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Cancer-Related Trigger Dates, What Do You Do with Them? #cancer #breastcancer #health #mentalhealth #survivorship

What Do You Do with Your Cancer-Reminder Trigger Dates?

Do you have certain dates etched into your mind that always take you back? Some dates represent good memories and some, like cancer-reminder trigger dates, do not.

Cancer-reminder trigger dates might be your finding a lump day, biopsy day, diagnosis day, first oncology appointment day, lumpectomy/mastectomy day, start of chemo or radiation day, and a host of others as well, depending on your particular experience.

Do you often hesitate to mention your cancer-reminder trigger dates to others and sometimes feel a little guilty for even thinking about them yourself?

After all, that was then. This is now. You know, that whole notion of don’t look back, you’re not going that way.

I’m pretty sure most cancer patients have cancer-reminder trigger dates, trigger months or trigger times of year. I know I do. Every single month holds reminder dates for me.

Between my own cancer-reminder trigger dates and my mother’s, there are a lot of dates, a lot of triggers, a lot of things to remember.

For example, as some of you might know, the uninvited guest intruder first slithered into my family’s life on my birthday.

Cancer-Reminder Trigger Dates, What Do You Do with them? #cancer #breastcancer #cancersucks #birthdays #memories

Yes, even my birthday is a cancer-reminder trigger date. And yes, I remember. (Hence, this post.)

How could I not?

Sometimes I wonder why it’s so easy for me to remember certain cancer dates and yet so hard to remember what the name of the last movie I saw was.

Sometimes our memories work over time. Sometimes it might be a struggle to remember what you had for dinner last night.

Here’s an example of my memory on overdrive.

My bilateral mastectomy trigger date is filled with countless recollections. I remember the sound of my alarm. That “last” shower. The final look in the mirror. (And it’s weird, I can’t remember what that reflection looked like anymore.) The heading-out-the-door conversation with Dear Hubby. What I was wearing. The darkness. The dimly-lit parking ramp. The couple who walked in just ahead of us. My thoughts about said couple. The pre-op routine. The chaplain’s visit. Dear Hubby’s tears. Being wheeled off. The temp of the OR. My anesthesiologist’s kind eyes. And more.

Yeah, that particular cancer-reminder trigger date triggers a lot of memories.

No matter how much time passes, that month, that date on the calendar will always take me back. My mind involuntarily replays the scene.

And that’s just one of many cancer-reminder trigger dates that result in the same.

What I’m wondering about “out loud” with this post is, what do you generally do with your cancer-reminder trigger recollections?

Do you talk about them? Do you keep them to yourself? Do you write them down? Do you try to forget? Do you try to remember?

Do you sometimes feel judged for still remembering cancer-reminder trigger dates at all? Do you sometimes even judge yourself for remembering?

The mind is such a mystery. In more ways than one.

Memories can be wonderful. But sometimes they are not. Both kinds influence the sort of person you have become. They’re part of you; in some ways, they are you.

This doesn’t mean cancer, or any other memory event, defines you. But they sure become part of your definition. At least this is the case for me.

And I do know this, you are allowed to mark your cancer-reminder trigger dates whatever way you choose, including not marking them at all.

For the most part, I mark my cancer-reminder triggers dates quietly now. This is as it should be. Sometimes I do it here in this space as well. (Thank you, Dear Readers.)

Those closest to us don’t have to remember, or even understand, everything we’ve been through. Expecting them to isn’t even fair. After all, our loved ones have their own trigger dates, some cancer related, many that are not.

Accepting us, loving us and just being there are enough.

Accepting and loving yourself matters even more, no matter what type or how many trigger dates (of any kind) you have.

What are a couple of your cancer-reminder trigger dates?

What do you do with your cancer-reminder trigger dates?

Do have other trigger dates (not cancer related) that you’d like to share about?

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22 thoughts to “What Do You Do with Your Cancer-Reminder Trigger Dates?”

  1. Having just completed active treatment, I’m not sure how I’m going to respond when my cancer trigger dates roll around. Even though I didn’t get the diagnosis on that day, the mammogram on April 1st required a call-back and then biopsy. That’s the day that sticks in my mind for when this all “began”.

