Happiness is an empty fruit basket filled with cat.

August 1, 2011

I am a 0

Today is my birthday.

And the start of my cancer season.  Cancer season is a season one celebrates alone, generally in quiet reflection, silently checking off each cancerversary – diagnosis date, surgery date, start of treatment, end of treatment, etc. Most non-cancer people have no idea that many survivors do this.  But each and every day, minute, and second is counted and tallied – for the first few years at least.  And lest you think cancer survivors are morbid, we also celebrate the cancerversary when we actually FORGOT it was our cancerversary.  And on this day, my birthday, I also shed a few tears for my friends who are no longer with us.

Birthdays are really, really important.

My cancer story is my own.  I had what some of us call Cancer Lite.  Or, a non-invasive cancer called DCIS.  And though I was “lucky” to find my cancer early, I somehow found myself in the midst of an amazing sisterhood of young women with breast cancer.  Because of them, I had someone to talk to in the middle of the night, and people to coach me through the difficult times. I knew what to expect throughout treatment, and I received great advice on how to work full-time and somehow get to daily radiation treatments, how to dress, how to get through the day, what to do when the pain and fatigue got to be too much, and what to do when my skin started falling apart.  There is no cancer user-manual; there is only the advice from those that came before us.

Many cancer survivors have their stats committed to memory: 1 cm, multifocal, grade 2, w/ comedo necrosis, ER + 50%, PR -.  Currently NED. And though I’m not that great in science, I’ve studied all my treatment options, drugs, and side effects.  I never took statistics in college, but I’ve become a semi-expert in what my absolute risk vs. relative risk is.

So you see, I’m stage 0.  Not that we identify ourselves with our cancer stages (all the time), but it is often on our minds.  My concerns are completely different from someone who is stage 4.  And though there is a world of difference between 0 and 4, camaraderie, love, and support know no boundaries of stage.

This is my “other” life - the cancer patient life.  It’s pretty darn lonely except for a wonderful online community.  So thank you, “sisters,” for all you have done for me.  Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for some reflection, some tears, and some laughs.

Sometime in the future, I'll talk about how I despise the term "survivor."

If you have some extra change, please consider donating to:

The Pink Daisy Project, a fabulous grass roots charity that directly helps women diagnosed with breast cancer.  They helped me tremendously.  http://pinkdaisyproject.com/

Libby’s Legacy is a central Florida charity that paid for my mammogram, ultrasounds, and three biopsies while I was unemployed.  http://www.libbyslegacy.org/donate.php

And the YSC – Young Survival Coalition – who created the space where I met all these amazing women.  http://my.youngsurvival.org/


  1. I love reading your blog. I've never had cancer so I won't presume to comment on what you've said. Having a debilitating illness myself, I cringe at what people say to me about it, so I just don't say much about other people's experiences. I will say I just don't understand how someone copes with cancer, nor do I understand the kind of gratitude you must feel when you don't die from it. I have all the admiration in the world for you personally and for all those other people who've coped with such a fearful experience. I'm eager to hear what you have to say about the term "survivor." Meanwhile I'm just grateful you survived. :-) Love, Bethany

  2. Bethany, thank you. As you know, living with illness is something you just do, yet you can't explain it to someone who is healthy.

    Cancer is a mysterious thing. One of my doctors told me last month that he doesn't know how I do it. He was referring to some mysterious findings that I refuse to investigate. But it's because I refuse to be put onto the Cancer Conveyor Belt. But also, quite honestly, being stage 0 gives me a lot more flexibility than those diagnosed with invasive cancer.

    You should start a blog as well, Bethany. Your take on politics and also on how you live will make for an interesting read.

  3. Can I tell you how happy I am to be celebrating your birthday again this year....(damnit, you've got me crying again)....love you, Ar....I'm so glad you were in my Small Group at Orientation...even though both of us switch majors before school even started....

  4. Missy, you are a gift. :) Thank you.

  5. Cancer, it's a different world that's for sure.
    (((HUGS to you sister)))

    Becky (YSC)