The cancer roller coaster was in full swing this weekend.
Saturday was my 42nd birthday. I had a lovely day celebrating by having some friends over for brunch. It’s exactly how I wanted to spend my day – eating the food I love with a few people I love and love me dearly.
Over the last 3 years, I’ve learned to spend more time doing what I want to do and say no to the things I don’t want to do. And that’s what this birthday was about.
Then Sunday was my three-year anniversary of being diagnosed with breast cancer. This year’s anniversary was a bit easier than last year. I feel more stable these days, more like my pre-cancer self. I’m feeling good, exercising regularly, traveling, going out with friends, staying up past 9 p.m. (watch out!)
Having said that, I know all too well not to get conceited with cancer. Yes, I’m grateful that I caught my breast cancer early and have survived. But early detection doesn’t always mean a lifetime of survival. Women (and men) survive breast cancer in the breast. When breast cancer spreads to other organs, or metastasizes, that’s when people die of breast cancer. And as I’ve learned from my research and Twitter friends, 30% of early stage breast cancer returns as metastatic breast cancer. There’s currently no cure for metastatic breast cancer. And only 2% of funding for breast cancer research goes to metastatic breast cancer research. That’s gotta change, for all of our sakes.
I’m painfully award that breast cancer will follow me around for my lifetime, with both physical and mental scars. I don’t think I’ll ever be ‘done’ with cancer, whether that’s in the metaphorical sense or the literal sense. But I hope I’m one of the lucky 70% where my early detection doesn’t return with a metastatic stage. I’ll keep my fingers crossed on that.
So for now I’ll celebrate these important anniversary milestones. Birthdays are, by definition, a celebration of live. I always loved my birthday, and now it takes on even more meaning for me. Another year with my family and friends. Another year of making my dreams come true. Another year of good health. These are no small victories.
So while everyone else complains about the grey hairs during their birthdays, I’m grateful to have more time to do the things I still want to do and to grow old.