I am a Survivor

The meaning of life is a philosophical question concerning the significance of life or existence in general…” – Wikipedia

Today marks National Cancer Survivor Day. This is one day a year that all cancer survivors are recognized for our battles. For our frustrations. For our fears. For our triumphs. We celebrate our survivorship in a way that is meaningful to us. Some of us shout it from the rooftops. Others keep it close to the vest. There is no right way. There is no wrong way. It is my way, his way and her way. As it should be.

It so happens that this annual event is not so far off from my birthday. Every year I do an annual birthday post. This year it’s taken me an extra bit of time to sit and just get something out. I’ve tried to start, but mere words fall short of the feelings I hope to get into text. I think today is a good day to try.

Just over a week ago I celebrated the 16thbirthday doctors said I wouldn’t live to see. I was with the man I Love. I spent time on the back of our Harley riding through a beautiful national park. We had an intimate dinner. I indulged in a girly cocktail. Okay, in two girly cocktails. We took in a show and strolled back to our suite where we ate oh-so-decadent desserts from a wonderful patisserie. We laughed.  We relaxed and reminisced. We celebrated. We LIVED.

Every single day is Survivor Day for me, but most especially on my birthday I embrace my survivorship for all that it is. I have heard many a person moan and groan about getting older when a birthday rolls around. Let me be candid here. I loathe the idea that anyone could complain about being lucky enough to celebrate a birthday.

I count down the days. I almost obnoxiously revel in it. I give thanks for the opportunity to have another year – something so many people have had taken from them during their cancer battles.  When my survivor’s guilt creeps up I remember that those we’ve lost along the way would delight in my victories and I celebrate that they were here. I didn’t have to know them. I just know they still live on in the hearts of many.  I thank them for the lessons they left with our doctors and researchers and I know they did not leave this world in vain.

As each year passes me by, chemo, hair loss, port-a-catheter placement, bone marrow biopsies, CT Scans and gallium scans further distance themselves from my memories. Every so often I recall those days so I won’t forget. And I stay actively involved in the fight against cancer. Some ask me why I would do such a thing. Doesn’t it depress me? Don’t I want to forget? No. It does not depress me, and no I do not want to forget. Ever. I am here to pay forward what others have done for me: Raise awareness and funds so that I may have my remissions. I didn’t kick three types of cancer’s asses so that I could forget. I fought to live and now I have the honor of fighting for others so that they may celebrate their wins and their survivorships in the ways they see fit.

It hasn’t always been graceful or eloquent. And it certainly was not glamorous.  Cancer isn’t like the soap operas. You don’t get a diagnosis, wear a scarf on your head and two months later you’re beautiful with long flowing locks. Cancer is hard. It can be beyond ugly. It literally sucks the life and breath from you. But when you think you can’t take anymore, you learn you can. You discover you are stronger than you ever imagined. I have said this many times; cancer is my worst enemy and my greatest teacher. I would never change it. I don’t believe I’d know the gratitude I’ve come to realize in this life without having gone through it. It took a lot from me. It left me with some scars. But you can believe I got a hell of a lot more out of cancer than it got out of me.

And now here I am. In just over one month I will put on my beautiful wedding gown and walk up the aisle to an incredible man. His parents will be among us in spirit; they both passed from cancer before I met fiancé.  I may never have gotten the chance to meet them, but even through something as ugly as cancer we share a connection. I have had a glimpse into the worlds they lived in after they were diagnosed. They gave me the greatest gift I could ever have hoped for, and I am so thankful to them for their son. It is my sincere I hope I will live up to any expectations they would have had for him. On our wedding day, and always, we will honor them.

I will also become a stepmother. It is my heartfelt wish I can pass on the value of leading a quality life to my future stepdaughters as they grow from girls into women. I have so many hopes for them; mostly that they carve out wonderful paths for themselves, and that they know not even the sky is the limit; the dreams they dream are something they can live.

I am beyond excited. I often tell fiancé I want to put on my wedding rings and just wear them for a little while. He chuckles and tells me I can. On July 5th. I never thought I’d be living these kinds of days – the days that the grins are so plentiful it makes your face hurt. And yet here I am…

I have beaten the odds. My mom calls me her kitty cat with nine lives. I don’t know about that, but I do know life is good. No. Life is GREAT.

So to finish off for Wikipedia – the meaning of life? It’s simple really. TO LIVE! And I intend to do just that.

To all my fellow survivors I wish you continued success in your journeys. And on your loneliest of days, remember we are all in this together. I celebrate you, today and every single day.