Anniversaries in their most common form are dates whereby you celebrate a partnership or perhaps on a sadder note, we remember the date of the passing of somebody we love. As we go through life, these type of anniversaries tend to accumulate.
When you are a cancer survivor, you have additional dates etched into your memory, you'll never forget where you were or what you were doing when you heard the words 'you have cancer'.
For me, that date was December 30th 2013. Today I am a 5 year cancer survivor. It was the day that life as I knew it ended and a new life began. From that day on, life would never be the same again whatever the outcome.
The first year after a cancer diagnosis is a brutal year: life changing and body changing surgery, chemo and then recovery followed by years of medication for lots of people. Sometimes I wanted to speed the clock up just to get me through those days. Five years of three monthly check ups, followed by six monthly check ups and then yearly check ups (massive fanfare). I always imagined how I would feel if I were lucky enough to reach the five year benchmark.
In many ways, this date has become the most important milestone and one that only fellow cancer survivors will understand. I have reached the magical five year mark! Most people will equate this to being cured or in complete remission but this of course is not completely true as many breast cancer survivors reach five, ten or even fifteen years only to hear that those pesky malignant cells have been hiding and waiting quietly until you're sipping on another celebratory cancerversary glass of champagne to surprise you with a recurrence.
Although I shall mark my five year cancerversary, I shall still remain cautiously optimistic for fear of jinxing myself. This is all part of my 'new normal' and the reality for many cancer survivors, a mixture of happiness, joy, anxiety and immense gratitude.
We also celebrate other milestones with far more thankfulness than ever before. Never again will I dread a birthday and say the obligatory 'woe is me, can't believe I'll be 50 in March'...Yes, it's another massive milestone that I have (almost) reached and it will be a privilege to be able to celebrate my special birthday as so many people don't get to do that.
What does one do to celebrate a cancerversary? My answer is quite simple, I shall celebrate purely waking up, feeling grateful to be alive and being able to simply enjoy life.
I have a wonderful family, a fabulous and supportive husband, three amazing children, the best circle of friends and since my original diagnosis, I am now the proud grandparent of three beautiful children. What more could I possibly celebrate?