Celebrating 13 years of unexpected blessings

It is surreal to be spending a weekend at the Emmys and on the red carpet. It's also incredible to be a guest at Debbie Durkin's ECO Emmy Celebrity Chateau. It's a special event where I am fortunate to be sharing hope and awareness that it is possible to live with advanced cancer. Today is my 13th cancerversary.I learned on this day 13 years ago that not only did I have colon cancer at the age of 31, but that it had already spread to my liver. My life and the lives of those around me were forever changed.At times it seems like those words came only yesterday. In reality 4,742 days, 113,808 hours, 13 different chemotherapy agents (mixed, matched and revisited), three clinical trials, radiation (external, internal and targeted), Sir-spheres, vertebroplasty and Cyberknife have crossed my path since then. My children have spent more than half of their lives living in the shadow of cancer. Ronnie and I have shared more years with cancer than we have without. So this anniversary is not just mine. It is theirs as well.Thirteen years with cancer may sound dismal to some. Our lives, however, are rich. We have discovered strength through vulnerability. We have learned to meet and overcome challenges without flinching. Dreams have come to fruition in the midst of chaos and fear; with a diagnosis that means dying is inevitable and living long unlikely. Time together - that wasn't supposed to be - has been forever etched with cherished milestones and treasured memories. We carefully watched our children grow; their progress joyfully carved into a doorframe. Childhood friends matured with them and we witnessed their progress, too, and cheered the growth. We marveled at their accomplishments. Winters turned to spring, spring to summer, summer to fall, and then the cycle began again. Wonder filled our days. Moonlit rides, camping trips, picnics and fun brought vitality to the gloom of cancer. Growing pains came and went. Empty nest syndrome took over. Then a three-year-old bundle of love refilled the nest and reminded us once again that life is full of surprises!Friends and a special angel or two touched our lives, many that without cancer we would have never met. Others have been by our side through thick and thin, reaching out like a beacon in the dark. Help also came from organizations such as Colon Cancer Alliance, Fight Colorectal Cancer, American Cancer Society and LiveSTRONG where I met survivors and discovered the importance of self-advocacy. Without the support and guidance of both, I wouldn't be here today.Still, living with terminal cancer had lonely moments. It became a personal goal to make sure that others in a situation like mine knew that there were options, support and hope – to know that they weren't alone. This prompted me to start YES! Beat Liver Tumors. What began as a small group of friends has blossomed to close a huge void for thousands that are affected by liver tumors. We inspire, encourage and share hope. We celebrate and laugh together, curse and cry together. We have comforted each other through losses and buoyed one another through victories. Together, we have learned how important it is to embrace each moment as it comes.Every breath is a blessing. My blessings have been abundant... 13 years of precious time. Today we are celebrating my approximately 136,510,200 unexpected blessings of breath!Suzanne Lindley has been living with metastatic colorectal cancer since 1998. She is the founder of YES, an organization for individuals living with metastatic liver tumors, and an advocate for C3: Colorectal Cancer Coalition.