On this day, March 19th of the year 2009, I began my battle with cancer. That's the date I had my surgery, which was the first step in year-long fight to eradicate every cell that might be lurking in my body.
The first step is the surgery. Doctors go in and try to get everything they can out first. In my case it meant over twelve hours in surgery to first remove, and then reconstruct, my left breast. Thankfully I only remember the first couple hours of that long day.
The second step is chemotherapy, which means pumping seriously toxic poisons into your body in an attempt to kill off any cells which the doctor may have missed. That's a different process than the surgery, but equally difficult in a whole other way. It means months of debilitating fatigue and lovely side effects like hair loss and gastrointestinal issues. The third step was a five-year regimen of pills that act to suppress the hormones which can stimulate cancer cells. I can't say that all this was terrible, although I hope to never experience it again. Spiritually and emotionally it was a time of tremendous growth for me and I'm grateful for the way my priorities have been adjusted.
All that said, it is now seven years since that frightening day back in 2009. I sometimes think that this was the day I really grew up. It's easy for me to see why a diagnosis like cancer can lead to people making major life changes, like divorce or relocation. For me it was more about becoming mentally tougher and more independent, but spiritually stronger and more dependent. I'm not sure that even makes sense, but it's the truth.
And anniversaries serve to remind us of the things that are important.