National Cancer Survivors Day

Well, we have Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, Grandparents’ Day, and even Bosses’ Day for pete’s sake, so why not Cancer Survivors Day? Makes perfect sense, as there are millions of us around the world. I do wonder, though, why there’s no apostrophe in the title. I double-checked it on the NCSD website and sure enough, no apostrophe.

It’s today, by the way — I feel like I should wear a shirt that says “Kiss Me, I Survived Cancer” but I’m not really the kissy type. I guess I could wear my “cupcakes” t-shirt, which I love, but then it seems like my “cupcakes” get the credit for kicking cancer to the curb when really, they were the culprit in the first place. Without them, I never would have had breast cancer, so I’m not giving them the credit for having survived it. I will wear it to the gym, though, because I love the look on people’s faces as they read it, then do a not-so-subtle double-take at my chest.

So what is National Cancer Survivors Day all about, anyway? Probably something a little more meaningful than wearing a snarky t-shirt and giggling to myself as the shockwaves from said shirt ripple through the gym. According to the NCSD website,

“National Cancer Survivors Day® is an annual, treasured worldwide Celebration of Life that is held in hundreds of communities throughout the United States, Canada, and other participating countries. Participants unite in a symbolic event to show the world that life after a cancer diagnosis can be meaningful and productive.”

Well, I’m certainly proud to be part of an annual, treasured worldwide celebration of life. Although I think I missed the parade. Considering how many people are affected by cancer, you’d think this day would get a bit more press. There’s probably a Lifetime for Women movie about it and I missed that too.

As usual, I have lots of questions about this annual, treasured worldwide celebration of life. Who qualifies as a survivor? And when does survivorship begin? What time was the parade? The National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation defines a “survivor” as anyone living with a history of cancer – from the moment of diagnosis through the remainder of life. I think it’s perhaps a bit more personal than that. I also think it’s more than just surviving cancer. I also survived a nasty infection and a nearly  year-long regime of some pretty bad-ass antibiotics. I survived a complicated and intense reconstruction process, and I survived yet another long, hard recovery.

I considered myself a survivor as soon as my mastectomy was over. Surgically removing the tumors, and thereby the cancer, from my body was when my status changed from “regular person” to “survivor.” So for me, I became a survivor in the late afternoon of May 13, 2010. Although I certainly didn’t feel like much of a survivor at the time, bandaged and battered, stitched up and sore. Moving my body at all was a seemingly unattainable feat, and raising my arms high enough to put chap stick on my lips was definitely unattainable. I wasn’t able to slick my own lips for a day or so.

At the time, I had no concept of what a double mastectomy truly meant or looked like. So focused was I on ridding the cancer that I gave zero thought to the aftereffects of the surgery. Even now, in the hazy afterglow of just one year’s time, I struggle to remember exactly what I looked like after that first surgery. In fact, when Trevor gave me The SCAR Project book for my birthday a few days ago, I looked at the portraits of mastectomied women and asked, were my scars vertical or horizontal? For a brief moment, I couldn’t remember. (They were vertical, BTW.)

Deborah Lattimore

That’s why I’m so grateful for things like The SCAR Project and for women like Deborah Lattimore. Like the women who were photographed for The SCAR Project, Deborah Lattimore didn’t want to forget what she looked like after being mastectomied. This defines a survivor, IMHO: facing a shitty situation with not just courage but with moxie. Reading Deborah’s blog, I’m so impressed and moved and in awe of her take-no-prisoners attitude. I immediately felt a kinship with her as I read what she wrote about her post-cancer silhouette soon after her bilateral mastectomy: “my body is still ‘re-architecturalizing’ and will for the coming year. eventually my chest will be completely flat and the scars will be an even line. i really love my skinny small body!” Cheers to Deborah on this annual, treasured worldwide celebration of life. Wish I could tell her happy National Cancer Survivors Day to her face, and to bask in the supreme power of a strong, confident, self-assured woman who tells cancer to bugger off then shows the world the true face of a survivor. No padded bras, no prostheses here. Not that there’s anything wrong with padded bras or cutlets. How we face the world post-mastectomy is an immensely personal decision, and I in no way want to imply judgement on how any woman makes that decision. For me personally, I applaud women like Deborah who celebrate their mastectomied bodies and view them as a badge of honor. In our breast-obsessed culture, this is no easy thing.

