I know things are hard right now and it isn’t easy to find a bright spot in this strange time, but I wanted to note that today is a special day for me. It’s the 30th anniversary of my cancer suvivorship day. Somehow, on this day, the notion of being alive feels very big, very precious, and I’m suddenly more aware of it. Especially now, as we go headlong into something unprecedented, I realize that this same feeling has been with me my whole life.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what survivorship means. The definition changed over the years. It was the secret I kept as a teenager. The way a doctor dismissed me in my early twenties as “young” and “healthy” when all I wanted was some guidance on how to be proactive. It was the books I devoured and hours of research I did searching for something, anything, that would tell me what having chemo as a preschooler would do to me. It was the four-year-old version of me who crawled out and became needy and fragile when I was dealing with a long health journey over the past several years. If you asked me today, I’d say it’s getting back up, again and again, even when you don’t want to, even when it’s scary.
In my thirty plus years, I’ve been through a lot. People call me brave and strong and I’m uncomfortable with that sometimes. Being strong is exhausting. Pulling through the things that terrify me is taxing. I know I’m lucky, though. More than that, I’m grateful for all the people who love me and care about me, some I know, some I’ve never met. I’m thankful for the support of my parents, who drew from a well of courage so deep it had no bottom. And my husband, who didn’t bat an eye when I told him about it on our first date and who reminds me often how amazing it is to be a survivor. And my brother, who doesn’t remember a thing but lived through it with me.
I also think of the other childhood cancer survivors who’ve walked their own paths, the people met as an elementary school kid who are now incredible women and men that I’m so proud to know. I remember those who couldn’t fight anymore. Who didn’t get a chance to be where I am now.
I don’t like cliches and I don’t have much else to say. I’m glad to be here, guys, I really am. Here’s to thirty more years.