For Breast Cancer Survivors, “Anniversaries” Are Never Forgotten — Or Are They?
This past Memorial Day weekend was beyond fantastic. It was absolutely phenomenal. We celebrated my daughter’s birthday with a trip to the Oregon coast. It was a whirlwind of a weekend full of driving, but the experiences my daughter got to enjoy with her family is what made the weekend even better.
I have talked about enjoying “the experiences” more than “the stuff” when our birthdays come around. Spending time with family, enjoying each other’s company, and being able to do fun things together is what creating memories are about. In five years, Emma will not remember the presents she received; instead she will remember being buried in the sand to her knees, exploring the tide pools, and feeding the harbor seals.
For the last few years, Emma’s and my birthdays have been soured by the fact that one birthday started the exam that led to the mammogram on the other birthday. Confused? Let me clarify. My birthday in 2012 was my annual exam that was quickly followed by a mammogram that changed everything on Emma’s birthday. I tend to remember these dates for what happened in 2012, not the celebrations we should have been doing. Each year, I make a mental note of what occurred. I might even recall the details on Facebook as a reminder to others to get checked. Things needed to change. Birthdays need to be celebrated for the good reasons – not remembering the past.
On my birthday, I made a conscious decision to stop living in the past on these two joyous days in May. I figured it would be hard to do, but knew I needed to try the best I could. I knew as we were preparing for this trip what “anniversary” was nearing. It was only a few days away. Imagine my surprise when we were driving home and I realized that anniversary came and went without any recognition.
The relief I felt was amazing. It honestly felt like the world was lifted off of my shoulders. Those anniversaries of being cancer free and gaining my set of girls are the ones I want to remember and celebrate. The anniversaries of my diagnosis are the ones I want to forget. Being that they correlate with our birthdays might be hard to forget. Forgetting this last one is a step in the right direction. I’m aiming for that relief more often. I want that world off my shoulders!
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