To the day.
Today is bittersweet. This day marks 8 years and 5 months since I heard the three scariest words of my life. You. Have. Cancer.
It was a day before my 28th birthday.
I stood in my childhood home, the one my Mom still lives in. The home my father built with his own hands. The home filled with memories. The home that would raise and mold me. Where my memories reside. From a small child with chickenpox to my first middle school dance and every birthday in between. Memories of those best friends who stood by me through thick and thin. The home in that quiet little town, where my act of rebellion was to sneak out and meet my friends under the vacant street lights. The home I would leave at the age of 18 to pursue my dream of becoming a fashion designer. The home I returned to many years later for my bridal shower and to celebrate that I’d found the one.
There I stood, in that home… and I received the news that would change my life as I knew it. That day is forever engraved in my mind. THE WORST DAY of my life. It was just the beginning. The beginning of my life, my career, my destiny and then bam, breast cancer.
My mind goes back to that day standing in my home and receiving the phone call. The call to tell me that I would “have” cancer, but didn’t explain to me that I will always “have” cancer. No matter how hard I will myself to forget, I can’t. On the days that should be the best days of my life, cancer is still there. It crept in on my wedding day, the launch of AnaOno, the birth of my god-son. It was there at the ground-breaking runways of NYFW, and when the Today Show listed me as a style icon. It would rear it’s head the day I discovered AnaOno made the WWD trend report lists and the day I hired my first employee. Cancer was there as I secured investment to bring AnaOno to you, the people that need it most.
So today, 8 years and 5 months later I sit here… not “cancer free,” but with no evidence of disease. I’m no longer on a treatment plan to “hopefully” keep the cancer calmed in my body and stop it from progressing into other life -threatening organs.
I am not “cancer free” because cancer is always there. It is the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning and the first word that comes to mind when any ache, pain, or “off” feeling arises. THAT IS CANCER.
Today, after 18 months of discussion, I hear from my oncologist that we’ve come to an informed decision. My days here on earth are to be filled with things “non-cancerous” from here on out. This quality of life decision did not come easily, but it is a decision I made for me, with the support of my doctor.
Now, to find some level of peace to say I did all I could do. This decision does not stop my cancer from returning, those odds are the odds. We know that 1 out of 3 people diagnosed with breast cancer will metastasize. I know this. I’ve seen it. But, the world should know this!
That is why my work with Project Cancerland and METAvivor is important and means so much to me. If it isn’t me, it will be a friend. It will be someone I love and that I care about. Without a cure for breast cancer we all lose.
But today, I am thankful for every single day; all 4,530 days I have had here with those I love and care about so deeply. Today is a day I will remember forever. It will always be clouded by cancer, that fog has yet to lift for me. But today I am grateful, I am hopeful, and I am thankful. Today I get to share with the world why every day is so important, and why not a moment goes by that I do not attempt to fill with joy, laughter, and happiness. But then there are days that the darkness rolls in, I will forever remember my sisters I have lost. I will think about those that we can and will eventually save. Every day is a new day. Every day I pledge to love myself and love others. At the end of today, that is what I have.
Today. July 20, 2018.
Thank you to everyone that has been on this rollercoaster with me, supported myself and the building of AnaOno, and to everyone that has taken their diagnosis, used it, and made a difference in the lives of others that are walking along the same unpaved, pot-holed, destructive path we all have. From the bottom of my heart, Thank You.
With you, I know that I am Never Alone®.
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Guest Post: Katharine Doughty
When I found a lump in my chest in early 2010, I was ten years into a series of 26 self-portraits with four 4 images to complete. A theme of reclaiming runs throughout the project: reclaiming of self-representation, of our personal and collective stories and the power of visual image. Be it ten years or ten minutes, the essential gift is the same: focused discovery and reflection via the arts allows us to be a witness to ourselves. To hear and respond creatively to our bodies with our bodies is to reclaim a role in the healing of our bodies.