When you think about it there are different milestones we experience throughout our lives. Some of the common ones you think of could be starting school for the very first time, learning how to ride a bike, going on that first date, attending and graduating high school and college, starting your career, getting married and having kids. The last four years has been another important milestone for me in remaining a cancer survivor. Today, February 22nd marks the day I consider myself to be a survivor. Many cancer patients use different ways in which they recognize that they became a survivor. Some may use the day their doctor gave them that fateful news that they have cancer; others may choose to use the day that they were declared cancer free. For me, I use the day that my cancer laden thyroid was removed for good and how I recognize my survivorship. Many call this their cancer anniversary and something which should be celebrated and accumulated every year you reach that milestone.
Having the opportunity to celebrate another year of survival and reaching yet another birthday, especially when you are at Stage 4 is something to be valued. I feel so very fortunate for still being here; however, then those thoughts start swirling in my head and sometimes I wonder why I am here when others have lost their battle? I have pondered over this so many times, especially over the last year as I have had to watch some friends lose their cancer battle. Moreover, I’ve watched other close friends lose people who didn’t even stand a chance, because they had cancers and other deadly diseases which spread so rapidly that resulted in their demise in only a few months’ time. Their life was cut so short way before it should have been. It has been a struggle coming up with an answer as to why my life has been spared, but their life was not. So far the only thing that I can figure is that God must have a higher purpose for me and maybe there is something that I still have yet to accomplish; although, I’m not sure exactly what that is. Perhaps it is just to be there for people who are experiencing cancer whether they are a survivor or a caregiver. Knowing there is someone out there that understands what you are experiencing and can share their knowledge just might be what that one person needs. When we can begin to have an understanding of things that just don’t make sense, I believe that is the ultimate test of our faith. There is a music video from Kutless that I want to share about faith:
Never before at one point in my life has my faith been tested more than it has been by going through this cancer experience.
When I was first diagnosed I really thought my days were going to be very numbered as I didn’t understand that it was possible to survive a Stage 4 cancer. I allowed all of those doubts and fears to overtake me. The thing about fear is that it can paralyze you, if you allow it. It can prevent you from moving forward and living life as you should. I know just how crippling that fear can be; it was as though I was at a standstill for the longest time. I am truly grateful for the people in my life that helped me to realize that I had to learn to let it go; I needed to change my mindset and how I look at things. However, sometimes those fears can somehow seem to sneak back into your life when you least expect it. With the challenges I am still facing, I just have to constantly remind myself to let it go as I don’t want to go down that road again in letting it control my life.
Nevertheless, I am grateful for my fellow cancer survivors who have shared their experiences and insight helping me to really understand that I can be a survivor. Some of these survivors have literally been to hell and back again with what cancer has put them through, but yet they are continuing to stay in this fight and are winning this battle, some even 10 years, or more down the road. Being able to relate to someone else who is walking these same lines and knows the dark valleys I have experienced has been so imperative for me. My cancer support groups both local and online, have been that lifeline that I have been able to cling to. Many of them I have never met in person, but yet we have cried, prayed and laughed together through a digital world; we are all uniquely bonded by similar circumstances.
I want to express my deepest appreciation and gratitude for my outstanding medical teams who have always had my best interest at heart, even when I haven’t always understood the reasons for some of their decisions. I could not have had a better team of skilled doctors, nurses and other professionals who have dedicated their lives in the service of others. God certainly put the right people in my path who have provided me with such excellent care, but yet so much more; some of them have become such close and dear friends to me.
Being a cancer survivor has really helped me to understand and appreciate that our time here on earth is so limited and why we need to savor every moment that we have. I now place my focus on those things and the people in my life that make it worth living. One quote that truly stands out for me is this:
It is not about those material possessions we have in life, but what matters most is the people in our life. My family and friends are my most precious jewels in my life that I no longer take for granted. The piece of wisdom that I would like to pass on to others is with the following quote:
You never want to leave words left unsaid. Sometimes you may think you have time and then that precious commodity we call time is swept away from you, because of cancer or other situations that is something beyond our control.
One hard lesson I’ve had to learn throughout this journey is that I don’t always have control of things and learning to let go of some things has been a bit of a challenge. I will admit that I am a total control freak, and it has taken me quite some time to understand and embrace the fact that I am not always the one in control. However, what I have learned is to control the things that I can and the rest is in God’s hands. We may not always understand why things have to happen, but there is always a reason or purpose for it.
Just as precious metals are refined in the fire, so are we being refined as we face trials and tribulations. I think that is when we learn more about ourselves; at least that is what I am finding out for myself. This turbulent journey has also been one of self-discovery in realizing who I am, where I am going and just what I am capable of accomplishing. Just because I have cancer does not mean I can’t continue to live out my dreams and to see those dreams become a reality. I have come to understand that you just have to keep pushing forward and live life day by day. You do your best with the circumstances you’re given, as the attitude you carry truly does play a role in determining your destiny!
No matter what challenges that lie ahead as I continue on this cancer journey, this is something that I would not trade for anything. I have learned so many valuable life lessons and it has helped me to be a stronger person because of it. I have met some of the most wonderful people along the way, who have truly touched my life more than they know. Moving forward, I am very appreciative of being afforded one more year of being a cancer survivor and will continue celebrating each year of survivorship as an important milestone in my life!