CINCINNATI - It's been one year.
One year since my breast cancer diagnosis.
One year since surgery and radiation, uncertainty and concern, doctor's appointments and nonexistent sleep.
One year – today.
This time last year, if you had told me that there would be days when I didn't think about cancer, or when I wouldn't burst into tears, or when I didn't want to drink a gallon of wine just to cope, I'd have said you're crazy.
But a 365-day journey through hospitals and cancer wards and breast centers will make you change your mind about a lot of things.
And it is a journey. One with no real destination. And that's probably my biggest issue right now.
It all goes back to conjugation. Really.
I'm a word freak -- so it bothers me that I can't decide on a verb tense regarding my cancer.
"I had cancer." Is it too soon? Am I being flippant?
OK. What about …
"I have cancer." No, not really. They cut it out. But there's always a possibility … Then again, if I use the present tense, is that milking the illness?
So I just go with "I was diagnosed with cancer." To quote Spandau Ballet, I know this much is true.
My prognosis was good, and the results have held true to that determination. But there's a certain pang of cancer guilt involved when I meet fellow survivors.
Wait, that's another word I have a hard time using. Seems like there should be some sort of graduation ceremony before you get to call yourself this.
Though my cancer was rare (diagnosed in only 2-3 percent of women who have breast cancer) and "invasive," it was non-aggressive, caught early, had a very good track record of success and a very low rate of recurrence.
But for those whose prognosis isn't as good, I can't help but feeling guilty. I didn't have to have chemotherapy; I had the "good" cancer.
One year ago, I wouldn't have thought there was such a thing.
But it's not all puppies and rainbows, tied up in a rom-com-esque bow.
I rarely sleep through the night (and by "the night," I mean four hours) because my right arm is numb in some places and overly nerve-y in others – a result of the lumpectomy.
I'm overly concerned about other cancers – skin particularly, even though I'm assured that my diagnosis does not elevate my chances of getting any other type of cancer.
But day-to-day life is generally normal. I will take pills and have checkups for years, but that's about it. Once we get to certain age, isn't that the case for all of us?
Initially, I thought I'd like to celebrate this milestone. Go out to dinner, maybe some drinks; mark the night with some special outing.
You know what I'm doing? Staining my in-laws' deck.
Why? I don't want to celebrate the day that changed everything. I want to do the random, normal stuff that random, normal people do on a Tuesday. And this week, that's staining a deck.
Something that, one year ago, might have seemed pretty boring. But the fact that I'm here and able to do it makes it a celebration in and of itself.
So here we are – one year later.
And I'll take it. One year at a time.
To watch a video of my announcement about the diagnosis on Good Morning Tri-State, click on the video player below. (Note to mobile and tablet users: Open the story in a browser to watch the video.)
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