Cancerversary: How to Create Your Tradition

Health Writer
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Whether it’s the day you were diagnosed, had surgery, or finished treatment, many people choose to mark a particular date related to their cancer experience. Some people think it’s important to celebrate the treatment’s completion, while others need to acknowledge the date they cannot forget. There is no right or wrong way to mark a cancerversary. You get to choose the date and the way you want to remember it. Here are some ideas to get you thinking.


A cancerversary is not necessarily a celebration

But first... Many survivors don’t choose their cancerversary date; it chooses them. It’s the date they cannot forget, and that can mean it may not be a day of celebration. This can be especially true for those who live with metastatic cancer. This day can include only a mere moment of silence to commemorate the day your life changed, or a treat to make your life or someone else’s better. Now for some ideas...


Set a goal for your next cancerversary

For some, a cancerversary is a time of new beginnings. Maybe this is a time to re-evaluate your life. What do you want to accomplish in the coming year? Are you going to find a new job? Check an item off your bucket list? Spend more time with friends? Get healthy? You decide.


Do something you love on your cancerversary

This can be anything — a creative pursuit or a special treat. If you’re a working mother, maybe you read a book. Maybe it means extra time to write, read, craft, surf, ski, or skydive. Diana Dickinson marks her chondrosarcoma diagnosis with a chocolate bar and dinner out. Cindy Wright marks her breast cancer diagnosis date by getting a massage or glassybaby. Becky Olson, thyroid cancer survivor, buys seeds for vegetables so she can grow things that nourish her body.


Volunteer or donate on your cancerversary

Some survivors feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude on their cancerversary and may find satisfaction in making the world a better place. This can be something small like planting a tree or making a donation to a non-profit that supports cancer research. Or, it could be the commitment to volunteer on a regular basis for the coming months or year.


Plan a party for your cancerversary

Celebrate! Plan a party to connect with friends and family and especially the people who helped you through the hard times. It doesn’t have to be a grand affair. Just set up the grill and pick up some fresh fruits and veggies at the farmer’s market. Make it a small, intimate gathering or a blowout party.


Take a minute to remember cancerversaries past

Take a minute or two to think about what your life was like then, and what it’s like now. Jennifer Campisano, breast cancer survivor and mother of a 7-year-old and 7-month-old, says she has a moment of silence and then pours herself a large glass of wine. Five years out of breast cancer treatment, Dana Brown Northcott looks at pictures of her kids every cancerversary to admire how far they’ve come.


Tell someone you love them on your cancerversary

It doesn’t have to be with words either. You can give a person a hug or buy them some ice cream. Join that person in doing something they love. Thank them for being there for you and tell them you’ll be there for them. Judy Haley Schwartz’s breast cancer diagnosis date falls a few weeks before her daughter’s birthday and she shows her love by planning her party.


Join a survivor community or celebration for your cancerversary

Sometimes we survivors need to feel like we aren’t the only ones, like there are other people who have been through similar experiences. There’s power in knowing what others have accomplished and achieved after cancer. There’s power in advocacy. It’s never too late to join a support group, volunteer to be a mentor, participate in an awareness walk, or march in a parade. You might get the reassurance you need or you might provide reassurance to someone who needs it even more.


Find the freedom to forget your cancerversary

For those survivors who are lucky enough to be 5, 10, 15 years out, cancerversary traditions may change. They can go from being anxiety-laden days, to celebrations, to… completely forgotten. That’s right, there are some days and dates we can never forget until, miraculously, one day we do. And perhaps this moving on with life, this living and being able to forget, is the best possible way to mark the day.