Today is National Survivor Day. It’s my first year participating in it and I’m not going to say that having cancer is worth it to get a new holiday, but it’s certainly been a nice day. There are of course a lot of things to reflect on today. There were many months that I didn’t know if I would make it this far. I’ve changed a lot this year, and although I liked myself before, I think I’m a better person for it. I look at life completely different now. I realize how fleeting it is. I am thankful for each day I have.
I got up early to volunteer at Leaves of Hope, my local hospital (and treatment center) annual race. Unfortunately I was not able to participate as I had planned due to the radiation burns, but I was able to volunteer and it was a great experience. Since I had planned to run the 5K I had registered and got my first survivor bib:
We were also pinned, ribboned, and tagged so that everyone could properly recognize. Mostly though, events at my local hospital are great because I’ve gotten to know so many people during this year and I get to see almost all of them in a much calmer environment than appointments and treatments. I was able to see my oncologist and radiation oncologist who both ran the race, as well as about 15 different nurses, techs, and supporters. It’s amazing the friends I have made on this journey, and I really don’t want to stop seeing them once treatment is over. It seems crazy but I really feel like I’ve made so many actual friends, not just people who I’m nice to during treatments. Who would have thought so much good could come out of such a shit sandwich?
I was also able to meet Ethan Zohn. This is another addition to my collection of photos with somewhat celebrities that I didn’t know before cancer. Once again, I’ll have to look into this Survivor show. I listened to his talk and was blown away. He actually made me cry a little which is not an easy thing to do. He also did not respond to chemo which is super rare and I immediately feel a bond with anyone who has had that experience. I feel connected to people so closely who have been through similar experiences – cancer of any kind is obviously one of them and his story really hit home with me. He was also super nice in person. He spends his time getting the word out and touching as many lives as he can which is also something I’m longing to do and I really appreciate all of you who actually read my blog and hope you get something out of it. If Ethan is in your area, he’s definitely worth the trip to go see. Here we are:
I was also able to take part in a batik project for the hospital. I’ve seen these wall hangings in several areas of the cancer center but had no idea where they came from. Now I know that they create one at each Leaves of Hope event. The center is decorated with a message of hope and all around the sides are small squares that survivors get to write in and decorate with dye. Here is mine – a shout out to Stupid Cancer:
After leaving the Lutheran celebration, I went over to Red Rocks Cancer Center where my surgeon is located. They were also having a celebration for survivors. I helped my friend Liz with the Stupid Cancer booth and got to talk to some really cool people. I also snapped this shot of Liz and her hubby. Seeing this totally cracked me up and I want to give mad love to all the caregivers out there, because they never stop!
After leaving the second survivor celebration, I went to a friends house who was having a gathering for a dear friend who is moving. I know that people come and go, but at least in this day and age I know that doesn’t mean we will lose touch (and you better not, Debbie!). At the gathering, I met another survivor who lives very close to me and just finished her chemo for ovarian cancer. I am amazed at the people who are dealing with the same issues as me, so close to my home, and I didn’t even know they were there. I’m so sorry that anyone else has to deal with this stuff, but I’m so glad to know them if they are.
Lastly, I have to rant just a bit. I know that I’ve been going through breast cancer but I just have to say that it’s not ALL about breast cancer. It’s very hard for me to hear some of the things strangers say and I want to put it out there at least for the people who read this… pink does not save the world. There are so many kinds of cancer out there and I had people telling me that today was just for breast cancer survivors, I had another woman tell me that she was so glad she “only” had breast cancer instead of one of the hard ones (I’m paraphrasing, but it was something like that). I know that breast cancer gets a lot of press, but there are so many cancers out there and I really don’t feel like anyone should be comparing. Also, I don’t know what experience that lady had with breast cancer, but I consider this one a hard one. And no amount of pink anything makes it any easier. I really don’t like that it has the reputation of being “easy” and survivors saying things like that doesn’t help. ALL cancers are hard. No matter what treatments people have, no matter how quickly they get through it. If I’m being 100% honest, I will say that I have a twinge of jealousy when I hear how well other people respond to chemo, or that their treatment was shorter or easier than mine, but I am no stronger than anyone else put in my position. You do what you have to do. This was my path. If I didn’t have my kids, I may have quit. It was honestly that hard. But I do have them, and I couldn’t quit on them. And look at me now. I’m almost done. I looked at one of the pictures of me right after surgery and I’ve come a LONG way in the past six months. And even though it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, I’m glad I did it. I have learned a lot about myself and I am going to help others. I take the perks wherever I can get them.
Congratulations to all the survivors out there – may we all raise a glass to another year on the right side of the grass. Cheers!