On Jan. 15, I celebrate my “diagnosiversary” marking 11 years since my follicular lymphoma (FL) diagnosis.
This one is special. When diagnosed, I read that the median survival for FL patients was 8-10 years. In my mind, that meant I wouldn’t be around after 10 years. That’s not how survival statistics work, of course, but that doesn’t make 11 years any less special. I kind of feel like I’m playing with house money at this point.
I know many believe it’s strange to “celebrate” my diagnosiversary. Even my wife used to think it was kind of weird to celebrate such a dark day. (And it was a very dark day.)
To those people, I say: I will not celebrate the day of my diagnosis. I will celebrate the 4,018 days since my cancer diagnosis. I confess I’m not one of those people whose cancer makes them appreciate all the little things in life more than they did before. But when I can look back on 4,018 days of being with my wife and kids, I’m happy to celebrate.
My wife and I will get up to make sure our daughter gets off to school. (She’s a high school senior and just learned that she got into her first college choice. My two sons are already in college. I wasn’t sure, 11 years ago, that I’d see any of that.)
Once our daughter is off to school, we’re going to call in sick to work. Then we’re going to go back to bed. No checking work email. It’s my special day. I’m my own boss that day.
When we get up, we’ll take a walk. We both always feel better after a walk. The January weather in New England will tell us how long a walk it will be. It will be at least as far as the coffee shop down the street, where we’ll get a cup and have a relaxed chat.
On the way home, we’ll stop at our favorite deli and get a couple of sandwiches to go. Then, we’ll see an early afternoon movie, something light and fun. We’ll hide those sandwiches in our coats and sneak them into the theater, even though you’re not supposed to have outside food. It’s my day and I’m breaking the rules. (But we’ll also buy sodas and candy at the concession stand because I’ll feel guilty about being a rule-breaker.)
We’ll get home right about the time our daughter returns from school. We’ll hear about her day.
Then, I’ll probably check my email and start catching up on the work I missed during the day.
Because life goes on. That’s an important part of the diagnosiversary day, too. As fun as it is to escape it, life is still there. We get up every morning. We spend time with loved ones. We follow the rules and break some. We do what we have to.
And the next day, we celebrate 4,019.
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