    The second date is August 1st when I had my bilateral mastectomy after a lumpectomy and re-excision. For me, when it started and when I sacrificed my breasts are the dates that I think are going to be with me for a while.

    I’m hoping that I can recognize these dates more as marking time than as triggers. My prognosis isn’t very rosy so every “anniversary” I can manage may feel like a win. I just don’t know.

    I look forward to hearing what others do with these kinds of dates to see if anything resonates!

    1. mamamorgaine, You are still very new to all this. April and August will likely always be marker months for you then. April is one of mine as well as that’s the month of my diagnosis. Marker might be a better term than trigger. I look forward to hearing what others do too. Thank you for chiming in on this topic.

  2. Thank you for writing this article, Nancy, it really hit home ! My trigger dates include my diagnosis date, my mastectomy and reconstruction date, my ending chemo date, and my starting of an aromatase inhibitor that continues to plague me. I do have these dates on the calendar which mostly help remind me how far out I am as a survivor but also to remind me that there is no new normal, there is just new and I look back to see how I got here. Sometimes I share, sometimes I don’t; but I always remember!

  3. Funny, but I have very few cancer trigger dates that I recall. Everything happened so quickly. It was three weeks between seeing my GP about my right breast looking funny to being in a chemo chair. I know chemo started the day before Thanksgiving, and yet I rarely think about that at that time of year. And I know my surgery was April 13th, because it was a Friday. Other than that, I really can’t tell you dates. Guess it’s my brain protecting me from the trigger angst. And for that,I thank her. Great post Nancy!

    1. Liz, Gosh, things did happen quickly for you. It’s interesting how we all process and remember differently too. Maybe you’re right about your brain trying to protect you. Thank you for reading and sharing.

  4. October 26, 2016, cancer diagnosis, millions of tears, Dec 1, near nervous breakdown, Dec 2, bilateral mastectomy, Jan 5, 2017, 1st day of chemo, May 25, 2017 , last day of chemo. Shall I go on? I really don’t dwell on these dates so much anymore except maybe the 1st one. That’s the one where I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop and i feel like I’m that much closer to a recurrence. I know it’s not healthy but that’s just me and i can’t change me. Maybe some day the day will go by without my realizing it, but I’m not there yet. At this point tho, i keep those dates to myself, except here in my safe place. Thank you again Nancy!

      1. Donna, February is pretty loaded for you too then. Thank you for sharing the date your mom died. I remembered that she died from MBC, but I didn’t know the date. I’ll be thinking about you next week. x

    1. Donna, I don’t think any of us dwell on the dates, but remember, oh yeah. Well, I do anyway. Pretty ironic that you were diagnosed during BCAM. I keep dates pretty much to myself too, although, I do share pretty often here on the blog, so I’m grateful readers like you are listening. Feel free to share here anytime. I do want this to be a safe place. Thank you for sharing today.

      1. October will never be my favorite month for many reasons but I’m learning to deal with it. I take lots of walks through the fall leaves and instantly change my calendar to November!