So happy National Cancer Survivors to everyone. I’m thinking we should all have cake. What kind of cake is appropriate for NCSD? Something festive, for sure (you know how I love celebrations). This one is nice:

Love the colors, but the pink butterfly kinda creeps me out.

Maybe this one, then:

Nah, I’m not much of a cat person, and it’s not a birthday cake I’m after, although I do love the idea of the cat eating a fish-shaped cake. Maybe we survivors should eat a tumor-shaped cake. Ewww, gross. Never mind.

Ok, so something breast-cancer related:

Or not. Definitely not.

This one is pretty, and the lemon filling looks yummy:

This one is hilarious, although not appropriate for the annual, treasured worldwide celebration of life:

Maybe something from this bakery:

Surely they’d have just the right kind of cake for the annual, treasured worldwide celebration of life. Something like this, perhaps?


9 Comments on “National Cancer Survivors Day”

  1. yes! let’s have cake, and I will get you a bottle of perfume to celebrate!

  2. Robin says:

    Thank you – I haven’t laughed so hard in quite a while – especially at the photo of the 10:30 cake. I can’t tell you how many times I have felt that way in the last two years!!

  3. Ed says:

    Cake for everyone! I too am wondering about the apostrophe. It’s the day of survivors but not the survivors’ day? What is the appropriate celebration? Gift? Greeting? Happy no-tumor day? Whatever, I am just happy to have my best friend still here. Cheers.

  4. Isn’t the SCAR Project wonderful? Deborah Lattimore definitely has a survivor mentality. In dealing with it matter of factly, she brings grace and light to millions of women, many of whom can’t bear to think of their new bodies, much less look at them. I have a friend who’s always careful not to wear anything that will show her chemo port, but I’m proud to wear mine. It’s my badge of courage.

    Brenda

  5. Michele says:

    I’ve got the forks….’

  6. Jan Hasak says:

    IMHO, the 10:30 messaged frosting takes the cake. Thanks for making my day with this post. I love the idea of the SCAR Project, which I’d never heard of. Deborah Lattimore is certainly a groundbreaker. I wish I had HER moxie when my chest was rearchitecturing itself.

    I suspect the lack of an apostrophe in the name for today is due to grammatical ignorance.

    Let’s all have our cake and eat it, too. Or let the others eat cake as we try to keep our post-chemo bodies in top form. Whatever.

    Wonderful post!
    XOXOXO,
    Jan

  7. Patti Ross says:

    Thanks for the message–I did not realize there was a day for us all to celebrate. My cancer was cervical, so I did not have to deal with the same scars so many do. No matter what our journies, I think we can all practice the courage and moxie shared through the SCAR Project–I had not heard of that either. So from my view, your post was the perfect gift! But I do vote for cake, preferrably something chocolate. . . and ice cream! And champagne. Okay, now I am getting pushy.

  8. Michelle says:

    I love the cake at the end comment… we SHOULD all have a piece. In fact, some of us who’ve stayed away from cake for years – we should eat two. I’m just sayin’.

    LOL

    PS – did you want to include your email on my blog for when I go private? That way you can still ‘log in’ and read … I know it’s a pain in the ass, but I was thinking of not being ‘open’ anymore due to some rather strange things that have happened…. If you wish to do so, just leave me your email on my post. I’ll include you in the ‘invitee list’

    Cheers.

    Michelle

  9. Amy H. says:

    interesting that national cancer survivors day occurred on my birthday this year….


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