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It's My 'Cancerversary,' but Every Day I'm Still the Girl Who Had Cancer


People are able to recount the exact place they were  when JFK was shot, when the planes hit the Twin Towers…

When they heard, “You have cancer.”

I was talking to another two-time survivor who said she felt worse after her first time around than her second.
I’m the other way around.
I got off “easy” with “just” surgery the first time.
Chemo, radiation, herceptin infusions on top, multiple surgeries… this was definitely more the big league for me.

So yes.
It was Christmas Eve and I got the call.
My big joke is thank goodness I’m Jewish because it really would’ve ruined my Christmas.
Instead I cried for an hour and then went to PEPE’s for pizza with my family.

Because isn’t that what everyone does when they’re told they have cancer?
I needed some kind of normalcy.
And pizza is the epitome of normal.

“It’s what we had feared.”
“It’s not what we had hoped for.”
“It’s grade 2.”
“It’s HER2 positive.”
“It’s aggressive.”

Chemo
Chemo
Chemo

For some reason the surgeries, the radiation, that part wasn’t so scary (because as we know I am, sadly, queen of surgeries.)
But the chemo…
Losing the hair…

Do you know that asking if you will lose your hair is one of the first questions most patients ask their oncologist?

It’s not because we are all vain.
It’s because we know that we cannot hide once we lose our hair.
It’s because we cannot look in the mirror for a second and pretend cancer isn’t a part of our lives.

(Maybe my diagnosis isn’t my cancerversary, but I’m not sure what day is. I needed to have two surgeries to remove the cancer. Would that be the day? Would it be the day I ended all treatment? The day my reconstruction was over?)
Regardless of what day is the cancerversary I am now (four days away from) two years out from the d-day.

And you know what?

It still sucks.

“But at least hopefully each day is a bit better,” a dear love said to me.

And of course that is the truth.

Not every day is “cancer day” anymore.

Not every day do I cry at my scars or curse the medication causing my aching joints (OK, that’s not true. Every day I curse the medication).

Not every day do I feel my bald head anymore.

But every day I am still the girl who had cancer.
That of course will never go away.

And it’s a new kind of me in spite of people saying, “Oh cancer didn’t change me” or “I still see things the same way.”

Not me.

It changed me.

And I see things differently (partly because I’m convinced chemo caused my worsening eyesight) but mainly because I just do.
For better or worse.

So happy cancerversary to me.

I cried and made it through — scarred, yet stronger.

So take that, cancer.

This story originally appeared on Eat the Frosting First.

Getty photo by Punnarong