Today, we celebrate my wife's seventeenth birthday. Lest any of you get the wrong impression, let me state unequivocally that I have but one wife and her natal day is much more than 17 years in the past.
Today, we celebrate the seventeenth anniversary of my wife's second birthday -- the day on which she had radical breast cancer surgery and became, in the language of those who have been treated for cancer, "a survivor." Like all birthdays, today marks a milestone.
After treatment, remaining cancer free for five years signifies a cure. During those five years, my wife had blood work and visited the oncologist every quarter and then every six months. For the next five years, she visited the oncologist once a year. On the visit corresponding to ten years cancer free, her oncologist released her with the words "I never want to see you again." She replied "You're a nice guy, but I never want to see you again either". That was seven years ago. Today, follow-up consists of an annual mammogram and regularly scheduled periodic physical.
Surviving cancer or any serious threat changes one's outlook. For the survivor and those close to her there is no such thing as "just another day". Rather, each day is recognized as the extraordinary gift and occasion for gratitude that it is, each breath and each moment as an occasion for joy. The sun shines brighter; the rain falls more gently; birds sing more sweetly; kittens, and puppies and squirrels are cuter and more wonderful; and time spent with family and friends becomes more precious as do the people themselves.
It is written somewhere that "You have never lived until you have almost died. To those who have fought for it, life has a flavor the protected will never know." A survivor knows that the statement is true.
Both my wife and I are truly grateful for the last seventeen years, in celebration of which we plan to drink wine and eat ice cream. And for all of the days remaining to us, we will celebrate the blessing that is each day.
Is your day a gift or a burden to you?
What do you plan to do about it?