Today is a really exciting day… even more exciting than my birthday! After a little scare in March, I am really excited to announce that I am officially five years cancer free!
What does that mean? One year cancer free is scary. You’re excited, but you’re nervous, and in my case, I was just beginning to cope. At two years, you get a little calmer. The Chicken Little spirit starts to fade. At three years, you’re at that halfway point – it could happen or it couldn’t, but you’re pretty calm about it either way. Four years cancer free is equal parts exciting and terrifying. You’re sooo close to five years you could taste it, but oh my goodness, wouldn’t it suck for the cancer to come back closer to that milestone.
And then you make it to five years, and it’s a sigh of relief. The risk of recurrence drops significantly. And in my case, it’s equal parts wanting to scream it from the mountaintops and silently celebrate alone. (I didn’t expect that year five would also bring survivor’s guilt. Add that to the list of things no one ever tells you.)
While this isn’t a battle that I would have chosen for myself, I know that I wouldn’t be “me” without it. I’ve learned resilience. I’ve gained confidence. I’ve started to fear less and laugh more. I go into each day knowing that I’ve fought this battle, so whatever the day brings me, I am competent to figure out. I’ve learned that looks aren’t everything, and that scars do actually fade, even if they take a few years. I’ve found the silver lining in this situation, and it’s helped me to find a silver lining in every situation since. I’ve learned the importance of slowing down, and truly savoring each day, because tomorrow could hold the best or the worst news of my life.
I’m living proof that cancer can happen to anyone; it doesn’t care about your age or ambitions. If you want to celebrate with me today, the best present you could give me is scheduling an appointment to get your skin checked. Cheers to five years, my friends!