  5. Oh yeah, all those trigger dates…………..Sure, I have a few!
    Mine start on Jan. 4, 2016.
    It was 9 degrees F.
    I come home from work around 4:30 PM, I get a nosebleed. I don’t get nosebleeds normally. But it was really freaking cold outside.
    Nosebleed won’t stop. I am bleeding heavily. I try every trick in the book and nothing works. I clutch a full roll of Bounty paper towels and a trash bag. My concern grows every second and the blood is clotting somewhere and I am spitting out frightening amounts in clumps.
    Nice ( horrified) friend agrees to take me to ER.
    A 22 minute drive in terror, clutching the roll of paper towels and trash bag
    Thank goodness there was no wait.
    Nice lady takes blood pressure.
    Blood pressure is 200 something over some other high number.
    Still clutching the roll of paper towels and trash bag and spitting up gunk
    Nice young male APRN tries to stop the bleeding
    So when the highly technical clothspin method was not successful
    he apologized profusely, and with sad puppy dog eyes………..
    jammed a small (giant) balloon thingy, up into the offending nostril!!
    He called it a rocket……….we laughed and joked
    Five hours spent in ER
    Balloon seems to be working
    Balloon expected to stay in nostril for 3 days
    when it should be extracted by someone with these special skills
    I arrive home around midnight with no tylenol in the house
    Headache is screaming, I am weak and exhausted
    laying in bed with this hard ballon thing stuffed up one nostril
    amazed that I am still alive after losing sooo much blood
    wondering what happened to what remained of the roll of paper towels and full trash bag
    ……….afraid to fall asleep……..can’t fall alseep anyway…………….
    headache bad……………sooo bad……..
    Then at 2 AM, the balloon thingy slithers out of the offending nostril
    and falls on my chest, like a……..
    …………..terrified it will start to bleed again………
    I lie very still, so very still and somehow made it till the sun came up
    Managed to get out that morning and go to drugstore to get tylenol
    went back home and then took to the bed for the rest of the day
    That fateful evening probably saved my life, for now…….
    For the first time since getting obamacare, I go see a doctor
    I get pills for high blood pressure and an appointment for my very first mammogram
    I was adulting now to the max! (Finally, after 54 years)
    Mammogram Feb. 17, 2016
    More various breast tests the next couple weeks
    Biopsy March 15, 2016, diagnosis phone call March 16, 2016….
    blah, blah, blah, blah…………………..
    surgery……blah, blah, blah, another surgery, blah, blah
    September 12, 2016 last of 35 radiation treatments
    September 13, 2016, start anastrozole
    I remember eagerly gobbling that little pill, believing in it’s magical powers
    hoping for the best, and dare I say, feeling a little positive………!
    Hopes dashed by suspected carpal tunnel syndrome 4 to 5 weeks later
    Wait 6 months to let “body get used to the medication”
    surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome 2 months later
    But nothing compares to September 28, 2018
    the day my little brother died of bladder cancer gone to his bones
    ………..nope…… nothing……………
    Cancer sucks……………don’t matter what kind or how much you have or nothing
    I remember being almost upset because nobody remembered my “one year since diagnosis cancerversary” till I realized everyone was afraid to say anything anyway and you’re right, everyone has their own trigger dates
    my little brother never even got to feel that
    now I keep all my trigger dates to myself
    and try not to show the scars on those days …………………..
    And Donna is right, thank you Nancy, for this safe place to share our scars when needed 🙂

    1. Tanzangela, I think my heart just broke reading your comment. I will remember your trigger dates and I’m so sorry about your brother.

      1. Thank you, Donna. My heart is broken also. But just knowing there are people like you and Nancy and all her dear readers that can truly understand the losses we endure, is so helpful to my spirit! I so appreciate the fact that I can drop by here, tell my stories, bitch a little and get a “hug” once in a while. I am so sorry your Mom died of this horrible disease and I am sending you a big “hug” knowing the next few days will be full of extra memories and reflection.

    2. Tarzangela, OMG, your nose bleed story is beyond frightening. I’m sorry you had to go through all that. I bet the New Year isn’t easy for you having to remember all that. And talk about a domino effect. Yikes. But here you are. As they say, it is what it is. And yes, your dear brother. He didn’t get the chance to do a lot of things much less experience triggers. I’m sorry cancer has stolen so much from you. Thank you for sharing about these personal things. I’m glad you feel you can in this safe place.

      1. Thank you Nancy, that nosebleed was straight out of a horror movie! I really thought that I was going to die, either drowning in my own blood or something far worse. And thank you again for your support and understanding! (And letting me go on and on and on and on and on…….)
        Despite the reasons how I got here to your blog, I am very glad to have “met” you.
        Thank you…………………………..

  6. I certainly have trigger dates and continue to be aware of them, even though my family doesn’t speak a word of them. Just having passed my March 9th, two-year diagnosis date, with the cancer treatment whirlwind following, I have noticed these “anniversaries” cause me heartache and even a little chuckle now and then.
    A chuckle like this: I was instructed to walk down the hall, (no gurney) on my own will power to enter the surgery room for my bilateral mastectomy. I then saw my surgeon, who I love, on her cell phone, promptly dropping it and saying “Hi Joanne! Are you ready? Come on in!”. I thought that the Cleveland Clinic was a bunch of nuts!
    I find my trigger dates to be personal, yes, but I cannot lie that the silence from my family hurts at times. Yes, it is not fair to hold it against them, but I’m sure some of you get it.

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