Today I attended my 4th cancer survivor luncheon. It is hosted by a group practice of several oncologists at a very elegant hall, it is a yearly event. It has become over the last several years a sort of landmark in my survivor journey.
I received the first invitation to the luncheon only a few months after my MOAS surgery (cytoreduction surgery dubbed by an appendix cancer warrior as the “Mother Of All Surgeries” years ago). I’d just finished peritoneal chemotherapy and had only just begun my IV chemotherapy. I was still in my head a “cancer patient”. I was a long way from being a cancer survivor. I didn’t attend.
The next year I looked at the invitation for a long time trying to decide if I could attend the event, and I still couldn’t. In part I still didn’t feel that I’d “survived” cancer, I’d just finished chemotherapy. I’d also been focusing on moving past cancer. I didn’t want to define myself by cancer. I didn’t want to make cancer part of my social experience, maybe? I wanted to leave it all behind and return to my “normal” life (I was naive, I still believed you could go back to “normal” after cancer).
The third year I was invited I attended, alone. I didn’t invite a guest as I wanted to be able to duck out if I felt uncomfortable. As it turned out, I had a great time and loved the other survivors I dined with.
The fourth year, I not only wanted to attend, but wanted to contribute. I offered to provide dinner music and to speak. I’d never played piano at an event like this one, attended by several hundred people at a very elegant hall, but hey, after a cancer battle, stage fright was the least of my worries. Many of my old fears had become insignificant in the face of a life and death battle. So, that year, I played my keyboard, spoke, and had a great time. This year and last, I’ve attended and also played dinner music for the event.
I love the survivor banquet now. I hope to attend for many more years. I now wouldn’t leave the community of cancer survivors for anything. I love being with others who have survived cancer, they are in many cases my favorite people to be around. There’s so much we can say to each other that we can’t say to friends and family members. We share a history, we share a struggle, we share a profound and life changing experience. We understand each other.
I am proud now to be a part of the cancer survivor community.