Do you remember that sweet sixteen feeling?
The whole world seemed to be at your grasp. Excitement filled the air with the anticipation of that first date, learning to drive, going to the prom, and even getting a job.
Sixteen years. 192 months. 5,844 days. That is the amount of time that has passed since I heard three of the most terrifying words of my life, "You have cancer."
Thankfully, the landscape of cancer has changed in these years. Treatment has transformed. Advances in personalized medicine, chemo and immunotherapy, radiation, targeted therapies like SIR-Spheres, RFA, SBRT and CyberKnife among others, surgery and clinical trials continue to bring me, and others like me who are living with advanced cancer, one step closer to a cure.
Multidisciplinary treatment and a team approach are the norm and not the exception. There is great reason to hope. Patients have changed, too. We are more informed, inquisitive, pro-active and vocal. Gone are the days when the words colon and rectum had to be uttered in a hushed whisper behind closed doors. Awareness is all around thanks to the elbow grease, creativity and reach of some great organizations and advocates. We are no longer in the dark.
These days, we want to know about our diagnosis. We ask questions, share with each other, and support one another. Less and less are we alone.
Because of cancer, my family met friends that without cancer, we would have never met. Together, we forged our way through the hurdles of cancer, embracing each other through fragile moments, tortuous losses and inspiring encounters. We experienced more amazing memories than many ever dream to see. We found significance in the often neglected, yet miraculous gift of now. A new normal emerged. We endured. Good fortune followed us through the nightmare of colon cancer; showing us that strength could appear when situations were bleak. Our moments together and the memories we made were cherished. The counting of years in spite of cancer savored. We have savored sixteen years in the midst of cancer to be exact.
There is nothing like that "sweet sixteen" feeling. It's a once in a lifetime celebration that, thankfully, I am celebrating again today. It is the 16th anniversary of my diagnosis with cancer. Once again, I feel that feeling. The world is at my grasp and it will be a year of great anticipation, celebration and work.
Help me celebrate! Take just 16 seconds of your day today. If you know someone affected by cancer--or perhaps someone who just needs some cheer--a message on Facebook, tweet or text will do. Share a positive quote. Send a picture. Let that person know that you care. Remind your friends to have a colonoscopy. You can brighten a day. You may even save a life. There are 16 candles on my cake and I'm celebrating sweet sixteen like never before! Celebrate with me today! Just 16 seconds...
Suzanne Lindley has been living with metastatic colorectal cancer since 1998. She is the founder of YES! Beat Liver Tumors, an organization for individuals living with metastatic liver tumors, and an advocate for Fight Colorectal Cancer.