Thursday, December 7, 2006

One Year Anniversary

December 7. A date that will live in infamy. Roosevelt meant Pearl Harbor. For me, it was the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer, exactly one year ago today.

I’ve read that cancer patients have the highest rate of recurrence within the first year. I wonder if that’s the first year after diagnosis or after end of treatment? The often-quoted five-year survival rates are for five years after diagnosis. If it’s the same gauge for recurrence, then I’m doing pretty well not to have a recurrence at the one-year mark. So hooray.

In his book, Lance Armstrong said that after cancer, the biggest day of the year for him wasn’t his birthday or Christmas, or any other national holiday. It was the anniversary of his diagnosis. I can see why. Each year that I’m alive after diagnosis is a year that... well, I’m still alive.

Armstrong also said that living after treatment was almost harder than going through treatment. I feel the same. At least when you’re going through chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery, you feel like there is active battling against the cancer cells. But after all that’s over, it’s just a waiting game to see if and when the cancer cells will recoup and come charging back at you. This is why things like my diet, vitamin supplements, and exercise are so important to me. These are the only ways I can actively fight the cancer cells.

I know some people think it’s silly to believe vitamins can help save my life. It’s true that there haven’t been any studies showing a positive impact of diet supplements on cancer patients’ outcomes. But it just makes sense to me that boosting my immune system with nutritional supplements will give my healthy cells a better chance of beating back cancer cells. I don’t need a scientific study to tell me that. There was no scientific evidence that diet and exercise had any impact on cancer until earlier this year. I thought that was a no-brainer as well.

I realize that no amount of spinach, pills, or exercise is going to keep me cancer-free. But they can certainly improve my chances of being able to fight again. Think of all the battles that would never have been won if generals said, “We’re outnumbered; we don’t have enough weapons; our men are malnourished and weak; we’re outflanked” and then turned around and went home. I’m sure they didn’t even have that choice. Neither do I. I can’t turn around and go home. There’s no home for me anymore. Pre-cancer life is gone forever. So I’ll stay and fight, no matter what the chances.

So happy anniversary to me. I’m still alive. What a feat it is just to stay alive!

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