I 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.