A total of 3,650 days. Every one of those days since the day I was diagnosed 10 years ago has been a gift, a gift that I could not imagine that I would be lucky enough to get. This upcoming year has a lot of amazing days for me to celebrate- a 50th birthday, a 25th anniversary, a 10-year celebration of Little Pink, but today is such an important day. You see when I was diagnosed 10 years ago I had no idea just how much my life would change. I look at the men and women who have been on this journey of breast cancer and whom I have had the privilege to get to know and I have been blessed. I think about Michelle, the very first breast cancer survivor I met in a hot tub in the Outer Banks the day after I was diagnosed when my world was spinning out of control and her ability to look into my eyes and see exactly what I was feeling and her uncanny ability to connect so quickly to help ease my fears. You see, the cancer community is one is which I have never ever felt alone. Don’t get me wrong- I wish I didn’t belong to this club, but I do and I am so thankful for the wonderful people put in my path every step of the way. There is a similarity that you crave as a cancer patient- others that “get it”. Once you see it, feel it, touch it, you realize that it is a gift because it is true empathy to a depth unimaginable. It is support that sees no race, socioeconomic or religious boundaries.
I have met people on this journey that blame God, put their complete faith in God, question God, and praise God. For me, this journey is one in which I found God. He had been pursuing me my whole life and I finally put down all of my self-serving barriers and let him catch me. God pursued me and never stopped. I am a better person now than I ever was before cancer because I know Him and I believe in his amazing love. For this, thank you cancer.
When I look over the past 10 years and I see all of the people that are no longer here and I can’t help but think that I am one of the lucky ones. With each day that I am given, I have an intense drive not to waste it. I also know that if my cancer comes back, I do not want to regret not using the most of the time that I was given, especially since I had a chance to see my mortality so clearly.
I look back at pictures of an 11-year-old boy who dealt with growing up fast while his mom dealt with cancer. And now I see an amazing 21-year-old man who I get to watch become the best version of himself every day. I get that privilege and I don’t take it for granted. If you had asked me 10 years ago how I felt about being diagnosed, none of my answers would have had anything to do with medical facts or symptoms. Every answer was about my list of “wants” with my son: to see him graduate 8th grade; to teach him to drive; to hear about his first kiss; to cheer him on when he hits a game-winning shot; to send him off to the prom; to do college tours with him and watch him pick; to applaud when he graduates high school…… and the list goes on and end, because it hasn’t ended. I still want to be there for college graduation; to meet the girl he will marry; to watch him get his first job out of college; to celebrate him becoming a dad and so much more! And today, I get to revel in the fact that I made a lot of wishes and that they have come true. Do you know how often before cancer I never thought that my wishes came true? And now, I have been granted so many of my wishes, which just makes me realize that I maybe I had been wishing for the things that don’t really matter. So today, I am going to blow out my 10-year candle and make more wishes that truly matter. I will not take for granted another day. I will not stop meeting and sharing in the pain of others on the journey. I will be a light for someone else and I will, without regret, choose to live a life in accordance with His plan for me.