It was five years ago today that I bade farewell to my dazzling double-Ds and awoke 11 hours later not only with a couple of cuter Cs, but with a whole new view of life. I chose to have a prophylactic mastectomy after losing my mom at age 63 to breast cancer and discovering I carried the BRCA-1 gene mutation, and like I always say: what my friends saw as a courageous decision, I just saw as good plain sense. Still do. Surgery day started out the most frightening day of my life and thankfully ended as one of the most meaningful-I have since carried with me an immutable sense of gratitude and blessing that I was able to lower my breast cancer risk so significantly and live without constant dread.
Each year I remember the mixed emotion of that life-changing day, and five years later I find myself reflecting on what I’ve accomplished in the meantime. It’s not difficult for me to get down about myself. I mean, I haven’t done big things. I haven’t changed the world for the better. I haven’t achieved a personally-challenging adventure like climbing a mountain or running a marathon. I haven’t done anything especially earth-shattering or particularly selfless. My accomplishments are insignificant. Irrelevant, really.
But when I go a little easier on myself, I guess some of the small accomplishments could be considered somewhat worthy, if undoubtedly not grand and noble. I’ve done a couple of things to challenge myself. I’ve grown a little bit as a person, as a mom, as a writer. I’ve managed to touch a few lives outside my own household. Some of these things I achieved personally, and some are just things that I’m glad happened to me. And I grant that most of them can be dismissed as petty and shallow. But I’m mighty grateful to have had the opportunity to experience all of it during the past five years:
- I picked up and moved to a brand-new community because I wanted something different than what life had to offer where we were.
- I watched with joy as all four sons were called to the Torah as bar mitzvahs. Each guy made me so proud and filled my heart with love.
- I started a blog, stuck with it, developed it and expanded it.
- I got to welcome my brother back into my life, and have gotten to know his fantastic kids.
- I got a fabulous step-mom whom I adore, and an awesome step-family.
- I wrote a book and donated 100% of the proceeds to charitable causes, including 50% to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
- I met special new friends who I know will always be part of my life.
- I made someone smile.
- I celebrated big things and little things, major milestones and whimsical occasions.
- I learned how to create, edit, produce and upload web videos.
- I bought a beach house that our family has loved using both on-season and off.
- I created heartfelt reminders every October in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month about the dire importance of breast health.
- I started a mad love affair with New York City.
- I studied social media with some of the country’s leading experts.
- I watched the whole “Entourage” series in three weeks.
- I learned to assert myself (hopefully) politely.
- I roadtripped to Florida and lived to tell the tale.
- I made someone feel loved.
- I started using eye cream every day.
- I had a bunch of my writing syndicated.
- I chaired some interesting committees that introduced dynamic new initiatives.
- I applied and was accepted to join a professional writers’ society.
- I volunteered in my community.
- I spoke in front of groups, on the radio, and on TV about things I care about.
- I kept a year-long online gratitude journal.
- I perpetuated a silly weekly email ritual with my sister every Monday.
- I reconnected through Facebook with really nice people, some of whom I haven’t seen since elementary school days.
- I made a priority to attend cultural activities regularly, including concerts, Broadway shows and the New York Philharmonic, where I’m a member.
- I cooked some cool stuff, baked some sublime stuff, fried some yummy stuff, grilled some delish stuff and wrote about a lot of it.
- I made someone laugh.
- I helped my boys navigate middle school, much of high school, and some of the college search process.
- I learned the art of saying no.
- I had some of my freelance writing published and got paid for it.
- I comforted someone.
- I never forgot that first moment when I awoke from surgery and promised myself that I would make the most of life every day. I hope I never do.
What a beautiful and heartfelt post!
Thank you so much, Irene!