Anniversary Time: A Look Back of What I’ve Learned 10 Years After Cancer


I’m coming up on my 10-year cancer anniversary, and it feels bittersweet.

The definition of an anniversary is “the date on which an event took place in a previous year,” according to Oxford Languages. It does not state that it must be happy, sad, worldly or private. It is just a date.

I have many anniversaries that fit in all those categories. There is a date that is very memorable to me, January 2013, about 10 years ago. My husband and I went skiing at Seven Springs in Pennsylvania on this Sunday. After I was done skiing, I found sitting to be very uncomfortable. We went to lunch, and I still could hardly sit. It so happens that Martin Luther King Jr. Day was the next day and I booked an appointment with my gynecologist.

“Something is there” she said. By the end of the week after an internal ultrasound, clearly something was there, and it was not good. A few weeks later, I was having surgery for cancer.

Hindsight is 20/20 and I had the signs. My mother had a reproductive cancer and that was a sign that I should have acted sooner. I even went to my regular doctor the September before and she did an ultrasound on my gallbladder. “Nothing wrong,” she said. My gut, literally, said something was very wrong.

Three major surgeries, six rounds of chemotherapy, SBRT, radiation, HPEC, OSU trial, maintenance meds and thousands of pokes for blood, infusions, medications, and scans later, I can truly say I have been through the mill!

But I am still here, 10 years later. Yes, this month is my 10-year anniversary fighting ovarian cancer. It has been a journey that has taught me so much about myself.

This is what I have learned:

  • Be an advocate for yourself.
  • Try to surround yourself with a support group consisting of family, friends and experts.
  • Become informed about your illness so you can ask questions.
  • Realize that there will be good and bad days both with your body and mind.
  • Remain private or open, that is your call. I have been very open and have shared my experiences in the event someone may benefit from them.
  • Try to move forward each day. If you have a few steps backwards, get back on track.

This 10-year anniversary is bittersweet. Several wonderful individuals that I have met through my visits to the hospital for treatments have died from their cancer. They fought great fights, but their bodies were just done.

I need to remember that each day counts. All of us will die someday. We just do not know that day. We do not know how, but as patients of any illness, it is always a possibility that the illness without a cure will take us. This is our reality.

On this 10th year, I am grateful for the love and support of a wonderful husband, dear children and spouses, grandchildren, extended family, dear friends, acquaintances, physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, lab technicians, pharmacists, and the list goes on and on. They are the reason I can celebrate this anniversary. Thanks to all of you.

As I move forward to year 11, I plan on living each day better. I will fiercely love my family and friends. I will celebrate birthdays, vacations in the snow and at the beach, take time for reading books and be active with my body. I am in this journey for the long haul.

This piece began with a story about skiing. I did not know how to ski. I took my first lesson Jan. 1, 2008, at age 55. I fell many times that day. I wanted to learn how to ski because my husband loved to ski, and it was something we could do together.

When I think back to that day of my first lesson, the falls, the bruises, the blood, sweat, and tears of those few hours of going down a steep hill three times with these long boards on my feet, I am grateful that I learned.

Since I have skied almost every year since, I have improved, and I have skied several mountains out west as well as surrounding ski areas. Soon, we are going to Whistler to ski. We are looking forward to this trip which will check off an item on the bucket list for my husband.

That memorable day in 2008 of learning how to ski impacted my life five years later when my cancer was discovered. Skiing saved my life.

On to 2023! Lots of slopes and lots of fun. Carpe diem!

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