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.
Celebrating is a vital part of survivorship and those affected by cancer should be allowed to voice their opinions openly.
The sixth anniversary of my breast cancer diagnosis was yesterday. When I looked at the calendar, my heart skipped a beat. It was easy to travel back in time remembering the day that fateful call came. Emotions I felt then, seemed to ease their way back into my memory and before I knew it, I was crying. Remembering was hard.
But I wanted to make the day joyful instead of painful. Digging through a plastic box of decorative flags, I found the one I was looking for — a breast cancer survivor flag complete with a large pink ribbon emblazoned across it.
Each year since diagnosis, I’d hung it proudly on the front of my home. Not only did I want to signal my neighbors to the fact that I was a survivor, but I also wanted to remind myself. I’d come a long way since 2014.
Along with displaying the flag, I made a point of posting about the significance of the day to Facebook. My intention was to share hope with friends, especially those who’d been recently diagnosed with cancer.
I was surprised at the reactions I received to the post. Most of my friends congratulated me, but there were others whose notes dug deep. They felt I needed to get past cancer and move on with life. They said, in essence, that was then, this is now.
They were wrong.
I couldn’t just forget cancer. It would forever be part of my life.
I felt like I needed to apologize for the post and for remembering, but I could not. And I would not. I would not apologize for celebrating life.
Those untouched by cancer may have difficulty understanding why survivors celebrate often. Each moment past diagnosis can be a cause for celebration. Some choose to annually celebrate the day of diagnosis. Some choose to celebrate the day of their surgery. Each individual has the right to choose when and how to celebrate.
Learning one has cancer can be devastating and can seem an instant death sentence. Fear can quickly creep in and dog every step. Uncertainty becomes the norm.
But for those who’ve survived, life becomes so precious. It’s not uncommon to revel in the hope of a bright future. There is much to live for and it’s only natural to want others to feel the same.
It shouldn’t take a diagnosis of cancer to shake people into reality, but sometimes it does.
Remembering the past can help a person thrive in the future if that person is able to use the past as a steppingstone.
Sometimes, it’s hard to escape the past and people find themselves stuck there. That’s not a good place to be. It’s as dangerous as quicksand.
The hurtful words to the post prompted me to offer a brief explanation on Facebook. I wanted people to understand why I felt the need to share my good news.
The retort brought a few heartfelt apologies.
With cancer, I’ve found the best way to help others understand is to be open and honest. Those with questions need answers, and the best answers come from those with personal experience.
When remembering and sharing special milestones in our lives, may we be understanding and kind.
No apology should ever be necessary for making it past cancer diagnosis. Every hurdle crossed should be a memorable milestone.
Facebook can be a useful tool for passing on information quickly, but in posting, it’s important to use care.
As survivors, let’s remember we represent more than ourselves, we represent each other. That’s one reason it’s important to offer words of hope and encouragement.