As a psychologist, I know that people can struggle on the anniversary of any traumatic event that dramatically affected their lives, including, for example, the death of someone close to them. I understand these reactions and have supported many people through them. I’ve had them myself occasionally.
But I was talking with a friend the other night who just reached the 20th anniversary of a very traumatic day in her life, a day that she almost died. But she didn’t. And my sense is that she celebrates not dying much more than she focuses on the fact that she might have died. Makes a lot of sense to me.
I have a fairly big anniversary upcoming in early August, although I’ve managed to forget the exact date. I’m speaking of the day I went from not having cancer to…you get the idea. (There was a lot going on at that time: emergency hospital admission, acute pain, unexplained bleeding, blood transfusions, and endless repetitions of my medical history.) I guess I could consider this upcoming period one to dread. I could relive my 7 subsequent weeks in hospital day by day–the days I recall at least–but I imagine that wouldn’t feel great.
To be honest, I did a lot of that last year. In fact, last Labour Day weekend, I even dragged J. to visit the ICU with me–funny, the ICU is open 365 days a year–so I could put some of the traumatic memories of my stay there to rest. (More on that another time.) Maybe I needed to go through that reliving process last year, but not again. It felt pretty crummy.
Rather, I’m going to focus on all the good stuff that’s happened since. Here’s my abbreviated list: 1) I’ve got my strength back; 2) I’ve gained back every single ounce I lost; 3) I’m on a chemo that’s working really well; 4) I’ve got a small part of my work life back; 5) J. and I have weathered this very turbulent storm, only to become closer; and 6) I’m still here to celebrate.
Maybe instead of focussing on the day I became a cancer patient, I’ll focus on how well I’ve done since my initial sickly hospital ordeal. The road hasn’t been easy sometimes, but most of my challenges have had little to do with having cancer. And most of those challenges are behind me now.
Not only have I not died from cancer yet, I’m still living–dare I say “thriving”?–with it. I consider that reason to celebrate, don’t you? So of course I looked it up (I’ve got a lot of time on my hands) and second anniversary gifts are traditionally cotton. Cotton? Really? Not chocolate or a trip to Hawaii?
Well, we could sure use some nice new high-thread-count sheets, especially since a good night’s sleep is supposed to be especially healing. Perhaps I’ll use my recent GST credit–another benefit of my little government allowance–to buy some. There’s nothing else I really need right now, since I’ve got my health.