Ooooh girl, check me out! I have a date! (A calendar date, not a laugh-nervously-wondering-what-to-say-next date.)
In the cancer world, many people celebrate a day they call their “cancerversary”. This is the anniversary of something significant in your cancer travels. From what I can gather, many people use the date of their diagnosis as the big day. One lady told me that you should celebrate this date of your diagnosis as your cancerversary. She said that you are considered a survivor as of that date.
Now I am a person who LOVES combining words to make one super word, so I should love “cancerversary”. I have a closet yoga room which I have dubbed the “cloga” room. Then there’s the time I saw a school bus come to a screeching halt, thereby missing a near bus disaster, or “busaster”. Those little packets you buy at the store to make sauce? Clearly those are sauce envelopes, or “saucevelopes”. But the cancerversary term just hasn’t resonated with me. I have put a lot of thought into this. An anniversary is a day that happens every year, thus a day of remembrance and many times, a day of celebration. Being the deep thinker that I am (or think I am–that pesky chemo brain still haunts me), I just couldn’t bring myself to celebrate when my one year diagnosis of cancer anniversary came around. I let it roll by quietly without fanfare.
I hate the day I got the call. I have a vivid memory of that 10:00am call on a sunny day in October 2011. Sometimes I get a little choked up when the sun shines through the blinds to land on my dining room table, the place I sat and listened to the news that would change my life forever. I don’t really want to have that burned into my brain. I want that memory to quietly fade away and leave me alone.
Along with celebrating the diagnosis date comes being regarded as a survivor. I never really felt like a survivor either. I know I am still here, but the surgeries, chemo, radiation, and side effect after side effect really made me feel like I was barely hanging on. Surviving, yes, but with a poor quality of life. I kept feeling like I needed permission to be called a survivor, like doctor permission.
Well, all of that cancerversary and survivor mess cleared up when I visited Dr. D on July 3rd.
I pulled into the parking lot of Dr. D’s building and parked to the extreme right of the entrance, just like every other time I went there. I walked into the building and went straight to the elevator, where my hand hovered over the 2nd floor and 3rd floor buttons–as usual, I could not really remember if I should hit 2 or 3. I chose floor 3 and when the doors opened, I quickly peered around the corner to see if the Texas Oncology door was indeed on the third floor. Like every other time I played this game, the office was really there. I walked down to the office, but stopped to take a bathroom break. Second stall from the left, first sink to the right. This time I looked into the mirror and I marveled at how I looked. Every time I go to this office, I look a little different: from long straight hair, to hair falling out, to no hair, to stubble, to bouncy curls…what a journey. From the restroom, I step across to the office to sign in, pay my $50 copay ($50!) and sit to wait for them to call me for lab work. Once called, I head straight for the chair by the window and offer my right arm. In staying with my typical thought process, I marveled at the amount of blood they take. 6 vials? Really? That seems like too much. Next I go down to the exam room where I wait for Dr. D to come see me. Blood pressure, temperature, review of meds, same routine as always. So then we begin to talk. I really like Dr. D because he is patient and kind and funny. I can count on him to offer the same support and smart decisions every time I see him.
But this time, he said something that I didn’t even realize I was waiting for.
“Well,” he said, “I think you’re pretty much fixed.”
On the inside, I had one of those fluttery little OMG moments. On the outside, I kept my usual I’ve-got-this composure and calmly replied with a nod. He ended our appointment with, “I’ll see you in six months.” I walked out of the building in a surreal state. Fixed? That makes sense to me, because I sure was broken for a while. Fixed works for me, better than cured. I drove away thinking about celebrating, but I didn’t know what to do. Fifteen minutes into my 30-minute drive home, I burst into tears while singing along with my the most lamentful songs I could find in my collection. These were good tears though, relief the being the biggest emotion ruling my thoughts.
Of course, Facebook was where I announced Dr. D’s decree, and my dear friend from high school suggested that I celebrate with wine or even a new purse. She is a genius, right? Plus, she’s a real doctor, and doctors are smart and know how to heal people. If she is prescribing a new purse, then I should probably take care of that right away.
So now I have a date. Exactly 18 months after my diagnosis (October 3, 2011), I have a day to look forward to. July 3rd will be my date. I don’t know if I can call it a cancerversary, but at least I have a date. My I’m fixed anniversary. My fixederversary.