12 years ago today I was told I was in “remission.”

It was a Wednesday afternoon when the phone rang at the house.

I picked up in the kitchen on the second ring.

Dr. Rifkin was happy to report that the LIJ Schneider Children’s Hospital tumor board had agreed my cancer was gone. The chemotherapy had worked. The cell invasion had ceased.

And that is when we started counting years.

The first milestone was the one-year anniversary.

The next major marker was the five-year “cured” mark.

The next was ten years cancer free and no longer needing to report to an oncologist.

Every year was celebrated as if it was my birthday. Sometimes it was just the four of us. Sometimes it was friends and family, too. Never was it forgotten or minimized. This date, October 7, has been and will always be acknowledged by the people who were impacted the most by my cancer. It was a family disease and continues to be a family celebration of life.

Being a 16-year-old cancer patient is complicated and exhausting. It’s a different rollercoaster everyday and you aren’t sure if it’s you, the cancer or your hormones talking. There was a baldhead, a lack of control and cut skin. There was also a strong casted web of determination and love.

Last week, when I found out my parents and sister were driving up on a Thursday night for a celebratory dinner, I realized it doesn’t matter where I live, the city, the country or the moon. It just matters that we remember the gift that was given to us 12 years ago.

The Dave Matthews Band song that became my anthem was and continues to be “Lie in Our Graves.” The lyrics question why would we lie in our graves wondering what would or could have been. I recently came across this choreographed piece:

And then just because I heart him:

“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”~ Abraham Lincoln
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