Editor’s Note: This piece was submitted by a contributing writer and does not represent the views of CURE Media Group.
Life after cancer treatments is forever extremely challenging. When I completed the months of chemotherapy and radiation, I patiently waited for my life to get back to normal - to the way it was before cancer. I just thought it would take time, but that eventually, I would work full time again teaching as I had done my entire adult life. I thought I would make plans again without having to worry about breaking them because I wasn't up to going and doing the activities I enjoyed. It took me years to accept that that wasn't going to happen.
Instead, I had to learn to live with disfigurement and discomfort every day. I had to settle for tutoring in an office for four hours per day instead of being in my classroom and for knowing that my plans would always have to be tentative. So, I don't always feel like wearing a big smile like the ones I see on other survivors and on brave patients. And I often want to scream that there is nothing cute about colored ribbons and what they represent. Only those who have endured this feared disease can understand how I can feel all of this and still be overflowing with gratitude and joy.
Surviving cancer breathed a new life into me – a better life – a life full of appreciation and awe. I didn't have that before. I loved life, but I was not astounded by it like I am now. I didn't celebrate life the way I do now. Now, every June, I get to celebrate Survivor's Day because after a journey during which I didn't know if I would make it or not, I made it; I am a real cancer survivor. I can feel in my bones that every single day is profoundly special and meaningful. Every single day is a privilege. This is all part of the new life that I say cancer breathed into me.
I may never understand why I have been given these past nine years; I may never understand how I could be worthy. However, I do know exactly what it took for me to survive. I survive because of the doctors, nurses, researchers and techs who devote their lives' work to heal me. I survive because of you who walk the relays, raise funds, donate and pray. It is you who make the cure rates rise. I may not know you, but I want all of you to know every single day that you are important to me, and that I thank you every single morning when I rise. So please celebrate with me. I live because of you.