September 11th. A crummy date, for many reasons. One of them being that this is the date, one year ago, I was told:
You have breast cancer.
I remember my doctor telling me it would be a rough year, and I thought, A YEAR?! That is way too long! And yet now, here I am. One year, exactly. A year of hospitals, surgeries, poison, burning, anxiety, sickness, and survival.
I remember walking out into the street in a daze. I have cancer, I have cancer. I remember emailing my girlfriends: Ok, this is going to be a pretty intense email, but I have cancer. Fuckkkkk. I can’t believe I just typed that sentence. I remember stumbling over to the pharmacy to fill the prescription for anti-anxiety meds that my doctor said I would likely require to get to sleep for the next few nights. I thought, no way, I’ll be fine.
I popped my first pill that night.
I remember coming home and Googling my cancer (of course). I remember reading some really scary things about it and seeing the words AGGRESSIVE and POORER PROGNOSIS over and over. I emailed my doctor with the subject: First Freakout Email.
I remember my little sister coming over and how we sat on the couch and cried without talking. Then we, along with my husband, realized we still needed to eat, so we went grocery shopping. My first realization that life does not suddenly stop when you are in a crisis. It goes on, whether you like it or not.
We walked to the grocery store and I felt extreme rage at everyone I saw. I hated the young mom with her baby in a stroller. I hated the happy couples. I hated them all. Why were people going on, as if nothing had happened? Why were they allowed to be happy? My life had been destroyed. Why hadn’t theirs?
I don’t remember what I ate that night. Probably not very much, which was my trend for the month after my diagnosis.
I remember going to sleep, wondering how I would ever face the next day, and the days after that. Wondering how I’d ever get a grip on these foreign concepts – cancer, chemo, antibodies, hormones, fertility.
And here I am, one year later, with a far greater knowledge of these things and many more than I ever imagined I might possess.
I remember thinking, I am going to die. I might not make it through the year. I might never see the next season of Homeland.
As it turns out, I am very much alive. I made it through year one post-cancer. The first several years are the most critical. Every year is a milestone. Every year, I get closer to the possibility of more years.
This date will always be significant in my life. It is the day my life changed. The day I lost a large chunk of what innocence I still had. The day I became Steph AC (after-cancer) and said goodbye to Steph BC (before-cancer). The day I became a “cancer survivor” whether I wanted that title or not.
I will never forget that day.
I somehow made it through Year One. There were times I wasn’t sure I would. But I did. And I’m hopeful that Year Two will be a lot better, and involve a lot more fun, and a lot more hair.
Happy Cancerversary to me.