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Breast Cancer Survivorship Reminders

Breast cancer survivorship is something to celebrate and there are many ways to commemorate the fact, but are t-shirts and other items the best way to honor survivors? One survivor shares her perspective and reflects on National Cancer Survivor’s Day.
PUBLISHED June 21, 2019
Bonnie Annis is a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed in 2014 with stage 2b invasive ductal carcinoma with metastasis to the lymph nodes. She is an avid photographer, freelance writer/blogger, wife, mother and grandmother.

The order form lay on my table. For days, every time I passed by, I’d pick it up and look at it. The logo was familiar – NCSD, National Cancer Survivor’s Day. I’d received my first official mail from them about four years ago. How they found me I’ll never know, but I assume once I received a diagnosis of cancer my name went into some big, official database with all sorts of other cancer survivors.

Every year since that first piece of mail arrived, I’ve continued to receive annual reminders to order my NCSD merchandise so I’ll always be prepared to celebrate on the official day. June 2, as their website says, is a day when cancer survivors and supporters around the world celebrate life after cancer, pay tribute to other cancer survivors, and bring attention to the challenges they continue to face. It’s a pretty big deal.

The first year after I received my diagnosis, I ordered a t-shirt for myself and for everyone in my family. I was proud to claim title to being a breast cancer survivor and wanted the world to know it. My family graciously accepted their gifts and wore them with pride. Their show of support meant a lot.

As subsequent years have come and gone, I’ve started to order less and less merchandise. My attitude toward celebrating hasn’t changed; I’m thankful to be a survivor but no longer feel the need to flaunt the fact by wearing survivor shirts and other paraphernalia.  

In my closet, I have a large collection of breast cancer survivor shirts. Most of them are pink and many have the familiar ribbon logo on them. In all honesty, I don’t wear them often. For some reason I now struggle with shouting to the world that I’m a survivor, although I am forever grateful to hold that title. Several of my breast cancer friends didn’t have that opportunity.

I am truly blessed to still be in the land of the living. I don’t take life for granted.

Each day, I write the numbers 1440 on the inside of my wrist to remind me of the precious 1440 minutes of life I’ve been given that day. Looking at it helps me remember not to waste a single minute.

Holding the NCSD order form in my hand, I feel a bit of regret passing up the opportunity to buy a shirt this year but the longer I struggle with making the decision, the more time I realize I’ve wasted, so I toss the form into the trash.

Celebrating survivorship is a wonderful thing and I applaud NCSD for helping survivors remember to celebrate life, but it’s challenging for some of us to support the commercialism that comes along with survivorship.

With mixed emotion, I gather up my collection of breast cancer survivor shirts and place them into a donation box. Perhaps they’ll find their way to someone in need of a reminder that they’ve overcome a challenging time in their life.

It’s been almost five years since I was diagnosed and having a shirt collection isn’t necessary to commemorate my survival. Seeing that 1440 on my wrist, however, helps me remember not only to celebrate each day but to celebrate each minute of that day. And even if I hadn’t been diagnosed with cancer, I think that type of reminder is one we all need.

Life is a precious gift. Sometimes we forget that fact and take it for granted. A cancer diagnosis sometimes helps a person hone in on perspective and helps redefine the gift.

What’s more important – having a visual reminder of a specific day of celebration or just celebrating every day because you can? For me, the latter holds more significance.

I’d rather have my 1440 minutes instead of a new t-shirt any day, but I’ll still make a point to remember June 2 as a significant day of celebration. Thank you, NCSD, for bringing recognition to the importance of celebrating cancer survivorship because it really is a big, big deal.  

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