Thursday, December 8, 2011


I have really been dreading this day. 

All last week (the past few weeks, really), I have been marking each day by saying to myself, At this time LAST year, you still were naive to what was about to change your life. On this date a year ago, you had a mammogram but you weren't worried. On this day, you had a biopsy but you were still in the fog of denial.

Then yesterday landed. The 70th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Historic for two reasons: It also happens to be the anniversary of my father's death....
He served in the South Pacific during WWII; so Pearl Harbor Day is a very apropos date for him to have departed this earth. He has been gone four years. It is hard to fathom.

I spent the day with my mother, wrapping Christmas presents. My father loved Christmastime; and so did I (it was a day I could count on him being in a good mood). But more than that, it was the one day a year that my siblings and I were indulged. We were not a family of means, but you would never know it by the present-laden floor beneath the tree on my childhood Christmas mornings. 

Wrapping gifts seemed like an appropriate way to honor him and spend time with my mom, who shared a few stories I had never heard before about my Dad. It was a good day. We lit a Yahrzeit (memorial) candle, a new tradition I find comforting and applicable to all faiths. You can buy them in the grocery store for a dollar. You light them on the eve of a relative's death. They burn for 24 hours. Anytime we walked into the kitchen, there was the candle, a flaming reminder of a wonderful life.

But in the back of my mind yesterday, the thought of what today would bring was looming very large. I knew today was going to feel worse than yesterday. Because today is the one-year anniversary of the day I found out I had cancer. And I was afraid this date would even eclipse my father's death.

That's how it felt yesterday, anyway.

I am happy to report that upon awakening this morning, I found that this day and this date holds no such power over me. I have spend countless minutes (I would rather not add them up into hours) worrying about how December 8, 2011 was going to feel. But Pearl Harbor Day will forever be more important. I don't even have a desire to take a hike to my favorite spot where I go to reflect on things like this. It's weird; it's a complete nonevent.

At least I know now. I won't be weighing myself down with these imaginary, doomsday-like projections in the future. Today is the first of many remarkable anniversaries that I'll be acknowledging as time marches on. Each will probably feel different. But I'm not gonna worry about how it might feel until it gets here.

I'm tired of wasting my time on things that don't deserve my limited energy and laser focus. Things that are hallow. Things that aren't real. Things that don't matter. Things that don't care back.

Gonna flip it around and turn my energy on me. I could use a little of my own precious natural resources.

And that is how I am heading into my next "cancerversary": Happy Anniversary to me.


  1. I find I forget about my cancerversaries.... Pearl Harbor Day is more important than stupid cancer.

  2. What a wonderful posting, Renn. I am so sorry that things are so raw and fresh. As time passes, hopefully things will get easier. Your dad seemed like such a special person, and I'm glad you have those great memories of him.

  3. Caroline: For sure!

    Beth: Thanks. Surprising how jumbled our emotions are the first year (or five!).

  4. Love the candle tradition.
    I haven't had a cancerversary that I was cancer free. Four and a half years fighting Sarcoma, the fight continues with radiation and chemo right now during the holidays. I look forward to someday the "have" turning to "had".
    Happy anniversary back to health Renn, enjoy and live!

  5. SJN: I'm so sorry to hear you are dealing with both radiation and chemo at Christmas time. That SUCKS. I am sending healing light your way and look forward to your turning the "had" to "have." Be well my friend.

  6. Sending you best wishes, this is a good day for you!! The first year is the toughest because we have had to learn to adapt to all these changes that have taken place.....A good way to end the year!! February it will be 3 years since I was diagnosed amazing how quickly times goes by !!
    Love Alli XX

  7. Thanks for that perspective, Alli! It helps!

  8. Renn, I love this post. For the b&w photo of your dad, reminds me of my dad who also served in the Navy as a young man. I love that you got to spend time with your mom on a day that was no doubt better than the one last year and finally, I love your determination at the end. I don't celebrate cancerversaries either. It doesn't change anything and like you, I'd rather focus on a better future. Enjoy your holidays this year!

  9. There are many "anniversaries" that come with mixed, if not downright, complicated emotions. I met my 2 year cancer-versary with a new diagnosis of mets. At the same time, however, I had made it to 2 years from my initial stage III diagnosis. Something the medpros did not think would happen since I had opted out of conventional adjuvant treatment. Each cancer-versary that we have the opportunity to mark, whether it be with a sarcastic blog; a nostalgic reminisence; or an embracement of gratitude...well, it is a good thing. Happy Anniversary - I am so grateful you are here to share it with us!

  10. Renn, I love your post today! I don't have a year in yet (was diagnosed April 7) and hadn't given any thought to my cancerversary. I love what you said about not giving it any more power. go girl! When I get it to my cancerversary, I'm sure I will be reminded of your post today and smile.....Cindy

  11. everyone, especially to are all amazing people....its really an honor to be able to peek into this blog and see my dear friend renn's strength, humor, wisdom, and evolution. here's to all of you!!! happiest of holidays xoxo m

  12. Hooray for you! What a fantastic attitude. It's so empowering to realize that the worst thing ever no longer has that kind of power over you. I'm so glad you shared these thoughts with us, and so very happy to have people like you along on this journey.

  13. I will keep these thoughts close to me as well, cancer or not. Things to be reminded of daily. Thank you for sharing.

  14. Renn,
    This is an emotional time of year for you for many reasons isn't it? Good for you for deciding your anniversary date didn't hold that much power over you. Wish I could say the same. I do tend to mark/remember days...Does that give them power? I don't know. The holidays can be extra rough when we also remember lost loved ones. I'm sorry about your dad. On top of that, you had your diagnosis and treatment too at this time of year... ugh...That's a lot to grapple with. It's been four years since I got really bad news about my mom's cancer, so I relate to this time of year being emotional. I think I'll even post about it next. Anyway, yes, happy anniversary to you. And put your time and energy where YOU want to, that's pretty good advice for all of us. Thanks for writing.

  15. Aw, man! I missed your 'versary! I'm so pleased to see that you moving on from it with such a great attitude, lady. <3

  16. Wow, I'm so sorry for the loss of your dad and for your diagnosis of cancer. A double whammy, even though a few years have separated the events. I love the idea of a Yahrzeit candle...doesn't that mean "year time" in German?

    I don't remember the date I was diagnosed, but June 19 was the day of my mastectomy. That date will often go by without me even remembering its significance, and soon, Dec. 8 may pass by you as well!

  17. Stacey, TC, Cindy, Anonymous, Pinkunderbelly, Cannelle et Vanille, Nancy and Wendy: Thank you as always for your comments. Yes the holidays stir up all kinds of emotional craziness. Now, with a new year ahead of us, we can start anew.

    Ginny: a Yahrzeit is yiddish for "a year's time" which is why the candle marks the anniversary of the person's passing. I have to get to the store tomorrow, as we have 3 people this week to light candles for.


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