Being able to Celebrate Your Cancer Survival
Marisa's reports about the Breast Cancer Research Foundation's big Spring Gala, the Hottest Pink Party Ever, have interested me because I've been planning my own cancer celebration. That phrase "cancer celebration" certainly is an oxymoron. Why would anyone celebrate cancer?
I won't be trying to compete with the Foundation on the number of celebrities in attendance. The main celebrity at my party will be Carl Johnson, the man who held my head when I was throwing up and who cooked most of the dinners for the eight months I was in treatment. He's also the guy who has been in charge of all mopping and vacuuming in the nine years that I've had lymphedema. In his very anti-celebrity way, he's done it all without asking for attention or thanks.
Other celebrities present will be the friends who supported me with prayers, get well cards and rides to the doctor. Bob and Sandra threw me a "hat party" when I went bald. Now that was a celebration-lots of laughter as we tried on silly hats and took pictures. There's one of my then-17-year-old son in a gold-spangled number smiling for the camera. I still have the pink hat Sandra gave me to wear "for real" after the silly ones had been packed away.
Ray and Janet will be there. When we traveled a thousand miles for a second opinion after my surgery to get a second opinion, we arrived home to find that they had mowed our yard while we were gone. We hadn't asked them to. They just saw our need and stepped in to do the job.
My little celebration won't raise as much money as the big gala, but I'll put out some brochures and bookmarks from the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation and try to spread the word that you don't have to have a lump to have breast cancer. I'll have a place where people can make donations if they wish.
This Sunday, April 20, 2008 will be both my 60th birthday and the 10th anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. My symptoms started in February, 1998, and it took almost eleven weeks to find out for sure that I had IBC. I beat the stats when I made it to my 53rd birthday, and I threw a party then to thank all the people who offered rides to the doctor, meals, and emotional support.
I've made it ten years without recurrence. I started my 50's as a cancer patient, but I'm ending them a cancer survivor.
So Sunday afternoon friends and neighbors will drop by to eat some cake and share my joy. There may not be much to celebrate about cancer, the disease, but there is plenty to celebrate. In these ten years, there have been so many new developments in treating cancer, and there are all the personal stories of people who help and people who survive. I have so much to celebrate.