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Approaching My "Big" Cancerversary

Approaching My “Big” Cancerversary

I’m not one for big celebrations as a rule. Never have been. Birthdays come and go with barely a nod. Parties…well, let’s just say I am just as happy to stay in and watch a good movie or read a book most of the time. But, when something really meaningful comes along, well, it makes the utmost sense to me to remember it in a big way. You know, something quite special. Fifty years of marriage…med school graduation…100 years of life…five years of surviving stage 4 lung cancer.

Yes, in lung cancer years, five is like 100 healthy person years. You see, for stage 4 lung cancer patients, only about 4% survive for five or more years beyond initial diagnosis. In fact, about 50% who are diagnosed at stage 4 die within the first year.1 So, it is only natural to set benchmarks as we go along and hope we’ll “make the cut.”

Setting Goals

I was diagnosed with stage 4 non-small-cell lung cancer on November 28, 2012. While I obviously had cancer in my body before my day of diagnosis, this is the starting point (DX date) all cancer patients use, for it is a major day in our lives. Some set family goals. They may want to live long enough to see a child graduate, see a grandchild born, or to finish caring for an elderly parent’s final days or months. For me, a single person, my goals were, in a sense, more basic. I just wanted to hit numbers. First, I wanted to see if I could or would beat the median one-year mark.

I came to realize at that first-year mark, that a federal Thanksgiving holiday had apparently been originated with me in mind by Abraham Lincoln way back in 1863, and even before him, though unofficial at the time, by George Washington.2 So, each and every year, I don’t just give thanks for my friends and family and God’s gracious provision for another year, but I offer my most profound thanks for another year of life itself. Another year of opportunity to advocate, educate and hopefully inspire others in a way that will benefit future lung cancer patients, caregivers, researchers and clinical providers.

A Milestone Worth Celebrating

Five years is, in cancer terms, sort of the holy grail of survival statistics. Everyone aims to reach five years. In fact, in many instances, physicians declare patients cured once they pass the 5-year mark, even though I would venture to guess that most patients never lose the abiding concern of relapse at some point down the road. Still, this anniversary is a big deal. It is a time that, even for we party-poopers, deserves celebration.

Since my diagnosis, I have never been without notable evidence of cancer in my body. I have, however, been treated successfully and continue living a good life, even with all the bumpy patches along the way. Now, as we approach that “big” 5-year cancerversary, I’m going to tell you a little secret. I really would love to be the guest of honor at a surprise party to celebrate such a momentous event. It would be lovely to know that people recognize all the hard work that goes into living with and being treated for lung cancer.

May we all give thanks for the cancer patients in our lives every day, and especially at Thanksgiving. Every cancerversary is a big deal to a cancer survivor, and it truly is cause for celebration.

Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on June 8, 2019, Karen Loss passed away. Karen was a valued member of the lung cancer community and an incredible advocate and avid writer. She will be deeply missed.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Lung Cancer Fact Sheet. American Cancer Society. Available at:
  2. Congress Establishes Thanksgiving. National Archives. Available at:


  • suesdixon
    2 years ago

    Congratulations!! I hopefully will be celebrating my 5 year mark next March, 2018. It IS a BIG deal!

  • Karen Loss author
    2 years ago

    I am sorry for the very delayed reply. Thank you so much for your kind comment. I had a party with about 40 guests on December 2. Many of them got to hear me play the trombone (!) for the first time ever. I thought it was fitting to show a stage 4 lung cancer patient using her lungs in that way. I hope you, too, wikll have a great celebration in March.

  • maliceclark
    2 years ago

    Love your story! How encouraging to hear you will make the 5 year mark. Congratulations and I hope you have a Surprise Party, even if you throw it yourself. Certainly a day of Thanksgiving and celebration. Thank you .

  • Karen Loss author
    2 years ago

    My apologies for the very delayed response. Thanks so much for your lovely comment. I did, indeed, have a party last December 2. It wasn’t a surprise. In fact, my siblings basically wanted me to do all the planning, but that made sense since I was the one with the guest list, etc. They got excited about it along with me and we had a lovely time with about 40 guests.

    I think all cancer survivors should look for things to celebrate every day, for we have much to be thankful for if we are open to seeing it.

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