Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What Being a Breast Cancer Survivor Means

As a breast cancer survivor, I want to usher in Breast Cancer Awareness month by noting what I have to be grateful for.

A recent TV commercial features two musicians playing instruments and singing “Happy Birthday to You.” Afterward, a message appears on the screen that many people who have had cancer are still celebrating their birthdays.

I’m one of them.

Except I have had 365 birthdays per year since I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001.

My perspective has changed since I had cancer and went through chemotherapy, radiation, and, a few years later, a preventive double mastectomy with reconstruction. Before cancer, I took life for granted and didn’t appreciate even the smallest, precious moments.

Since cancer, I view each day as a gift, as another birthday. I now have an uncanny ability to slow down time and appreciate life. This is what it means for me to be a survivor and thriver: not merely to exist day to day, but to see each day as something to be savored because, truth be told, no one knows when his or her last day on Earth will be.

Oddly enough, I view my having had cancer as a gift, for it has taught me many life lessons. I have learned to make friends with quality people and not waste my precious time with those who drain my energy. I marvel at my daughter and know that my time with her is a precious gift, not to be taken for granted. I don’t allow obstacles to interfere with my dreams. I not only stop to smell the roses, but I savor the scents of each season in a way I never did before. I look up at the sky, even when it’s raining, and know that life is good. And when I have bad days like everyone else, I view them as good days in disguise.

This is what it means for me to be a breast cancer survivor: not just to survive, but to thrive by relishing life’s wonders.

Those two musicians singing “Happy Birthday to You” in the commercial lift my spirits. Because as a breast cancer survivor, I know that today, like every day, it’s my birthday.

This posting is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Calling the Shots: Coaching Your Way Through the Medical System. To obtain these excerpts regularly, please subscribe to this blog by clicking the orange subscribe button. I am a professional writer and have published numerous academic and magazine articles, as well as an essay on my breast cancer experience in the anthology Voices of Breast Cancer by LaChance Publishing. I can be contacted at and Photobucket


  1. I thought I commented yesterday, but who knows, maybe my chemo brain didn't do something right. You describe your appreciation for each day very beautifully. Just a lovely post. Thanks.

  2. Thank you for your comment, Nancy! I really appreciate it.