Cancer anniversaries

April 29, 2005

Two years ago today we got the news. Mom had cancer and our lives were never to be the same again.

Ever since cancer entered my life I’ll find a way to make an anniversary out of anything. “Oh a year ago today was the last time Mom had hair,” or “Today’s the anniversary of Mom’s first blood transfusion.” It’s not that bad really, but there are an awful lot of significant events in the life of a cancer patient that you take note of.

For the first few months, every Tuesday was an anniversary. “Two weeks ago today, Mom was diagnosed.” Then it turned to the 29th of every month, and then something else would happen: Remission (July 17), a bone marrow transplant (October 2), a first trip to ICU (October 14), a seizure (November 4), and so on.

At the time Mom’s health was the only thing worth noting in my life, so I guess I made a point of keeping on top of the dates and times of all the “events,” even the little ones.

Unfortunately, this seemed to be haunting me. I would spend a week leading up to an “anniversary” worrying about how it’s going to upset me, and then worrying about how it would upset my family, then getting upset because it was the “right” way to deal. I would get myself worked up and then nothing catastrophic would happen, the date would come and go and often, I would only cry a little.

Then yesterday it happened. Dad had to remind me that it was the anniversary of all anniversaries, that two years ago was the end of life as we knew it. I was shocked, I hadn’t thought about it at all. I knew the date but never connected it. Dad, mind you, had gotten the date wrong; he thought it was the 28th! So there my family was in the kitchen laughing because we all forgot, and more importantly laughing at Dad who has become senile over night! So an anniversary (almost) came and went with no tears, no immense all consuming sadness, it’s a very different feeling.

When you lose a loved one to cancer, people always tell you it will get easier, that the pain will go away and happy memories will surface. As much as I fought this, it’s so true. I never wanted to feel any different, I thought if it hurt all the time then it showed how much I loved and missed my mom. You don’t miss them any less, you miss them differently. You’re sad less often and you can actually begin to remember them before cancer, which seems like an easy thing, but as many of you know, life before cancer is far less memorable!

Depending on your experience, anniversaries can be more or less intense, but if there is one thing I’ve learned, they get easier!

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