A New Year’s Revolution
Male Breast Cancer Survivor Khevin Barnes finds a new reason to celebrate.
The start of the New Year seems to offer a refurbishing infusion of fresh beginnings for many. We have an opportunity to drop old habits, fortify new intentions and focus on the future with eager and optimistic eyes. January 1st has been a symbolic date for change since calendars were invented, but for the cancer survivor there is another, even more relevant date to remember. Our New Year begins on the anniversary of our cancer diagnosis, and it’s there every 365 days that we celebrate our continued opportunity for life.
Those of us with breast cancer measure our lives by the weeks and months between mammograms, ultra-sounds and cat scans and it is these intervals separating our procedures, those silent and hallowed times that present us with the space and the tranquility we seek.
When I discovered that I had breast cancer in May of 2014, my list of appointments and schedules and future dates was instantly deleted. It felt like the virus in a computer had suddenly infested my life and replaced a fully active hard drive with blank pages.
We who live with cancer are forced to make changes in our schedules and plans, and it’s never easy for the uninitiated.
Aside from having my routines and activities thrown off by my cancer, there have been some surprising upsides to my disease. I no longer take for granted my opportunity to blog and write stories about my journey, or my walks in the stunning Arizona desert where I live. I no longer put off writing the songs that I hear in my head, or delay the occasion to play my banjo or watch a good video with my wife.
But more than anything, I have a new capacity to marvel at the world we live in and to sense my presence in a very big universe that holds secrets which I am incapable of understanding. I can stop for a few precious moments during the day and turn off my busy brain to almost hear the ringing of the cosmos, and actually feel the vibration of the humming birds who sip at our feeders outside in the yard.
But ultimately, both January 1st and the anniversary of my cancer diagnosis are rendered meaningless as the invitation to experience every single day of my life becomes my New Year.
Why does it take a disease or a trauma or a punch in the eye to awaken this simple yet insightful glimpse into the realness of our life on Earth?
Stories of the human drive and spirit of people knocked down by unexpected turns in life, who rebound with newfound purpose or insight or dedication to pick themselves up and get moving once again are common. We have a kick and a fight in us that, in most cases, disallows defeat. It’s a remarkable force that, like the turning of Earth itself, has inertia and a significance that will not give in to failure.
I correspond with cancer survivors every day who are hurting, scared or disillusioned. And I’m no different. I have days like that.
But like so many others, I ride the wave of worry until it crests and relaxes and rolls in to the shore, and it is there that I rest and recover in that space between; that place serene where all is OK right now.
The truth is I believe that this very moment is the beginning of our new year. It really isn’t January 1st or the anniversary of our cancer diagnosis or any other symbolic or meaningful day of the year. It’s today. This minute. It is the very instant that you read these simple words. The very instant that you take your next breath. And it’s in that moment that our will to live with cancer in our history, in our genes or in our bodies starts anew and we are given yet another astonishing day to add to our calendar of life. Happy New Year.