A woman in a head scarf looks unsure as confetti rains down on her

To Celebrate or Not?

The day you receive a cancer diagnosis is often the worst day of most people’s lives. Everyone handles it differently and, of course, not all diagnoses are the same. Was your cancer caught early at stage I or II when achieving no evidence of disease (NED) is more possible? Were you stage IV? Has it spread to your bones, liver, or brain causing you horrible pain? Were you 75 or 35? All these factors play into how you felt that day, but I can tell you no matter what the details were, your life will never be the same.

A diagnosis is better than unanswered questions

Although they are words no one wants to hear, for some it’s a relief. Many lung cancer patients, especially the younger ones that don’t have obvious risk factors, are misdiagnosed for months, or sadly years. Putting a name to their symptoms allows them to make a plan and to find relief from their pain and move forward. You do not have asthma that meds don’t help. It’s not allergies, migraines, or arthritis. It’s cancer. It’s devastating and scary and it sucks, but now you can treat it.

The language of cancer

Cancer patients use a whole language that many others do not:

Scanxiety - anxiety leading up to scan results

NED – no evidence of disease

Cancerversary – the anniversary of your diagnosis

Do you recognize your cancerversary?

Some people choose to celebrate their cancerversary and others do not. Mine is September 27, 2011. The first year I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. It felt weird to “celebrate” a day that brought so much pain, fear, and sadness to me and my family. I was also still doing chemo, so I was bald, felt weak, and looked sick. We did go out to dinner, but it felt a little strange to me.

I celebrate surviving another year

After the first year, I had more time to mentally accept my situation and I chose to celebrate that day. I DO NOT celebrate getting the deadliest cancer on the planet. I don’t celebrate the uncertainty and my future being stolen from me. I don’t celebrate all the sadness, anger, and tears it has caused my mom, husband, and children.

I celebrate because I was diagnosed with a cancer that kills most people in less than a year, but I am still here. I celebrate because I have a driver mutation that has viable treatments. I celebrate because I only had a 5% chance of living 5 years. We actually had a party with 96 people for my 5-year cancerversary. I celebrate research and all those that have contributed to my life. I celebrate a new-found gratitude for every day. I celebrate seeing my daughter graduate high school (she was 11 when I was diagnosed) and watching my son grow into a good-hearted man. I celebrate surviving another year.

Choose to celebrate and remember it all

I love my life and hold onto each moment like it is a special occasion. Those that know me know I take pictures of everything. Not so much for me, but for others when I’m gone. I’d love to grow old with my husband and hold onto hope that research will find a way to make that happen, but I’m also a realist. I know everyone has their way of coping and how they deal with their cancer, but I choose to celebrate it all.

Do you celebrate your cancerversary?

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