The majority of the people who have cancer have a date or event that becomes the marker for their “anniversary date”. This could be the day they found out they had cancer, the date of their surgery or even the first time they found a lump or had irregular blood work that needed further investigation. This date then becomes the annual date that marks the progress of treatment and healing, from month to month and hopefully extending into years.
We are all different people and handle things in the ways that work best for us. Some of us need to acknowledge every milestone and others are quite content to go on with life and not think about significant dates. There is no right or wrong about how we choose to remember our cancer milestones.
Getting Through the First Year
When I was first diagnosed, I was focused on getting through the surgery and treatment that I needed to have. I viewed this as a brief interruption in my regularly scheduled life. I broke the treatment down into segments of diagnostics, then my surgery, healing from surgery and treatment. A month after surgery, I started radiation which had a specific, finite amount of treatments. My daughter and her friend helped me to count down those days by creating a board with small bags attached to it. There were 28 bags; one for every radiation session I was to receive. Every day, when I got home from the hospital, I was allowed to open one of the bags. They contained a small treat of some sort; a favorite candy, a gift card, a nail polish, an inspirational poem or book. It helped to brighten the distress I felt and count down the days until it was over.
After I finished my treatment, my goals were to heal and try to remain cancer free, just like all cancer survivors. I focused on the first year and just getting through that crucial year. My mother gave me a bracelet that had small silver beads on it that I could move from one side of the bracelet to the other with each healthy month that passed. The bracelet had 12 beads and at the end of the year, I would have moved them all. This was a private acknowledgement that I could wear and see every day.
When I got to that first year anniversary, it was important for me to recognize it with my family and close friends. I invited everyone to meet me at a labyrinth that is on the grounds of a local church. (A labyrinth is a meandering, often circular path that leads to a center. They are often used as a walking meditation and have been in existence for thousands of years. One of the most famous labyrinths is found on the floor of a church in Chartres France.)
When my group got together at the labyrinth, I had a bag of stones with inspirational words and as people entered I had them choose a stone that they would carry through their walk. When we all got to the center, we talked about wishes and hopes for healing and then walked back out.
It was very meaningful to me to be with the people who had supported me and helped me get through a very tough year.
Marking my Yearly Anniversary
Since my first anniversary, I have gone back to the labyrinth every year by myself to reflect and honor the milestone of another year. I take my journal with me. I review what I have written from past entries and note the happy events and challenges that have presented themselves to me.
For me, it is a way of quietly taking out some time to honor my journey. Yes, life has continued to go on, but it is important to honor the journey.