Life Out Loud: Learning to Live Again After Cancer

I took a vacation from cancer. I didn't write about it; I didn't think about it; I just lived — out loud and joyfully.

I just had my one-year no evidence of disease (NED) appointment, and so I did what only a survivor would understand. I took a vacation from cancer. I didn't write about it; I didn't think about it; I just lived — out loud and joyfully. It was amazing, like a new lease on life where I got to wear the rose-colored glasses.

This "cancer break" happened to coincide with a family trip out to the Midwest where we visited some extended family and jam-packed as much fun as we could into our short trip. One night in particular threw me for a loop and brought me out of my cancer vacation.

We were riding beach bikes back from a small but vibrant downtown in Michigan. It was well after sunset, but we were well-equipped with lights on our bikes. I rode behind my youngest daughter who is only seven.

Riding back home in that moment, it all kind of clicked. Here she was on a bigger bike than she was use to, riding in the dark on sidewalks she's never been on. She had a headlamp on and me behind her with my spotlight shining on her. She was safe, but she was clearly out of her comfort zone. She was nervous and thrilled, a little uneasy at times, yet confident and calm and exhilarated. This was a brand new experience for her, but she did it with her support system around her to encourage her and tell her, "Great biking. You've got it. We're almost home. You are doing great."

In that moment watching her, I realized that this, perhaps, is the secret to a well-lived life, cancer or not.

As I finally come back from my "cancer vacation" and start organizing all my health bills for the year and making sure all my next appointments line up, I realize that maybe I can do this. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. After all, this is my life of hopefully living NED for a long, long time. But the reality and my odds are, the cancer could come back. And so, every three months, my real life is me continuing to get my blood work and scans done. And, I continue to pray to stay cancer-free. But I can still simultaneously live life adventurously and with joy and trepidation all at once.

I am a cancer survivor. This is real, this is my life for what I hope is a long, long one. Most importantly, I will live my life like I am the little girl on the bike in the dark -- excited and scared, adventurous and nervous, hopeful and proud.