Last Monday was my 4-year cancerversary—1,462 days since my doctor said that damn C-word to me. Despite the bad rap that sticks and stones usually get, we got the shit kicked out of us by a word 1,462 days ago.
I realize that might seem like an odd thing to celebrate.
1,462 days ago—sucked, not gonna tap dance around it. For one, I don’t know how to tap dance—but that’s beside the point. Cancer was a twist of my fate I had to figure out how to cope with—but lucky for me I can do the twist. Even luckier, I’ve had 1,462 days since that suckiest of days of a whole lotta twisting, a little bit of shouting, shaking it up baby, trying to work it on out and all that jazz.
Last Monday night, on the other hand, was the polar opposite of suck. The soundtrack to that crazy road-trip in between the two has definitely had Sheryl Crow’s “Every Day is a Winding Road” in the mix. Man oh man, I love that song by my fellow survivor sister. How many days did I try to walk off the chemo buzz listening to that song looped on my iPhone? Those days were literally winding roads;) That song was like a postcard from her saying “Been there, done that. Hang in there. Let’s hang out someday. Love, Sheryl.” Or something like that. But anyway, every day I did get a little bit closer to feeling fine, just like she said. And these days, those days are thankfully more and more in the rear-view mirror like faded signs.
So we celebrated. Rear-view mirrors. Faded signs. Milestones. Winding roads. An epic road trip. The scenic route. A great soundtrack. Memories. Kodak moments. The finish line. A green flag. Life. Health. 4 years. 1,462 days. The moment. Each other. So many mercies. So much to celebrate. And brother, I did. So much. (OK, maybe a little too much—but at least I didn’t try to tap dance;)
Anyway, for each of those 4 birthday candles, I thought I’d share 4 souvenirs I’ve picked up along this winding road.
- Champagne corks. As you can tell from the previous paragraph, not to mention, if you know me at all, I’m all about celebrating the small stuff. And as often as possible. I so dig this quote by Robert Brault: “Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” He also said, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” This is the kind of disposition of celebration I hope I live my life with.
- Daisy petals. I also want a disposition of gratitude. There’s so much to celebrate because there’s so much to be thankful for. Everywhere we look. If we open our eyes and take the time to look. The Bible says God’s mercies are new every morning. Waking up to a new day is a gift. Every heartbeat. Each breath, even morning breath but especially freshly brushed teeth breath. He scatters these and other assorted mercies throughout our day, like Van Gogh’s “Sower” (at least that’s how I picture it.) He is ridiculous generous. Oh how He loves. It’s like if we picked a daisy and started plucking petals, here’s how it always goes down: He loves me, He loves me, He loves me…. I’ve been keeping such a list here, my 1000 gifts. I’ve been having fun counting and I know I could totally go over the top if I wrote down each of those 1,462 days as a gift—which they are—but in the spirit of enjoying the journey I’ll just jot down my 4-year-cancerversary for #188.
- Fortune cookies. I really do feel like I’m the luckiest girl in the world sometimes. I try to feel like this as often as possible, because it feels good. I guess I’m whatever kind of hedonist or epicurean that makes me. Anyway, besides the grace of God, I owe a lot of this to the ridiculous good fortune of being surrounded by such damn good peeps. The Beatles, methinks, said it best, “I get by with a little help from my friends.” Truly I do. And truly I mean to have a disposition of paying it forward. One small way I’m trying to do this, and there’s still a few days left this month, is that for the month of August I’m paying forward 100% of my proceeds from my book Shaken Not Stirred… a Chemo Cocktail to The Save the Ta-tas Foundation and the breast cancer researcher superheroes they fund on their mission (not)impossible to find a cure.
- Tattoos. I have 5 tattoos. So far. Each one is like a stamp on my passport from this crazy cancer road trip. I got my first one after I finished chemo cocktails. It’s a lucky charm, and my sister Jennie, my daughter Amanda, and I all three got one together to put a stamp on that awful bar tab. I wrote about that tattoo in more detail HERE. I got my second and third tattoos on a day when I had my 3 month check-up with my oncologist and my friend Terri was meeting with hers to find out she has Lymphoma. There’s a Bible verse that says “I believe; help my unbelief.” -Mark 9:24. I live there. Those words are written on my heart and I imagine they’re also on the insides of my eyelids because whenever I close my eyes I see them. That day I had them etched on my wrists where I can see and remember. The one on my left is bold, and in black. The one on the right is white, almost visible, but still there. The font for each of them is the same elegant script, tying them together in the most eloquent prayer I know. My forth tattoo is simply an elegant rendering of the Japanese symbol for 3. It is for my 3 Redheads, my 3 reasons, as they are all flying the nest these days. They have been the most delightful companions these past 21 years every day of their lives as I was lucky enough to be their stay-at-home then homeschool Mum. As much as I’m excited to see them chase their dreams (and chase after them chasing their dreams) I’m going to miss my sidekicks. The 3 is just a little reminder of them, and a sign for them that I’ll always be by their side. My newest tattoo is inspired by my beautiful friend Vanessa, her life, and her Live Sincerely Project and tattoo. Vanessa has stage 4 breast cancer which has gone metastatic to her brain. I hate to type these words but the piss me off reality is that she is dying. And yet, it’s not like she’s laying down waiting to die or anything. That. is NOT. Vanessa’s style. Never has been never will be. She’s dying like she’s lived these past 29 years: Sincerely. Not only that, but she’s started a project encouraging others to live sincerely (and not wait till they are dying to start living) which has started a global movement. Please check it out. I promise you’ll be inspired by Vanessa’s story and example. And I double dog dare you to take the pledge with me and live sincerely.
In honor of her, in celebration of my 4-year-cancerversary, and in anticipation of that dangling carrot of a 5-year-cancerversary, I’ve taken the pledge to live sincerely and I’m documenting it. I’ve begun a daily VLOG on YouTube called a year of living sincerely. You can find me under JoulesE, EvanshireTV, or a year of living sincerely, if you’d like to follow my Quixotic adventures. I’d love to have you along for the ride while we count down for my 5-year-cancerversary/not-a-chemo-cocktail-party BASH on August 20. 2013.
SAVE THE DATE Y’ALL!