One year older, and I want a reset

giphyI turn one year older today, April 22, and I’m wishing I could go back to the year where I left off —before I was diagnosed. I want to reset time to when I was 32, and try to live the life I might have lived if cancer never happened. Sometimes I wonder what those years would have been like.

Would I have felt the same urgency to have a child as I do now?
Would I still have been at the same job?
Would I have been living in the same city?
Would I have kept those friends who are no longer friends today?

Yes, I am grateful I am here to celebrate another birthday. But I often think about all the tradeoffs that came with the decisions I’ve made, or failed to make, since my diagnosis.

I am aware that things could be a lot worse. I even feel a little shameful that I am complaining, on my birthday, considering all the people who don’t get to be a year older. But I just feel like the older I get, the further away I get from doing things I probably would have done by now if cancer never happened.

For example, before, I had the option to build a family and not have to worry about the cancer coming back, and me leaving my family alone. I also had my denial before my diagnosis. I miss the feeling of safety it brought. Today every decision I make is important. Before, I had some room for risks. Today that space is occupied with insecurities and uncertainties. Taking risks seems a lot more dangerous than before.

Of course, being alive is my top priority, which is why I’ve chosen to stay on treatment. And perhaps these treatments are the reasons why I am still here today to celebrate another birthday. But there is a context. By choosing to focus so much on staying alive, I also give up some quality of life. I wish there was a “hold” button I could press to stop ‘getting older’ while I finish my Tamoxifen treatment, but that’s not how things work.  Time doesn’t wait for anyone.

Somehow I’ve adjusted. I don’t want to see my birthday as the only reason for celebration. I want to try to make random days special, when I can. But I don’t like the feeling of being restricted.  This is why I am wishing I could have my years back.

Everyone who has gone through this disease deserves their years back.

About thesmallc

I'm Rebeca. I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32. But there's more to my story: I am an animal lover. I love to cook. I have a wonderful fiancé who doesn't mind walking my rocky path with me. We currently live in New York. ---------------------------------------- “Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.” ― Viktor E. Frankl
This entry was posted in Coping after cancer, Reflections and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to One year older, and I want a reset

  1. happy birthday and enjoy every minute!

  2. Lovely honest post I really enjoyed reading it x

  3. Carolyn Cannings says:

    I wish I could be there with you to give you a great big hug for your birthday. No-one needs depression to kick in on top of all the other anti-wonderful (unwonderful?) side affects of cancer and its remedies. I won’t tell you to look on the bright side because I know that even doing that is sometimes impossible. start with simply acknowledging that today is a new day, every new day is a blessing, our chance to have one more adventure – and okay you can have your birthday cake and eat it too. Lots of hugs and kisses. ❤️

    • thesmallc says:

      Carolyn, you’ve already cyber-hugged me. You’re right, it helps to look at each day as an opportunity to do something new, or at least try to. I did just that by getting away for two days and it felt good.Thank you for your kind words. xx

  4. illlive says:

    Happy happy birthday! Onward and upward!

  5. Poly says:

    Felicidades en tus cumpleaños venideros

    Eres especial de todo corazón

    Dios bendiga

  6. Belated birthday wishes Rebecca x You are the same age I was when I was diagnosed with breast cancer two weeks before my birthday. Since then I’ve celebrated ten more birthdays 😉

  7. Pingback: Weekly Round Up | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

  8. helensamia says:

    Happy Birthday xx

  9. Josie says:

    I love you. I feel so fortunate to have met you and had we both not had cancer – our paths most likely would not have crossed. I would never have laughed and cried at your stories and marveled at your grandmother’s sense of humor and your fragrant fabulous memories of an incredibly vibrant unique childhood. I feel fortunate that so much good has come out of the dreaded “c” but also appreciate that I too will never again have that carefree sense to life. For better or worse, we know how precious each day is and how capricious and fleeting… And in my mind, arbitrary as to who gets what and how our bodies respond to which treatment. I am sending you lots of love and best wishes for many more birthdays to celebrate. I try to focus more about what I really want to do now rather than what I think I “should” be doing and maybe being more grateful for what i’ve got right now – even if it’s just enjoying the springtime – rather than focus on the fact that I can’t run through the park like I used to love so much doing… Hits me every so often, but at least we’re here! Xoxoox

    • thesmallc says:

      Josie, getting to know you, and others, has been the good part of this mess. I try to focus on the good but I also have my down days. Letting it all out has helped with my healing though. I’ve been trying to figure out if maybe I am the one stopping myself from accomplishing some things, including building a family. You know, like letting ‘fear’ dictate what I do. There are no guarantees for anyone, but once you get hit with tragedy, we become more vulnerable and cautious. I’ll be willing to take a few risks here and there.

      It means a lot to me that you’ve enjoyed my childhood stories. To think of it, I am not sure I would have ever gotten the opportunity to be in a program like ours if it wasn’t because of …well you know. I’ve enjoyed your stories too.

      Thank you for your words and warm wishes, dear friend.

  10. Happy birthday, Rebecca. I hope this next year brings renewed health, energy and peace. I hope you have more days as if cancer never was. xo

  11. nancyspoint says:

    Hi Rebecca,
    Ah yes, a reset button… After a person has been diagnosed with cancer it’s impossible to go back, at least this is the case for me. I think it’s normal to wonder about what you’d be doing and what you might have accomplished had cancer not barged into your life. You aren’t complaining, you are being human. I hate that you have to deal with the mind games of cancer in addition to the physical fallout. I hope you find balance, peace and whatever it is you’re looking for in the years ahead. Hope your birthday was wonderful and may you have many special random days this year too. xo

    • thesmallc says:

      Nancy, It feels great to know I am not alone with these feelings, and that I am indeed normal. I agree I don’t think it’s possible for us to ever go back to who we were before the diagnosis. At the same time I couldn’t go back to the time when I was a child either so I try to see it as another evolvement in life with a challenging transition.

      Thank you for your kind wishes and for making me feel better.

  12. bethgainer says:

    Hi Rebecca,
    First of all, happy belated birthday! I often feel the same way as you do. If only I could go back to the same confidence in my body that I had pre-cancer. But now I don’t trust my body, as cancer has betrayed me. What you are feeling is normal. I often wonder how my life would be if I would never have had cancer. In some ways, cancer prompted me to take stock and get rid of toxic relationships and such. But I also suffer with PTSD. It’s a trade off. Still, I miss the old me.

    • thesmallc says:

      Beth, Thank you! I know what you mean about cancer forcing us to make some decisions. I am sorry you’re dealing with PTSD. I think I’m experiencing some form of this too, and it isn’t fun. I hope you’re doing better these days. And I am very excited about your book!

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