Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Cancerversaries

There are three anniversaries that many cancer survivors observe.

The first is the day of diagnosis. For me, that will always be the day after father's day. It doesn't even need a numerical date.

The second is the day of surgical operation, the bodily invasion. For me, it was a double mastectomy on July 18, 2005. In many ways it is a birthday, or a re-birthday, not an anniversary - because the first thing I saw when I woke up was my father and my husband at the foot of my bed, smiling the smiles of those who just got a thumbs up from a surgeon.

I often think of that moment and of my dad's jubilantly anxious grin, and I believe it was the exact same one he wore the day he heard "it's a girl" on March 28, 1966. My birthday. On July 12, 2005, I was reborn into my father's waiting arms.

The third is the day the "all clear" sirens sound and the non-stop needles and dread subside for a while. For me, that day was October 6, 2005, my sister's 46th birthday. Our mother died when she was 46, and so my sister was about to surpass my mother's lifespan - and I would resume catching up.

Five months later, my dad passed away from complications from a fairly routine surgery. It had something to do with his heart. Maybe it was too big, or too full. As daddy's little girl, I owned the twinkle in his eyes. I was his little star - maybe too often a comet - but his heart was the one thing I never wanted to break.

I was at his bedside when that heart beat for the last time. I know he knew I was there - that my hair was growing back a curly silvery gray, that my husband would take over responsibility for taking care of me, and that I was totally healthy - his healthy, baby girl - with arms waiting to hug him one last time.
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