Even though my own experiences of cancer treatments are receding into the past, it doesn’t change the fact that I’m a fully paid up member of this privileged group. It has to be said that this isn’t a membership I ever wanted or asked for, but I’ll take it.
In 2018, I was invited to join my hospital’s celebration of survivors. I hadn’t been back since my very first year of survivorship and looking at the invitation took me back. That first year was momentous for me. I felt nothing but joy at being alive. Sporting my chemo curls, I went to the Survivors’ Day celebration with my husband, who’d been my rock all the way through treatment. Towards the end of the event, there was an informal ceremony where all the survivors were asked to stand up and were given a yellow corsage; yellow being the color of survivorship. I was unexpectedly overcome by emotion as I looked around the room. At that point, I’d lost enough of my chemo buddies to cancer to feel their absence in that room even as I recognized my own good fortune to be standing there. I waited for my flowers with tears streaming down my face, tears of both sadness and of deep gratitude.
Although I would never have chosen it, the cancer experience changed my life for the better. It was an inflection point that allowed me to stand back and take a long, hard look at my life. A look that inspired me to change my career and to create Cook for Your Life so I could help the cancer community eat better and stay healthier in survivorship as well as to keep them nourished through the worst side effects of treatment. To date I am proud to note that we have helped some 5 million people. Now, whenever I get an email from a cancer affected person telling me how much we have helped them, or when I talk food with the patients and survivors who come to our in-person classes, I know I made lemonade out of one of life’s worst lemons – not just for myself but for so many others. So this year I decided to go to Survivors’ Day to celebrate again.
I saw many familiar faces, many new faces, the doctors and nurses who I still see and who do such a wonderful job for us all. I listened to the laughter, the bravery even some wonderful singing. Then we all stood up and got our yellow flowers. The survivors. I’m so grateful to be one.