May 5

Cancer – 1. a malignant tumor of potentially unlimited growth that expands locally by invasion and systemically by metastasis 2. an abnormal bodily state marked by such tumors

I woke up on May 5, 2004 with a deep sense of dread. Though I knew something was wrong, I had no idea what it really was. I waited until he was at work to call my dad. He was fine, but he said my mom was in the hospital. Soon we learned she had cancer.

Fast forward to May 5, 2016. After six months of appointments and chemo, I have a unilateral mastectomy. It was a long day, but not exactly bad. I handled the surgery well, and was so wrapped up that it would be days before I could see my new reality.

Someday I will write a book about my experiences. In 2016, I said I would title it, “The Things I Lost, and What I Gained.” I lost a breast, my hair, energy, and an innocence. I gained my hair back, a wealth of hats, new fears and worries, weight, a better ability to say no and knowledge of my limits, a new perspective, and gratitude. I learned how to accept help and ask for it. I experienced the compassion and giving hearts of friends, new neighbors, and my church. The resilience of my girls was amazing. While I knew Marty loved me, I learned the depth of it as we made it through those challenging months of illness and healing. I learned how much strength I had.

Cancer became a part of my daily life sixteen years ago, a part of me four and a half years ago. It changed everything.

I no longer want to have a fiesta on Cinco de Mayo. Instead, I want to take stock. I want to grieve the loss, and speak words of gratitude for where I am today. I am thankful that I still have my mom, and that she is healthy. I am beyond grateful for a community and family that continues to surround us with love.

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