Friday, May 25, 2012

Cancerversaries

Cancerversary is a playful word with a deep meaning, and it represents a reason to celebrate. Now that I am more attuned to the survivor community, I see the word frequently. But what exactly does it mean? Is it the anniversary of when a person is diagnosed with cancer, as the name suggests? Or is it the anniversary of being declared in remission? (If the latter, then shouldn't it be called a Remissionversary?)

From what I've seen, survivors interpret it differently. Now that I've passed the one year mark of leaving the hospital, I've begun to think about what I should mark as my celebration date. I was diagnosed April 6th and received my first clean remission test result May 25th, though the blood tested was drawn a week earlier. I called my oncologist's office to ask when my remission clock began for him. His answer didn't match either of the common definitions.

According to my oncologist, the remission clock began when I finished the heavy chemo (i.e., consolidation). It makes sense. He is concerned with how long I stay blood tumor free, without the aid of heavy chemo squashing any evil cells that surface. Staying cancer free without the aid of chemo is the real test for whether or not the disease still lurks in my bones.

The blood for my first PCR test post anthracyclines was drawn October 31, 2011. If I haven't relapsed by October 31, 2016, Dr. Goldberg will declare me cured. Since I'd been thinking the clock began with my first clean FISH test in May 2011, 10/31/16 seems particularly far away. The fall is also a long time to wait to celebrate with chocolate cake a year of being in remission. I wonder if one can have a half-cancerversary, the way people have half-birthdays...