I live and die by my calendar and to-do lists. Before the age of digital calendars, I was that person who walked around with a full-sized binder that served as my calendar. Three hundred and sixty-five full-sized pages that I could annotate, color code, add sticky notes to, and otherwise organize as needed. It was glorious to behold. It also weighed about eight pounds.
Now that I’m paperless, my calendar is still just as organized and color-coded, and my virtual sticky notes remind me of everything from birthdays, upcoming events, reminders to write thank-you notes, etc. I’ve gone so far as to put an annual entry for my cancerversary milestones, too.
In case you are wondering, no, there is no chance in hell that I will ever forget those dates. The date of my annual exam when my lump was found, the date of my early mammogram and emergency ultrasound and emergency biopsy, the date of my diagnosis, the date of my surgery, the date of my last treatment… all seared into my brain forever. But the Type A organizer in me still has those dates in my calendar. It is a visual reminder of that milestone and how far I am from that point.
So the months of June, July, August, September, October, and November are filled with these cancerversary reminders. “Cancerversary – appt with Dr. PCP where we verified the lump (2014)” and “Cancerversary – Diagnosis Day (2014)” these banners fly across the top of various dates. They, too, are color-coded because I am still me. Cancer didn’t change me that much.
This year was Year 4. I am one year away from becoming just like everyone else. (The magical Year 5 mark is when my chances of a cancer recurrence or cancer event align with the rest of the general population.) And this year was the first time that the cancerversary period was a little easier. It was less scary this time around to remember what that time was like.
I look back at old blog posts that I wrote about having cancer and I can hear the disbelief, the fear, the disconnect with other people, and then the hope. I recognize this person but I am not her anymore. Like any traumatic event, the changes that ripple forth from having cancer continue long after the event itself is over. So I am me, this me that exists today.
And do cancerversaries get easier? Yes, I think so. My upcoming mammogram this year seems less ominous. I have hope that it will be another boring checkup. And when people ask that question of “How are you?” with a look of concern in their eyes. I can honestly answer “Really, I am still fine.“