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CANCER: AN ANNIVERSARY WORTH CELEBRATING?

By Kayla Giacin
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Adam Newman playing the guitar at YA HUC
Adam Newman playing the guitar at YA HUC

Some of the best topics in brain tumor survivorship don’t come from medical practices and doctors but the survivors themselves and the conversations that happen when we bounce our ideas of one another.

On September 24th, Adam Newman, a young adult survivor and mentor, was coming upon his 10th anniversary of having emergency surgery to remove his brain tumor.  He posed this question to one of our online survivor groups,

“How do you guys deal with anniversaries? Tomorrow is the 10-year anniversary of my first surgery…and while I'm obviously happy to have made it so far, it is also just such a bittersweet day for me. What do you guys think/do? Does anyone celebrate them?”

Adam got quite a few responses making it obvious that he is not the first survivor to struggle with this topic!

Some survivors said they go all out and celebrate because they are lucky to be alive – maybe their friends will take them out for drinks or they’ll have a party with friends and family. 

Others said to keep it personal but suggested that he do something he really enjoys for himself such as getting a favorite treat.

Some of us said we to take the day to reflect while others take a different approach and said, “I try to keep track of how many years it's been since I was declared ‘cancer-free’ but I don't pay attention to date. Maybe it's my way of giving that whole occurrence the finger.”

One person suggested celebrating every day, as each and every day of surviving is truly a gift.

For some, recognizing anniversary dates can rehash old and unpleasant memories that some would rather not go out of their way to remember.  Everyone also experiences different stages of how they cope with their diagnosis and their view on survivorship might change throughout time.  For example, at 5 years after surgery a person might be fearful, angry, nervous, hesitant or maybe all or none of these things.  At 15 years, they might feel more relieved and relaxed about their future and more ready to celebrate that  they've been out of treatment for a longer time. There is no right or wrong way to feel, our own personas dictate our reactions.

Although Adam didn't get a straight forward, "this is what you do" type of response, it seems like the knowledge that other people are thinking the same thing and knowing that any way he decided to celebrate (or not celebrate!) would be appropriate is enough to make a little more sense out of the day.  Just as no two brain tumors, experiences or survivors are alike, neither are the ways in which we choose to celebrate or acknowledge our victories in survivorship. 

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