Wednesday, June 14, 2006
On Reflecting and Cancerversaries
The two-year anniversary of my diagnosis is quickly approaching. I can recount with vivid clarity each moment in the doctor’s office as he gave me the news. I remember feeling as though I needed to hold it together as he spoke to me. I showed no emotion. When the conversation was over I proceeded to talk to the nurse as she prepared my referral. As the stack of information I would need mounted, I could sense her hesitancy as though she were cautiously waiting for the eruption of emotions that were mysteriously hidden below the surface. I thanked her, waived as I said good-bye to the other nurse and walked out the door. It hadn’t even closed before the first tear silently fell down my cheek.

From there the memories seem to get tossed into a whirlwind. I can recall bits of phone calls blending with face-to-face conversations that appear blurred in slow motion. There are snips and bits of memories of washing dishes and caring for the hematoma that had developed at the lumpectomy incision and lying down afraid to close my eyes. I felt nothing and I felt everything. It was painful and somber. Family and friends surrounded me yet I felt alone.

Magically the rush of complex emotions and uncertainty quickly transformed into the will to face cancer head on. Days became weeks and weeks became months of appointments, procedures, prescriptions, treatments, injections, fatigue, and side-effects. Without stopping I moved straight into surgery and then onto reconstruction. I have yet to raise my head and take a breath. I’m still in fight mode and I wonder if cancer will haunt me the rest of my life the way war does for a veteran. Even when life resembles what I once knew as normal, out of nowhere a flashback brings back the feeling of devastation known only by those who have experienced the battle.

Contrary to the darker feelings I have described, the last two years have not been spent dying. Though the doubt and desolation loomed always under the surface, most of my days have been filled living: enjoying time with family, laughing like school girls with my sister, feeling the infinite support of my friends and co-workers, and meeting dynamic and supportive people both in person and in the blog world. Connecting with others who understand the cancer experience has been priceless. It’s important and even cathartic to share our stories with one another.

And even though today I might complain from time to time about the side-effects of the tamoxifen or the residual issues that will likely surface from time to time, I am grateful for my life and the joys I have each day. Last year on my first cancerversary, I was a bit melancholy and reflective. This year, I feel empowered to move forward and let go of the illness baggage giving me greater ability to embrace life fully with untethered arms. Of course that doesn’t mean that cancer won’t be part of me as I move forward. It may follow along behind trying to catch me, but at least it no longer has a firm hold trying to drag me down.

That, my friends, is quite an anniversary present. Cheers.
Written by Jeannette Vagnozzi
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Name: Jeannette
Location: Southern California, USA

This is my story about being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 39. I thought I was out of the woods, but four years late it came back. This is my quest to be a two-time survivor.

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    "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." Romans 12:12