I’ve always loved the fall. There’s something about the way the light angles through the trees, the vibrant colors of the changing season, the cozy evenings as the light slips away earlier and earlier that just makes me feel comfortable and safe. It reminds me of the excitement of the return to school after a long summer break as a child. It reminds me of the building anticipation for Halloween, and then the holidays after that. And since my birthday is at the end of October, it has always reminded me of the changes that I’ve experienced throughout the year, the moments I’ve shared with my family and friends, the excitement at the prospect of what the coming year will hold. And now the fall holds even more meaning for me.I was diagnosed with breast cancer on October 12, 2011. I had a bilateral mastectomy two days after my 33rd birthday. The remainder of 2011 was spent recovering from surgery, starting chemo and learning to deal with this new life “after cancer.” Fall transitioned into winter, and unlike years prior, I barely noticed. “Just get through it.” I spent the months during chemo just trying to check off each day, to push through, to make time go faster. Which was rather ironic given that the point of treatments was to give me more time. But cancer has a way of doing that, of warping reality, of stealing moments, of changing perspectives.
So as I approach the anniversary of my cancer diagnosis this year, I find that while I am soaking in all of the things I love about Fall, there’s also a heaviness in my heart. There’s a constant struggle to find gratitude in living another day with my best friend NED (no evidence of disease), while not feeling resentful that this heaviness, this fear exists in my life in the first place. I had such a feeling of victory when I reached my one-year anniversary last year. I made it a year. I got through the active treatments. I’m still here. And now, at year two, I’m still here. That in and of itself is a gift that I don’t take for granted, not for one second. But I still give myself permission to feel sad, to feel angry, to feel a little bit of self-pity. Because cancer stole the “carefree” out of my life, the life without that heaviness that I always took for granted. And that is not fair. But then I use that emotion to fuel what I’m doing in my life. I use it to fuel the work I’m doing at Consano. And most importantly, I use it to fuel the focus, attention and love that I try to infuse into each moment with my daughters, with Scott, with my family, with my friends. Life moves forward, the fall is still magical, and I’m still here.