Today, I am 10 years cancer free. For the last few years, I’ve insisted on a huge celebration, complete with lots of cake and singing. I needed a distraction from the survivor’s guilt and the huge hole in my heart that belongs to my friends who I have lost.
Today has been a little bit more quite. I took Rosie for a walk in the morning and the air was crisp and the leaves crunched under her paws. The sun was starting to peek out over the mountains and it felt warm and gentle on my face. We spent the afternoon watching football (the Patriots won) and had my sister and brother-in-law over for dinner and more friends over for brownies. We played some games. I ate some more brownies. We watched some tv before going to bed.
The day was peaceful and there wasn’t any huge hoopla or to-do about my remission anniversary and I’m okay with that. In a way, it’s exactly what I needed it to be. A gentle reminder that my past is my past, but that it doesn’t have to limit my future.
I tried my hardest to go through the day without dwelling on too many memories from the year I spent on the pediatric cancer floor at Boston Children’s. Thinking about those days usually puts me in a dark place and today, on 10 years cancer free, I wanted to just enjoy the simple fact that I’m no longer there. That those days are behind me. That I have a future that is bright and wide right in front of me and that can be whatever I want it to be. That’s a lot harder said than done, but I think I did okay for myself. I didn’t let the weight of my past take away from the joy of my future.
Don’t get me wrong, being 10-years cancer free is a big deal. It’s the point where the word “cured” starts getting tossed around. And while there’s always a chance of it coming back, the odds are significantly decreased at 10 years. I find myself going through weeks at a time without looking over my shoulder for my cancer coming back for me and while that’s a huge improvement, I still find myself checking once in a while. And I think it’s always going to be like that. I’m physically reminded of my cancer with every step I take (literally) and that’s not something that I will ever be able to be rid of. I used to hate my leg because of that, but I’m learning more and more every day to find peace with it. I’ll never be able to fully move on from that past, but I am learning how to become stronger from it.
I’m learning that even 10 years post chemo, I still have nightmares and I still carry survivor’s guilt and that it is okay to feel those things. I’m learning to love my body because of the things it has survived instead of hating it for the things it struggled with. I’m learning to face my future with hope instead of looking at my past with fear. I’m learning to revel in the small miracles of everyday life, like taking Rosie for solitary walks through fall leaves and being able to stand at my sink with two legs to do the dishes. I’m learning that being a survivor is a choice I get to make every morning and that it is a title that I should be proud of. I’m learning something about myself every day. I’m learning every day. I’m learning.
I’m learning that it is possible to live a vibrant life despite my scars and my past.
10 Years ago today, I was 16 years old and I finished my last round of chemotherapy. I was a cancer patient that morning and I was a survivor that afternoon. I left the hospital being cheered on by many of my fellow patients, many who did not survive much longer after that day. I will not attempt to convey that kind of heartbreak.
I often ask and even preach that we need to raise awareness for pediatric cancer, but awareness is kind of a crappy word. Everyone is aware of cancer. We need to take that awareness and turn it into action. We need to actually do something. And so it’s only fitting that on my 10-Year Happy-No-Cancer-To-Me day, that I share my recent partnership with Headbands of Hope and ask you to truly consider making a small action to better the lives of current Pediatric Patients.
For every headband purchased through Headbands of Hope, a headband is donated to a pediatric cancer patient. I can speak from personal experience and let you know that those headbands can completely change a patient’s day/week/life. Headbands of Hope carry a wide variety of truly stylish and chic headbands (I’m wearing their Emerald Stone headband in these photos)
So today, I’m giving you the opportunity to act. I’m asking you to act. I’m begging you to act. I’m not making any money from this post or from your purchases. Just please, please consider buying a headband from Headbands of Hope so that little girls who are fighting for their lives can have pretty headbands, too.
Thank you for your continued support here on Hey There, Chelsie and in my continued journey as a survivor. I love you all more than you’ll ever know.