about having dreams of her grandma. This post seemed to fit today somehow; it’s kind of eerie how that worked out. Thanks for commenting.

    1. Betty, Thank you. I know you have lost a lot of friends through the years to cancer. Susan comes to mind right away, and of course, mother. You understand all too well.

  6. I feel the loss of Rachel’s presence, but she will always remain etched in our hearts, Nancy. The grief of losing her and Susan, roughly at the same time is completely overwhelming, and I am distraught, like so many in our community are.

    1. Beth, You’re right. Rachel will always be etched into hearts. I’m glad you were there to take part in the chat the other night. It was comforting wasn’t it? I liked Marie’s storm-house description. This loss was a tough one and sadly, we know there will be more. Losing Susan was tragic as well, though I didn’t know her well at all. I would have liked to though. We go forward remembering. Thanks for commenting.

  7. There are too many tragic months for me to list, but if I had to pick one, it would be August… It’s comforting when we all gather together like last night at #BCSM. I remember seeing that comment Jody made, and I agree. It changes the way we see cancer. Even when my first husband died of lung cancer, it was different when my name was on the path report.


    1. Brenda, The chat the other night was comforting wasn’t it? You’ve had way too much experience with the cancer beast. Yes, Jody’s comment was right on the money for sure. Thanks for commenting; I always appreciate your thoughts.

  8. I’m very sorry to hear of Rachel’s passing.

    Your questions have got me pondering what months are permanently marked…and the answer is not so pretty, Each month is marked with either a diagnosis date for my momma, best friend and both grandfathers, a passing date for all four…or even worse, a date when we thought we were in the clear.

    I never thought what had occurred in my life to this point would lead me to a world filled with amazing, supportive women such as yourself and this world of bloggers. Rachel would be pleased with the level of remembrance and care you are all taking with her memory and legacy.


    1. Tory, That’s the trouble isn’t it? There are too many “marked months.” Rachel, Susan, your mom (though I realize she did not have breast cancer), my mom, and all the rest deserve so much more, but…Thanks for your lovely comments.

  9. Nancy,
    I am just catching up now….. This is so touching. You did make me think… what month? What day? And, as I shared with you when you commented on my blog it started in April 2006 and continued through September 2007. Round one. Then it started again in April of 2008 and it’s kinda sorta somewhat still raining down on me… but, whatever…. I’m here, I’m healthy (minus a few brain cells thankyouverymuch mr chemoman for damaging my ability to focus, multitask and perform simple math…). And then I stop. And if I didn’t lose those brain cells, I NEVER would have begun writing and I never would have found you. No, I am NOT going on the cancer is a gift path….. right now, I’m pretty sure I’d murder anyone who tried to wax poetic…. But, I am enriched in ways I never thought possible with friendships (that started with you and Marie…..) that have grown so deeply, they were able to shatter my heart on Monday. I am so thankful we have each other to share our stories and to lean on….and that both Rachel and Susan each leave a legacy of words in their blogs. Constant reminder ….. It’s up to us to make a difference…..

    Love and hugs,

    1. Ann Marie, It’s not possible to “catch up.” Too much loss, too much grief, too many people reeling. I’m thankful for the sharing too; it helps. Both women do indeed leave a legacy in the words of their blogs. And you’re right, it’s up to the rest of us to make a difference. Thanks for your thoughts. Love and hugs back.

    1. Lisa, It is really sad isn’t it? And I agree the great support does help, but that’s kind of ironic too, the fact there are so many others out here who have also had a cancer diagnosis. “They just keep coming.”

  10. Hi, Sweetie- No time to craft a thoughtful comment. Just want you to know I’m here and listening and my heart is open wide to you. I’m sending love and prayers and thanks for your beautiful writing and self!

  11. You are so right, Nancy, that we can’t go back. Once cancer has intruded into our lives (whether our own or a loved one’s), it’s impossible.

    What happened to me that I thought impossible was my husband’s long-standing affair with someone and pathological lying about it. It took me a year to get out of denial and face the facts and leave him. It was way worse than the cancer, but obviously related to the cancer.

    My “permanently marked” bittersweet month is May when I met Marie in person in Ireland while my husband was fooling around at home. May will never again be known as Mother’s Day month for me.

    Thanks for your beautiful tribute, sad and poignant.


  12. I had just started following various blogs that have been mentioned and all the sudden Rachel and Susan passed away. It was the very first time for real that I understood for sure I will actually die from met breast cancer. Seeing those beautiful young mothers, sisters, daughters and friends finally made it real for me. I have learned so much from you all and even though every month has a “marker” you all have helped with that mark. RIP Rachel and Susan.

    1. Christine, I’m sorry about your mets diagnosis. Losing these two amazing women on the very same day was stunning for all of us. Thank you for saying the various blogs have been helpful. That means a lot. My best to you.

  13. Nancy I am very sorry in the loss of your friend Rachel. I feel the pain I know it all to well too being in your shoe, may she RIP. To win the fight against cancer and avoid the fateful months, here’s a list to get you started on a cancer prevention plan: Normalize your vitamin D levels with safe amounts of sun exposure. This works primarily by optimizing your vitamin D level. Ideally, monitor your vitamin D levels throughout the year; Control your insulin levels by limiting your intake of processed foods and sugars/fructose as much as possible; Get appropriate amounts of animal-based omega-3 fats; Get appropriate exercise. One of the primary reasons exercise works is that it drives your insulin levels down. Controlling insulin levels is one of the most powerful ways to reduce your cancer risks; Eat according to your nutritional type. The potent anti-cancer effects of this principle are very much under appreciated. When we treat cancer patients in our clinic this is one of the most powerful anti-cancer strategies we have; Have a tool to permanently erase the neurological short-circuiting that can activate cancer genes. Even the CDC states that 85 percent of disease is caused by emotions. It is likely that this factor may be more important than all the other physical ones listed here, so make sure this is addressed. My particular favorite tool for this purpose, as you may know, is the Emotional Freedom Technique. Only 25 percent of people eat enough vegetables, so by all means eat as many vegetables as you are comfortable with. Ideally, they should be fresh and organic. Cruciferous vegetables in particular have been identified as having potent anti-cancer properties. Remember that carb nutritional types may need up to 300 percent more vegetables than protein nutritional types; Maintain an ideal body weight; Get enough high-quality sleep; Reduce your exposure to environmental toxins like pesticides, household chemical cleaners, synthetic air fresheners and air pollution; Reduce your use of cell phones and other wireless technologies, and implement as many safety strategies as possible if/when you cannot avoid their use; Boil, poach or steam your foods, rather than frying or charbroiling them.

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