Recognzing and honoring milestones or anniversaries is often an important part of the years after cancer. There are difficult ones: anniversaries, especially the first, of "the" mammogram or hearing the diagnosis or surgery or finishing chemotherapy. There are days which are markers or milestones: three years, five years, ten years.... Most women worry about handling the early anniversaries, knowing that the days are likely to be intense. After time passes, a year will eventually come when you realize, after the fact, that last week was the anniversary of surgery.
We all find our own way of marking these days. Personally, I have tried to minimize the difficult anniversaries, but I have honored a few milestones. Five years after my first breast cancer diagnosis, on a freezing February morning, my husband and I stood on the shore of Frenchmen's Bay (on MDI in Maine, not far from where we now have a cottage) and together watched dawn break over the ocean and the islands. I brought music; he brought prayers, and we gave thanks for five years of health together. Ten years after that diagnosis, we went to the Caribbean to celebrate the day. Instead of the morning, we chose the evening to sit on the beach, glasses of champage in hand, to watch the sunset. Our feelings were similar.
As I write this, I am very aware that I have done nothing to mark any important dates or milestones or anniversaries from my second breast cancer. It has been slightly more than six years since that diagnosis, and I am grateful every day for my continuing health.
This is a nice essay from ASCO's Cancernet about these days. I give you the introduction and then a link. Please consider sharing, in the comments section, how you have marked your milestones.
Recognizing and Celebrating Milestones
For most survivors and family members, cancer is a life-changing event. Recognizing milestones can help you put your cancer experience into perspective and recognize the changes in your life, both good and bad. It can also be an opportunity to celebrate your hard work and the fact that you are a cancer survivor.
Marking milestones during and after cancer treatment can be done in a variety of ways. For instance, many people find it meaningful to recognize the one-year and five-year cancer-free milestones. Other milestones and anniversary dates can be marked, as well, such as the end of chemotherapy or radiation therapy, the date of your cancer diagnosis, the anniversary of surgery to treat your cancer, or each follow-up visit.
These dates may trigger a variety of emotions; relief and joy are common feelings, but so are fear and worry about a possible cancer recurrence. Taking time to recognize anniversary dates and prepare yourself for themcan help you sort through these emotions and reflect on your experience.