Sunday, April 25, 2010

Happy Cancerversary

It's been a little over a year now since Karen's breast cancer diagnosis. We "celebrated" her Cancerversary on April 15th -- a day now marked for us with taxes and cancer. It's hard to imagine two things that are more despised. Despite the dread this date might elicit, I hope that instead it will be a day we embrace for many, many years to come. My hope is that it will forever be a day that marks triumph over fear and hope over despair. In the end, these are the characteristics that Karen -- and many thousands of survivors like her -- embodied as she stood up to cancer: courage, strength, hope. They are words used over and over to describe the qualities of those who battle cancer. I can tell you, they are words never over-used or under-appreciated for those who fight this disease.

We've come full circle since a year ago at this time. The beautiful pink flowers on the azalea bushes are blooming again, just as they were when I took the first picture of Karen for the blog. And although I haven't blogged at all since Karen finished her chemotherapy in November, the "journey" did and has continued.

Chemotherapy was followed by seven weeks of daily radiation that ended in February. While the side effects were few, the lasting effects of the chemo drugs on top of daily radiation wore her down to the point that getting out of bed some days was a real struggle. Harder still was dealing with the expectation that since she was finished with the chemotherapy that she would quickly be back to her "old" self. She learned -- we all learned -- that it would take months before she regained her energy and felt good again. But thankfully, those days have arrived!

Although her toenails have yet to grow back -- her hair has grown back in. There's no sign of the predicted "chemo curl", but she looks right in style with her "pixie". In fact, last week she said goodbye to the gray that highlighted her hair and she's back to a brunette.

The Spring of 2010 may always be a time of change for Karen. Last year, her big news of course, was her cancer diagnosis. This year, she has made a change by accepting an exciting and challenging new job with Deloitte Consulting. It was a tough decision since it meant leaving the friends, colleagues and company that supported her during one of her most difficult years.

To mark Karen's first Cancerversary, I put together a short video that chronicles some of the past year -- particularly the support that she got from friends and family. The theme song for the video is "I Run for Life" by Melissa Etheridge, a cancer survivor, and includes highlights from last year's Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk for the Cure in Philadelphia in which Karen and the team she joined -- "For Our Girls" -- participated.

The video tells a story of resiliency and hope -- not just Karen's, but that of all women who battle breast cancer and other forms of the disease. Looking back now on the past year, and the photos in the video in particular, throughout it all, Karen's smile remained bright -- a smile so bright, it's as if she swallowed the sun.