An Upcoming “Birth”day: Three Years After Cancer Treatments

April 24th is a kind of birthday for me.

It’s the day I completed breast cancer treatments.

And fittingly, this year’s local Relay for Life is on April 25th.

So I’m looking at this year’s Relay event as a “birthday” celebration of my third year as a cancer-free person.

But I’m not only feeling celebration . . . because cancer is swirling all around me. I have friends for whom cancer has recurred. I have friends who are nursing family members through cancer. I have friends who have had family members die from cancer. I see Facebook posts and news articles about people who are diagnosed with cancer – seemingly every day.

Cancer, cancer everywhere. Or at least that’s what I’m seeing and feeling now.

Heck, our centering prayer group reading even mentioned cancer last week!

And I have to admit that seeing and reading about cancer lately scares me. I wonder if cancer will return in my body.

I guess all cancer survivors worry about this. This past week I’ve had acute awareness of that potential. Nearly every ache and pain makes me wonder . . . is this a sign that cancer has returned?

My deep feeling is that it won’t return.

But what if I’m wrong?

That’s where my centering prayer practice provides me a foundation, one of being present with what is. Because right now I feel healthy. I feel stronger than since before cancer. I feel I’m on a good path, even though I’m currently jobless and not sure of my future.

But, honestly, who is ever sure of her future?

None of us is. Anything could happen tomorrow or in the next hour or in the next minute.

So all we really have is this moment.

I’m going to appreciate it. This moment. Right now.

With my coming “birthday,” I’m looking at the energy I’m feeling now as well as reflecting on my cancer journey in the past.

My initial Relay for Life goal

My initial Relay for Life goal

I’ve been feeling some wonderful energy connected with this year’s Relay for Life. I set a goal of raising $1,000 and posted a photo on Facebook. Within 48 hours, my Facebook friends had me over half way there, and within four days they had me over my goal.

A big “thank you!” to my very generous friends who donated to the cause of helping cancer patients and helping fund research to find a cure for this terrible disease. I’ve increased my goal, and friends continue to donate.

I’m feeling the love!

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. . . and again!!

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. . . and again. . .

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. . . again. . .

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Thank you to Relay for Life donors. . .

My look back at my cancer journey has me feeling the love, too.

Because, you see, I was surrounded by love the entire time.

Friends and family and even strangers were so loving and generous with me. They prayed for me and sent good vibes. They took me to doctor appointments and took notes for me. They brought food. They gave me blankets and clothing and hats and scarves and art. They sent cards, encouraged me on Facebook, wore scarves in solidarity, mowed my yard, raked leaves, took me to treatments, met me at treatments, visited, emailed, and texted. They sent packages with blankets and sweet grass from Montana and gift cards and more.

Some restaurant owners treated me to meals. Friends and strangers knitted, felted, and crocheted hats and blankets and prayer shawls for me. Friends and family took me out to eat. They shopped for me, had picnics for me, sent anonymous gifts to me, cut my hair (and shaved it) for me, gifted me with acupuncture sessions. One even got a squirrel out of my ductwork for me.

Another called to check on me every day.

And my sister was with me with my first (port) surgery and back for the last of the first round of chemo and back again for my lumpectomy and back again for my last chemo. She came a lot! And she checked in every day via phone or email.

There were so many loving gestures of support that I’m sure I left some out. But know that I deeply appreciated – do appreciate – them, even if I can’t remember them all at this moment.

As tough as that cancer journey was, it showed me how much love and generosity is a part of human nature. How kind people are. How willing to help.

And as I celebrate this “birthday,” I’m asking my family and friends to join with me – in prayer and thanksgiving, and perhaps in a donation to my Relay for Life efforts. Because, you see, I doubled my goal. I worry that it seems pretentious to think I could raise $2,000. But then I think of the cause – helping those with cancer and helping find a cure – so I think, “Why not? Why not try to raise as much money as I can?”

If you’d like to donate, to help me celebrate by helping others on this difficult journey, click here.

And thank you to those who have already donated – to me or to another Relay for Life team or another beat-cancer organization.

I’ll end this post with a photographic walk through my cancer journey – from September 2011, when I was diagnosed, to April 24, 2012, when I had my last radiation treatment, and three days later at Relay for Life. You just might see yourself or a gift you gave me.

It’s with gratitude that I celebrate this April. I don’t know my future, and I feel for those currently on a cancer journey.

But now, in this moment, I say thank you, deeply, to all of those who helped me in my journey and who remain friends now.

You make me feel loved.

And I love you all right back!

Because that’s what it’s all about.

Giving and receiving love. All the rest is details.

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My sister joined me in a special meal just before I began treatments. She came down from New England several times to take care of me. Nothing better than a loving, caring sister!

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My friend Claire painted a silk scarf for me

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Getting my head shaved since my hair was about to fall out from chemo effects

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Angie shaving my head

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Almost done. . .

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Bald!

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A tough day. I was getting used to being bald and feeling rotten.

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Scarf solidarity from my centering prayer group

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Now let’s get Margaret in the pic!

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Selfie on sofa (where I spent most of my time)

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Celebrating our birthdays (and my no-cancer-in-lymph-nodes after surgery)

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Steroid voraciousness after chemo

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LAST chemo treatment

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Face rash from chemo. There are all kinds of side effects! BUT this was the LAST chemo treatment.

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Chemo was over, and I was getting out and about. Sporting my Kim-made felted hat 🙂

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Radiation room

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Before one of my eight seroma aspirations. Yeah, I had lots of fluid problems.

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Fuzz! Angie tried to dye it pink, but it didn’t work.

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An outing at The Pocket to see wildflowers with Susan

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A Mentone outing with Sandy, who checked on me EVERY day during my treatments!

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My first Savannah return near the end of radiation treatments. Those live oaks did my soul a world of good!

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With my high school friend Efrayim in Savannah

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Savannah selfie

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Last day of radiation, and thus of treatment. Retiring my arm and head support.

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Treatment is over! My “birthday”! With the wonderful radiation techs. And wearing the cool hat Nina brought me from South America.

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My first Relay for Life, three days after I completed treatments. With Kelly, nurse extraordinaire. She’s the captain of the Fuller Cancer Center team, the one I’m supporting in Relay for Life.

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